The Journey of A Journeyman

In the midst of the Missy Fladland Clinic this past weekend (October 13-14) there was anticipation. I was at home working away, keeping things going and Zack was in LaMar Missouri, taking his Journeyman Exam. He had two portions to pass, the written and the bar shoe. Every where I went I thought of him, and the challenges ahead, wishing that I could be there to support his big effort. Although, sentimental though it may sound, we are always together in these endeavors, even if geography keeps us apart.

On Sunday, during the second to last ride a text came through.

“I Passed!!”

I cried. Zack has put so much work into his Journeyman exam. Its been a year of studying text books and flash cards. A year of watching DVDs about anatomy. A year of having a freeze dried horse leg in our living room. He forges his bar shoes at night. I got him a kitchen timer to stick on his work station to keep time. All to add one important letter to the middle of his credentials: J

Apart from hours and hours of study what does that “J” mean?

Well…J stands for Journeyman. According to the American Farrier’s Association (or AFA) who issues the certification, a Journeyman is:

“The highest level of AFA certification, are open to candidates who have at least two (2) years horseshoeing experience and have completed the CF level. Farriers sitting for this level of certification are expected to display in-depth knowledge and highly developed performance skills evidencing a level of professional artistry. The process requires successful completion of written and practical testing, as well as the forging of a specific bar shoe within a prescribed time limit.  The shoe must fit a pre-determined foot pattern.”

To have your Journeyman is to be proven, tested and certified as knowledgable. The journeyman is a three part exam: a written test, fitting a horse with a handmade shoes in 2 hours (known as “the horse), and making a bar shoe that fits a pattern in 35 minutes.

Zack passed his “horse” first. Managing a very high score. All aspects of “the horse” section are judged. The hooves need to be balanced, the shoe has to be made well to specifics and fit properly. As if that wasn’t enough, the finish must also be perfect.

For the bar shoe section, using straight steel the prospective journeymen have 35 minutes to make a perfectly shaped bar shoe to a set pattern. Bar shoes are tricky, because the two branches of the horse shoe have to be turned and welded together securely. This is where the art and science of farrier work comes together! Carefully making the turn and understanding the chemistry and timing of forge welding.

So now, having passed all three sections of his exam he is proud and relaxed, finally achieving this wonderful long-sought goal of his to be “A Journeyman.” So what’s next? Well, Mr. Hamilton will be out competing at farrier contests and is probably going to seek other endorsements through the AFA, perhaps even some international certifications as well. His desire to be an exemplary farrier is boundless.

Passing his Journeyman is not only a big deal to us, but also to his clients. Having an AFA Certified Farrier or AFA Journeyman Farrier is one way you can ensure your horse is receiving quality hoof care. A Farrier who has passed his/her CF or CJF exam is one you know has had their knowledge and skill tested by reputable organization.

You might not know there is NO licensure requirement, no testing, no schooling mandated in order to become a farrier. Some farriers learn from their families. others go to school and as a consumer, unless you ask, you may not be aware that the farrier you are using has only been to school for a 4 week program of if he or she attended a reputable horse shoeing school followed by an apprenticeship.

Certainly a great deal of a Farrier’s skill comes from directly working with a horse. None the less, a farrier’s work does have a HUGE impact on how horses perform. A farrier who is serious about his profession and his work will be a member of the AFA and will work to stay current on biomechanics, shoeing practices and forging techniques.

If I have learned nothing else from the freeze-dried leg in my living room it’s this: There is a lot happening from the knee down. Horse shoes are more than just steel and nails keeping the hooves from cracking. I certainly only want someone who knows what’s going on inside that leg, and hoof capsule to work on my horses.

Zack and Dobby.jpg

Zack Hamilton CJF

Congratulations to Nebraska’s Newest Journeyman!