A Licensing Primer for Horseshoers:
The other day I was musing over the dangers associated with too much science in a litigious world. That naturally instigated another discussion, that being the long-argued issue of the licensing of farriers in the United States. And yes, as always it invoked a lot of opinion, a certain degree of hysteria and like rats dropped out of a sack, a wild scramble to the outreaches of imaginative argument. But...first things first. Before everybody turns into self-righteous barn burners, consider the following as a primer to any discussion on the topic. It will be better for your blood pressure.
1) Nobody in government is particularly interested in licensing you anyway. First off, licensing needs to be cost-effective to a government entity. If the cost of administering a program exceeds the financial benefit to the state, forget it. Only exceptions are public safety and public outrage. As one writer stated the other day, you would definitely want the FAA looking over a pilot's shoulder, but somebody's horse? Unlikely. And if you have trouble with this argument, you haven't flown in the Third World lately. Considering the number of farriers operating above the radar, the numbers do not jive.
2) What about the racetracks you say? Well, horse racing operates under a broader headline called, "the rules of racing." Vague at best, but necessary because gambling is involved; public money and public trust. That is why all professions associated with racing must be licensed. This process has far more to do with integrity and criminal intent than shoeing or plating. Licensing of platers was initiated to 1) try to remove the variable over individual skills and 2), assure the same level of scrutiny for all who have access to the horse. All licenses issued must address the issue of 'qualified.' That means everybody.
3) And while we're at the track -- consider jurisdiction for a minute. Only practical approach is on a state level. Not county, not federal...the US never quite finished the Civil War. As such, we are heavily burdened by the concept of 'states' rights.' Any licensing considered would have to be at this level. Now, what can occur and would be deemed 'enlightened thinking,' is a federal minimum standard, conceivably created by an organization (such as the AFA), that could prove its worthiness in maintaining such a standard. Of course, they would have to get the individual state chapters to agree. Lots of luck there. The 'enlightened' part can be distilled out of the current jurisdictional quagmire that best describes the current state of American racing: 38 different sets of rules for the sport. One for every state that conducts racing within its borders. It is a ludicrous system, based more on jurisdictional greed than good clean fun.
4) Forget the European systems. Europe has a very long (historical/political) relationship with its guilds and unions. They are part of the culture. Some critics have also accused them of being cumbersome, as well as non-viable economically. Yes, the education is quite good, though comparing it to the costs and investment in time, these programs cannot compare favorably with formal education in the arena of financial return. That can be answered in some ways by, "So what?" Life is about choices really, and everybody does their own math in that department. That grant aside, the European programs do have one huge advantage, that found in the realm of 'accepted credibility,' over and above the current American reliance on self-accreditation -- good will and air mostly.
5) But how you say? First off, study some union charters. Most unions (electrical, sheet metal workers, etc.), have an existing charter with the state they are licensing within. These could be seen as both a structural template and perhaps of greater use, identifying the nature of the current relationship. Is it even applicable? Probably not. All government jurisdictions have strict codes to insure the proper use of materials and skills as they apply to public safety concerns; further to discourage or prevent fraudulent practices. The question that arises here, and it is an important one, is whether or not farriery, as currently practiced, poses any such reasonable concern in the public sector. Doubtful at best. Bad shoeing, however you dare define it, is primarily a civil matter between practitioner and client. There is no third-party offense involved. And forget the horse. He is legally chattel.
6) Okay, so why even bother? That question is the sticky wicket as I like to call it. And that is why I ask the reader to think in reverse. Any type of licensing, regulation or restrictive trade arrangement is not meant to control, chastise or hinder the professional. It is to protect the trade, your economic standard and most importantly...keep the idiots out! I notice a whole bunch of pissing, moaning and sulking about these barefoot imposter's running amuck and until members of this profession make the hard decisions, that's all you've got. My suggestion is to shut the fudah up or do something about it. You have a national association (sort of), and that last question is directed at the leadership. And too, at all members and non-members of this profession...if it cares to be a profession. A great deal of American culture (unlike our European counterparts), is based on a sense of freedom and individuality -- okay, the honest definition: we're all a bunch of outliers. Horseshoers somewhere near the top of that list. In some ways, it is admirable. But, you can't have it both ways in a society that doesn't always share in your enthusiastic disregard for the rule book. Protect yourself and use the system to your advantage. Before you discover the real price in maintaining that independence.
Having said way too much, all comments can
be sent to my PO box in Panama.