Frequently Asked Questions
What does it cost to attend horseshoeing school?
In 1968 the average cost of attending farrier school was $2400. The average cost to shoe a horse was $12 a head. At that price, a graduate would have to shoe 200 horses to pay for his/her schooling. Currently, our tuition is $8000. The average cost to shoe a horse is anywhere from $65 - $150 a head. If we figure low at $80 a head (which our graduates should be able to get in all but the most rural or economically depressed parts of the country), a graduate would have to shoe only 100 horses to pay for his/her schooling. So, while the dollar amount sounds high, the relative cost is half that of 1968. At Mission Farrier School, we teach only 4 sessions per year. Our class sizes are kept as small as possible to allow each student the best learning opportunity. The instruction and understanding of healthy foot function that you will receive here, we believe makes it worth it. Of course you will learn to trim a foot and nail on horseshoes. But you will also learn much more. You will learn to evaluate feet for healthy foot function, and you will understand why we trim feet the way we do, and why we choose the shoe that we do, as well as evaluate a horse’s “way of going”, lamenesses, and get hands-on experience in therapeutic shoeing. Egg bar shoes are no longer the answer to most lameness issues. As one of our clients, Becky says, it’s like typewriters or computers. Old technology or new technology?
Still, where can you get education and start up business costs for an $8000 - $12,000 investment? If you are serious, about shoeing horses for a career, this is a wise investment in your own future and in the health and well being of your future clients.
I know Natural Balance works well on lame horses, but does it also work for Sound Horses?
If you can see what it takes for a lame horse to recover, you can better understand what it takes to keep a healthy horse sound, so yes, Natural Balance is even more important on sound horses. Every horse we work on is shod to Natural Balance parameters. What horse wouldn’t appreciate appropriate balance around the coffin bone? What horse wouldn’t appreciate support to the back of the foot where nature intended it? What horse wouldn’t appreciate the ease of breakover, producing less pain over the topline? What horse wouldn’t appreciate the coffin joint being lifted up and forward in the hoof capsule easing the strain on the impar ligiment, which leads to navicular disease? What horse wouldn’t appreciate taking the pull off the deep digital flexor tendon? What horse wouldn’t appreciate maximum sole depth under the tip of the coffin bone? What horse wouldn’t appreciate optimum blood flow due to a stable coronary band?
There was a good article in the American Quarter Horse Journal on “Navicular – A man-made Disease”, October 2001.
We also get the comment, “yea, but we don’t ride wild horses”. Our answer, “That is true, but they are all born the same”. And “What horse wouldn’t appreciate” --- all the above.
Today’s clients are more educated and understand that shoeing horses in this manner potentially saves lameness issues and vet bills later. The horse owning public has quickly gotten on to the Natural Balance page, because The Horses Tell the Truth.
Do you command better prices due to the knowledge and practice of Natural Balance shoeing?
Our students are better educated than the basic farrier population, so yes, they do tend to command better prices. As mentioned above, because today’s horse owners are also better educated by having access to information on the internet, most have no problem paying a bit more when they realize that they’ll likely save on lameness issues later. Of course, the cost per head varies greatly in different parts of the country. Basic shoeing in major metropolitan areas run from $75 - $150 a head. In rural areas that might be $60 - $80 a head.
Does everyone who applies to Mission Farrier School get accepted into the program?
No. We are looking for dedicated students willing to do what ever it takes to make a difference. We want students who are specifically looking for the type of farrier science that we teach. Natural Balance farrierscience is no-longer considered a “fad” by most intelligent, educated people. Gene Ovnicek’s hoof studies in the late 1980’s (www.hopeforsoundness.com), and thousands of horses since then, have shown us the merits of this type of foot preparation (trim) and setting appropriate breakover. It is the horses themselves that prove what is true. If you are serious, very serious about making a difference, then we’d like to have you as a student. Give us a call or email to set-up a telephone interview. If you are looking for the “traditional” way of nailing on horseshoes, still give us a call, and we’d be happy to recommend several very good traditionalschools.
PS: We hate to label horseshoeing as conventional, traditional, old-fashioned or natural balance. Labels create division. We hope someday it can all be called just good, sound horseshoeing.
What is Natural Balance Farrier Science?
The following is written by Brad Erickson, a 2007 Mission Farrier School graduate. Visit his website atwww.BradErickson.com.
My farrier uses those shoes sometimes...
“Natural Balance is more than just a horseshoe! It's a hoof science that takes into account the entire biomechanics of the horse and treats each foot as an individual. The shoe is just one component in the protocol of helping a lame horse become sound and keeping the sound horse healthy. In fact, sometimes the protocol doesn't even call for a shoe.
