Ride Along

Getting Started in Hoof Care | 2010

Riding with a Professional Farrier

Every graduate of a farrier school dreams of riding along with a journeyman farrier when they get back home. (I'll call them journeyman farriers in deference to their experience and not the AFA Certified Journeyman status) The new farrier is looking for a mentor or someone willing to show them the ropes. Some are lucky enough to find farriers to ride with but most go through the grueling task of starting a business by themselves.

If you are going to ask to ride in someone's truck then you should know some basic rules and expectations.

How to contact Journeyman Farriers

  1. Join your local farrier association as soon as you get home. Ask if there is a member of that association that is or has been receptive to new farriers riding along.
  2. Attend clinics and lectures and introduce yourself to those in attendance. You get the double benefit of furthering your education and networking with established farriers.
  3. Ask farriers you meet if they know anyone who would be receptive to new farriers riding along.
  4. Go to horse shows, Most large horse shows will have a show farrier Introduce yourself and see if you can be of help.

Don't get discouraged if things do not work out with the first couple of contacts or if the local association does not have anyone interested in the new farrier. There are thousands of very qualified farriers that for one reason or another do not belong to associations, but they are feeding their families and making a good living shoeing horses.


If you call a Journeyman and ask to ride along don't expect to get paid. If a journeyman calls you and asks for your help then discuss compensation. In California journeymen pay apprentices $6 - $10 per horse or a specific amount per day, but only after they have established themselves with the journeyman. Don't count on this just out of school.

Do not expect a journeyman to shoe an extra horse or two a day just so you can get paid. You paid the farrier school for what they taught you; plan to 'pay' the journeyman with hard work.

At the feet of the master

Beware of the attitude that "You need to suffer to prove your commitment and worth". Some journeymen just want cheap labor and don't really care about teaching or the future of our profession. An offer of $50 per week for a 12 hour day, 6 days a week, with a cot in the shop; just to say you worked at the foot of a 'Master' is barbaric. This should be a win/win situation; not Dark Ages indentured servitude.

Do not be bullied into mowing lawns, painting houses, weeding gardens or fixing fences just to hang around a journeyman. If the work is not specifically related to this profession, don't do it!

Pay close attention and keep you mouth shut.

While in the journeyman's truck make yourself useful. The journeyman already has an anvil, he/she doesn't need more dead weight. Most farriers have patterns of setting up, working and loading their trucks. After a day or so a good helper should know what is needed next and help with the simple routine tasks without being told. Keep your eyes and mind open and your mouth shut, listen and learn. Helpful ideas are, but not limited to:

  • Do not wear T-shirts, especially with obscene or juvenile pictures or statements. Wear clean, unwrinkled clothes. Dress appropriately.
  • Do not show up unkempt. Shave, (or trim your beard and/or mustache neatly) brush your teeth and hair. Show some pride.
  • Do not wear your favorite baseball cap if it is filthy.
  • Do not wear your baseball cap backwards.
  • Do not try to entertain or interact with the journeyman's clients.
  • Do not diagnosis or suggest shoeing or trimming therapies.
  • Do not question the journeyman's procedures or practices in front of the client. If you do not understand something wait until you are in the truck and driving down the road.
  • Do not arrive late. Show up at the appointed time and place early.
  • Do not consider the journeyman one of your buddies, this eventually leads to slips of the tongue resulting in embarrassing and awkward moments.
  • Do not chew, or smoke without the expressed approval of the journeyman.
  • Do show the appropriate respect to the journeyman and to his/her clients at all times and in all places.

Is this working?

There should be an evaluation that both the journeyman and the ride along conduct soon after riding together.

From the journeyman's perspective:

  • Is the ride along, helpful or is he/she in the way?
  • Do I enjoy the company in my truck?
  • Is the new farrier serious about working and receptive to learning?
  • Is there potential for a working relationship?
  • Is the new farrier competent enough in the basics that I can depend upon him/her?

From the new farriers perspective:

  • Will this ride along help get me to where I want to go in the shoeing industry?
  • Is the journeyman shoeing the kind of horses that I want to shoe?
  • Is the journeyman positive and upbeat about his/her clients, the shoeing industry and it's future?
  • Is the journeyman respected by clients, other farriers and horse professionals?

Ride alongs can be beneficial for both the journeyman and the new farrier as long as the lines of communications are kept open.

Remember that a journeyman who wants an employee must comply with state and federal law, which usually means workman compensation, unemployment insurance, social security taxes and other payroll withholdings. Before anyone gets into that mess the new farrier had better demonstrate his/her worth.

Trend toward multi-farrier practice

The farrier profession is entering an era where it is becoming financially feasible for journeyman farriers to bring on apprentices, eventually leading to a multi-farrier business.

When you are in your twenties or thirties having someone around may indeed slow you down. But I can tell you that as you age you begin to appreciate someone who can pull and finish or trim that old cranky broodmare.

Many ride alongs turn into informal or formal apprenticeships that are beneficial to both the new farrier and the journeyman as long as both know the rules and their roles.