IRELAND is renowned for having one of the finest horse industries in the world. The country also has a reputation for skilled personnel who work in the various facets of the industry. Farriers are an important component of this skill infrastructure: it is one of the world’s oldest trades and one of its most intricate.

The Irish School of Farriery located at the RACE Campus on the outskirts of Kildare town is providing world-class training in farriery to both apprentices and practising farriers. The school was established to provide structured training for Irish farriery apprentices to a QQI approved syllabus. This was done thanks to the support of the Irish Farriery Authority and the Irish Master Farriers Association.

Additional funding was provided by the National Development Plan supported by LEADER, the Irish Foal Levy Fund, Horse Racing Ireland, Horse Sport Ireland, the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association and the Irish European Breeders’ Fund. With SOLAS funding, eight farriery apprentices are accepted each year for a four-year apprenticeship which leads to a QQI Level 6 Advanced Certificate in Farriery.

To be eligible for this SOLAS apprenticeship programme, a prospective candidate must be at least 16 years of age and have completed his/her Junior Certificate to ordinary level. The next step is to gain an apprenticeship with a qualified Master Farrier. The Master Farrier must hold a recognised farriery qualification, such as MF (IMFA), RF (BngC) or DipWCF, and trade in Ireland. On securing an apprenticeship the Master Farrier must register the apprentice with SOLAS. This apprenticeship consists of seven phases. Phases 1, 3, 5, and 7 are on-the-job and completed with the employing master. Phase 2, 4 and 6 (off-the-job) are completed at the school.

The purpose-built forge at the school contains eight solid-fuel fires and two welding bays. Lectures are held in a lecture room contained within the facility. Apprentices receive practical skills in forging, welding, horse-shoeing and horse management while also learning equine anatomy and physiology, equine studies, computer and business studies.

Being a farrier is more than just a job, it’s a calling. It is a very physically demanding profession which requires a degree of strength and fitness: apprentices also receive instruction on health, wellbeing and ergonomics.

Graduates of the school have already proven that they can compete with the best after securing medals at the Euroskills competition and competing successfully at International Horseshoeing Competitions. Many graduates are now running successful farriery businesses both here and abroad.

“I came into the Irish School of Farriery back in 2019 to start phase two of my apprenticeship. Despite having a year served with my Master, I was very much a novice in shoemaking and theory. The school and its many tutors provided me with the skills to improve greatly. I am now in phase six. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time here and learned valuable skills.” – Ben McAteer

“I am in the final phase in the Irish School of Farriery. This is phase six of the apprenticeship and I have learned many new skills over the years here. I learned about shoemaking and forging and also about anatomy of the horse. These all gave me a better understanding of the craft and gave me a great start to a career.” – Eoin O’ Connell

“I’m in the final phase of my apprenticeship here in the Irish School of Farriery. I can honestly say with the tuition of exceptional tutors we have received the fullest education and the greatest understanding of the craft we could have ever received.” – Philip Ryan