In our farrier practice, we evaluate each horse before and after shoeing to look for signs of tension on the deep digital flexor tendon, symptoms of pain in the toe or heel region, and any other signals that can help us discover problems that may be causing stress on the laminae or on the ligaments of the navicular bone.
Not every horse has a perfect build but every horse can be trimmed and shod to best meet its unique conformation. Our objective is not to maintain the toe and match the "hoof/pastern angle" to every foot but instead, tomanage the toe by identifying distortions and offer a healthy "functional angle" that will distribute the load evenly. This naturally takes undue stress off of key tendons and ligaments while providing maximum blood flow for a healthy laminae, and the correct biomechanics that will impact the skeletal system from the coffin joint all the way through your horse’s topline. The wall of the toe was never intended to bear weight! The result is a sound and happy horse that can maximize the potential of the conformation it was born with.
Natural Balance science can trace its roots to the wild horse research and studies done by Gene Ovnicek in the 1980’s and its “common sense approach” to identifying the differences between Mother Nature’s wild foot and the domestic foot. What’s the difference between the foot of a foal born in the wild and a foal born in a stable? Nothing! It’s what happens directly after birth that causes the changes that so drastically occur with time. Even though our horses don’t live in the wild, by using cutting-edge science and technology, we can come close to offering the same kind of support system and functionality that Mother Nature intended for Her horses to keep them sound and happy”.
That was very well said Brad. We usually just say:
Natural Balance is simply using the natural foot as a model for identifying what’s different in domestic feet, then addressing those needs appropriately
How is Mission Farrier School different from other schools?
Well to begin with, we graduate farriers like Brad who can talk the talk, and explain it to their clients. One of Brad’s first clients, shortly after graduating, was a horse who had fallen through a trailer floor while going down the highway. With some design suggestions from Mark, Brad created a therapeutic support package that was amazing.
Mission Farrier School teaches up to date, relevant farrier science. If you can learn about what it takes to help severely lame horses recover, you can better use those same principles to help keep healthy horses sound.
Mission Farrier School is the first formal horse shoeing school in the world to teach Natural Balance farrierscience. Our curriculum is based on the Natural Balance principles developed by farrier, researcher and clinician Gene Ovnicek. Our success speaks for itself. The majority of our graduates go out and begin their own businesses as soon as they graduate. Very few choose to apprentice.
Please see the Why Choose Mission Farrier School link on our website and read our Home Page thoroughly from top to bottom. If this does not answer your questions, send us an email or give a call and we’d be happy to talk to you further.
What is “Breakover”?
Breakover is most simply described as ‘The pivot point for forward movement’. Our feet are hinged at the ball of our foot, and if you look at a lateral view of our shoes, almost all have a rolled toe. Now, imagine that the ball of your foot was fused, so you couldn’t bend it, then strap on a wooden plank that is 2 sizes to big, sticking out a couple inches beyond your toe. Now try to walk. Now try to run!! Imagine the stress that puts on the tendons and soft tissue up the back of your leg, through your hips, and up your back.
If your horse is shod full to the toe on a distorted foot, the “breakover” point is out at the tip of that shoe. If the shoe is rolled like a Natural Balance shoe, and/or set back, like a square toe Eventer, the breakover point is moved back underneath the foot.
If your horse has excess distortion of the toe, and if you continue to shoe that distortion, is it any wonder we get topline issues? How about sore hocks, stifles and hips? Just some things to think about.
For more information please visit - http://www.hopeforsoundness.com/education/articles/handouts/howformrelates2function.html.
Do you guarantee that graduates of Mission Farrier School can get work?
Our student’s success is of great importance to us, and while we have no control over what students choose to do once they graduate from our program, we make every effort to give them both the knowledge and the skills necessary to make the best decision they can for the horse. Our priority is in graduating a few very good farriers, men and women who can go out and discuss a horse’s needs with the owners, then meet that horse’s needs for healthy functioning feet, whether that be barefoot, simple shoes, or advanced therapeutic support packages. Our graduates are invited back for a free continuing education audit of class, one week per year, by prior arrangement.
The farrier trade is one of the fastest growing trades in the United States, due to the rise in horse ownership. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the demand for qualified professional farriers is expected to grow 35-40% over the next few years. Fact is, there is plenty of work out there. If graduates will show up on time, return phone calls promptly, and learn to communicate to the horse owners why they are shoeing the horse the way they are, most will have all the business they ever want.
Am I certified when I graduate?
Students who complete our program receive a Certificate of Completion as a Graduate of Mission Farrier School in Natural Balance training.
Certification is not mandatory in the United States. There are several voluntary
certification opportunities through different farrier organizations, The American Farriers Association (AFA), the Guild of Professional Farriers (GPF) and Natural Balance Certification. These are thoroughly discussed in class.
