As horse ownership booms, farriers are in high demand — but good luck finding one

As horse ownership booms, farriers are in high demand — but good luck finding one

Dan Morgan has always loved horses, but it wasn’t until later in life that he felt like he found his true calling, working as a farrier.

After a career as a horse trainer, followed by a move into mining, it was his sons who inspired him to pursue a new passion — shoeing horses and specialising in equine hoof care.

“I went into mining and I was doing some [shoeing] on my days off,” Mr Morgan said.

“But I had two boys I felt like I needed to be home for and I really started to like shoeing, so I went into that full-time.”

Farrier Dan Morgan holds a hoof and a file in each of his hands, he also holds nails in his mouth

Dan Morgan had to travel 11 hours for his training course in farriery. (ABC Rural: Ashleigh Bagshaw)

That was eight years ago now, and Mr Morgan said it was one of the best decisions of his life.

“It’s very rewarding, both with job satisfaction and […] if you’re looking at the monetary side of things,” Mr Morgan said.

But despite the benefits, he said it was a career that struggled to attract workers.

“One of the big things is there’s no real avenue for people to get a foot in and actually start to try their hand at it,” Mr Morgan said.

The number of formal training opportunities is incredibly limited, and the only course available to Mr Morgan was an 11-hour drive away from his home in Mackay.

“Every six to eight weeks, I had to drive to Gatton for my training for week-long blocks,” he said.

The course is the only one offered in Queensland, but Mr Morgan said the lack of access to training was a national issue.

“I’ve got a good friend in Tasmania … she’s just done her certification in 2019 and she was flying from Tasmania to Scone [in New South Wales],” he said.

He said with so few courses available, another option was to learn from existing farriers, but it was hard to find someone to work with.

Mr Morgan fears the lack of training available could be contributing to a lack of new farriers, and it’s an issue he is trying to address.

“I often tell people that if they want to come for a ride with me, they’re quite welcome to come and see,” he said.

“Because if we can do that, maybe we can get a few more people to come into the industry.”

‘An issue all round’

Nebo woman Debbie Simmons said her family’s obsession with horses spanned three generations, with her children and grandchildren passionate about riding.

Moranbah campdraft competitors Jaxon and Cruz mounted on their horses at the event

Debbie Simmons says her whole family shares her love of horses, including grandsons Jaxon and Cruz. (Supplied: Debbie Simmons)

As a horse therapist, providing electromagnetic pulse treatments to assist with healing from injuries, she views the health of her animals as a high priority.

But keeping her horses’ hooves in check has been challenging, as she has had to change farriers three times in the past five years.

“[Farriers] get booked out, they decrease their client list or they’ve got enough around their own area,” Ms Simmons said.

“It is hard to get one and somebody that knows what they’re doing.

“It’s north, south and west, it’s an issue all round.”

Ms Simmons has noticed the number of horse owners increasing recently, which she believes could be exacerbating the issue.

“The horse industry has boomed and people are looking after their horses a lot better,” she said.

A rapidly evolving field

Currently there are only five formal training programs offered across Australia, according to the Australian government’s My Skills website.

Craig Jones is a farriery instructor for the University of Queensland’s course at Gatton, where Mr Morgan trained.

A man holding a horse's hoof with a tray of tools

Craig Jones is a farriery instructor at the University of Queensland’s Gatton campus. (Supplied: University of Queensland)

He said while there were many skilled farriers without formal qualifications, it was important farriers had access to adequate training.

“The majority of the course is all about biomechanics, the actual hoof, how it affects the horse’s leg and body and muscles and tendons … how to deal with lesions and deviations from normal conformation,” he said.

“Horses are a very expensive commodity for people to have these days.”

He said farriery was a rapidly evolving field, so it could be tough to keep up with changes in the industry without training.

“It’s an updated field all the time and you need to keep on top of it to keep up with the latest information.”


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