Students are encouraged to continue their education by certifying through one of these organizations. Of course we encourage the Natural Balance certification offered through the Equine Lameness Prevention Organization (ELPO), in Penrose, Colorado, and is administered by the Ovnicek family, owners of Equine Digit Support Systems, Inc. (EDSS, Inc). www.nbhoofcare.com.
What books and/or resources are used by the school?
Mission Farrier School uses the newly published book “Natural Balance Hoofcare – A practical guide to hoofcare science and foot function for pleasure and performance horses”, by Gene and Cody Ovnicek. We also have a full library of books and videos that students are welcome to borrow while in class.
Will an apprenticeship be necessary after graduation?
In general, we discourage apprenticeships. Most of our graduates go right to work building their clientele. If you work hard in class, doing the work, paying attention and participating in lecture, you will be ready, if you have a good work ethic. There is plenty of opportunity for a new farrier to succeed in this business, but you have to be willing to go get it.
If a graduate feels the need to apprentice, we strongly recommend they apprentice only with farriers who have had Natural Balance farrier training, either previous graduates of our program, or those who have had extensive clinic experience through Gene Ovnicek.
Do I need experience before I come to school?
Our best students have been those with the least experience and the least knowledge. I guess it is because they have the least to unlearn. It can be difficult learning to rethink the way you think a foot should look. If you want to get a jump-start on class, we recommend any of the information presented by Gene and Cody Ovnicek, EDSS, Inc., Penrose, Colorado.
Do you have a “short” program for farriers already in the trade?
We tried that for a while, by doing Bridging the Gap. What we found was that, as mentioned above, it took longer than that just to rethink some stuff. Unlearning takes longer than learning. We have had several students who graduated from other programs, or had anywhere from a few years to a couple of decades of experience, come through the entire class right along with brand new students.
When you have spent 20 years, as Mark did, doing things the old way, it’s real hard to let go of your pre-conceived ideas and look at the foot through new eyes. You can’t do just a little bit of Natural Balance and a little bit of traditional farrier work. If you continue to prepare the foot using the old techniques, then nail on a Natural Balance shoe you will hurt horses. You can’t “ride the fence”. When that happens, horses pay the price. If you are accustomed to looking at the foot by saving the toe, and rolling a dime around the “properly nailed on shoe”, then we’d like to help you learn a better way.
Can you send me a brochure and registration information?
Our website has become our "brochure". As the site expanded we found we could fit so much more information on the web, than we could ever put into printed material. If you have trouble reading or printing anything, or do not have regular internet access, let us know and we'd be happy to print it off and mail it to you.
When is your next class, how long, and what hours?
Our class schedule is posted on the Student Information page, as well as on the Registration Information link. We teach four (4) 8-week sessions per year. Class hours are Monday – Friday, 9am – 5pm.
Are students allowed to do extra “work” on the weekends?
Class time is generally 9am – 5pm. However, once you have learned the basics, you are welcome to come in early, stay late, or spend some time on the weekends practicing your forge work. Craftsmanship is an important part of our curriculum and we hope all of our students will want to spend extra time on the anvils. From time to time, we also host a variety of clinics and educational type events. Students are welcome to attend and/or audit all such clinics at no additional cost.
Where do you get the horses that the students shoe?
Mission Farrier School maintains an extensive client list of horses that come here specifically for the farrierwork that our students provide. Some undoubtedly come for the student price, however most come because they know that Natural Balance farrier science has helped their horse, or their neighbor’s horse, etc. Some of our clients trailer in from as far away as Canada, and eastern Washington.
How many horses do we get to shoe while in class?
Our students will be under horses almost every day, with the exception of perhaps clinic days. Clinic days are where we all focus on one particular horse, such as a laminitis case, white line disease case, or a special Navicular case. During those times you will have the opportunity to learn the application of the EDSS system, Double Nail Pad system, and other therapeutic support systems. Much can be learned from these special therapeutic cases.
While some programs tout the number of horses students will shoe while in class, we prefer to focus on the amount of learning students receive from shoeing each horse while in class. Your farrier education is not about nailing on great numbers of shoes. It is rather about learning healthy foot function, and why; learning a proper trim and why; and learning to choose the right shoe, and why. Nailing on shoes is certainly important, and you will get lots of that here, however, you will soon find that is the easy part.
If you go to any continuing education clinics, you will find that the whole group will be focused on just 1 or 2 horses. There is much to be learned in that environment.
How much class time is spent shoeing and how much in forging, lecture, etc?
As mentioned above, students will be under horses almost every day. You will begin shoeing live horses the second day of class.
A typical day at Mission Farrier School goes like this: 9am – Students gather and preview the day’s cases. Horses show up between 9 and 9:30 and are assigned to students. The class watches as each horse’s history is presented, and as each is evaluated for their way of going. Much can be learned during this time. This is where we learn to “talk the talk” with the client. Learning to “talk the talk” has become more and more important, as today’s clients are better educated and demand answers in language that they can understand. This is where you will learn to effectively communicate what you are doing to their horse, and more importantly, why. This is also the area where most professional farriers fail. One of the biggest complaints we hear from the horse owning public is “I don’t understand what myfarrier is doing. I would like to understand it, but when I ask, I don’t get an answer that makes sense to me”. If you can answer their questions in a way that they can understand, you should have all the clients you ever need. Because, in the farrier trade, the most effective advertising is by word of mouth.
Forge work will take place throughout the day as we learn to modify keg shoes, and forge hand-made shoes. Some days we may spend a half a day on just working on our forge work. Mission Farrier School believes that good craftsmanship is an important part of being a good farrier. As a professional farrier, in order to make your day run efficiently, you need to have good skills on the anvil.
Lecture usually takes place at the very beginning of our day, and also towards the latter half of our day. During lecture, we cover lower limb anatomy, and the why’s and how’s of what we do. See our “Course Outline” for a general description of topics covered while in class. Obviously there is much more that is discussed in detail. Towards the end of class we will also cover various certification opportunities available to graduates.
Where is Snohomish?
Snohomish is located about 1 ½ hours northeast of Seattle, in the Cascade foothills.
Can I bring my horse to class?
Depends on what you mean. Students who have horses in the area are more than welcome to schedule them to be shod here in class. We will treat your horse just like any other client, and begin with a pre-shoeing evaluation. You’ll probably learn more than you ever wanted to know about your own horse. Because this is aschool, during our pre-shoeing evaluation, we get real specific about each horse’s possible issues, or in some cases, perceived lack of issues. The really good news is that student’s horses are shod at no cost, and you will learn a lot.
If you mean, you are from out of town and want to bring your horse to school with you for the entire 10 weeks, we tend to discourage that. Of course there are always exceptions, but class days are long and very focused, and you will be physically and mentally tired.
If you insist, and if we have room at our facility, we can certainly discuss it. However, even though we are located in the Country, this area is still considered a major metropolitan area. As such, even the “cheap” board in this area is expensive.
Why does Mission Farrier School include Natural Horsemanship training as part of the curriculum?
We believe whole-heartedly that if you can aspire to become a good horseman (or woman), then you can’t help but become a good farrier. We hear far too many stories of farriers beating up on horses. Where a swift correction is sometimes necessary, loosing your temper and beating a horse is never a good outcome for the horse and usually not for the farrier either. Natural Horsemanship helps us work with a horse not against him. If you look at the Case Study on Harley, you will see Mark shoeing him loose in the round pen. Harley is our daughter Laura’s horse, and perhaps because he is ours, we expected him to be good to shoe. However he would totally loose his mind when it came to shoeing him. We don't know what his past history was with his shoeing, but his behavior was nothing short of panic. After much discussion, we finally decided to shoe him in the round pen, loose, with no halter and no lead. He became a pleasure to shoe. Having nothing on his head, and giving him the freedom to move his feet if he needed to, took all of the fight and all of the fear right out of him. Harley is shod loose every time. This is what Natural Horsemanship can do.
Horses are excellent “horsemen”, because their feel and their timing are so good. They are better trainers than we are.
We should mention that Natural Horsemanship is, in the truest sense of the word, a continuing education. Just going to one clinic is not the point. We take our horses to as many clinics as we can afford. We also host as many clinics here at Faith Equestrian. Natural Horsemanship is a lifestyle that we will spend the rest of our life pursuing.
How many women do you get coming to class?
About 40% of our students are women. Women make excellent farriers. Perhaps because most are not physically able to strong-arm a horse, they pick up better on the “asking” a horse for his foot, rather than demanding it. Women are also excellent communicators.
How old do I have to be to come to class, and must I be a high school graduate?
The average age of our students has been 37 years old. Most are career changes. Having said that, we have had students as young as 17 and as old as 63. Anyone can become a professional farrier if they set their heart and mind to it.
We encourage potential students to finish High School, however this is not a “requirement”, just an encouragement. If you are under 18, we must have a telephone interview with both you and your parents. We want focused students, who are serious about doing professional work. I’m going to go out on a limb here, so forgive me if I offend, but most young folks are not focused enough. This statement is made from experience. Maybe you can be the one to prove us wrong.
Can I get hurt doing this?
Yep! Farrier work is tough, demanding physical labor. It’s not uncommon to smash your thumb, hand, knee, and other body parts with your hammer, or run a nail through those same body parts. At least until you get those parts trained to stay out of the way. They usually smarten up pretty quick.
Even so, horses are big and toes get stepped on. You will get pulled around and shoved around, especially while you are learning.