Farrier Andrew Fisher was profiled on the NZ Equine Industry Training Organisation website during his apprenticeship, in 2003. Andrew completed his National Diploma in Equine (Farriery) and is now a fully qualified farrier and running his own business.
G-Bar, side weighted pacing hind with heel corks, 3/4 fullered straight bar are just some of the names of the many different types of shoes that Andrew Fisher has learnt how to make, when to use and of course to correctly fit to the horses hoof! Many people believe the art of shoeing a horse is as straight forward as tacking a shoe with nails to the bottom of a horses foot but it couldn't be further from the truth. As an apprentice farrier Andrew has learnt about the anatomy and physiology of the horse, to prepare the horses hoof, correctly fit the appropriate shoes as well as make them on a forge from a straight length of steel.
In the 3rd and final year of his apprenticeship for Cambridge farrier Wayne Wilson, Andrews day generally starts at 7.30am and goes through to 5.30pm. An average day would see him shoeing 8 -10 horses per day with a few trims in between. He shoes racehorses, ponies, sport horses and even the odd donkey!
When there is a competition coming up the days get a little longer with an extra 3 -4 hours back at the forge getting in valuable practice making shoes. Andrew has certainly held his own in the competition field being the Senior Apprentice for 2002. When I met with him he was busy working on a saucer eggbar shoe (used for a bad case of laminitis) which is just one of the shoes he needs to be able to make for this years competition.
In addition to many hours of practical work Andrew also spends 2 x 1 week blocks per year with Kim Hughes (farrier instructor for the Farrier Association) completing the theory and forging training that is part of the course. The theory mostly covers the anatomy and physiology, as it is very important to understand how a horses weight is distributed, how he moves and just where and how the blood flows around to ensure the best possible preparation of a horses hoof. If you get it wrong it could result in major damage as a horse carries a lot of weight on it's four feet!
For Andrew it was a relatively easy decision to become a farrier, born and bred in the midst of horse country - Cambridge, Waikato, he competed at Pony Club, showjumped and evented. After he finished Hamilton Boys High School he spent 6 years at Westbury Stud and then the Oaks. During his time at Westbury he progressed from being part of the broodmare crew to Stallion Manager. He also has spent a season in England at the National Stud as the recipient of the Wellington NZTBA scholarship.
With a burning desire to own his own land with his own horses he realised that the stud life was not going to realise this dream quickly enough and as he didn't mind the hard work associated with trimming all those broodmares he'd done over the years he felt a profession in farriery was for him. Andrew stresses it is not an easy job, in fact his advice to any budding farrier is "There is no point doing this unless your heart is in it and you like horses. It's hard but very rewarding."
Andrew says "There is no one aspect that I enjoy more, I get a great deal of satisfaction in this job from shaping and making shoes to helping a horse with bad feet. I enjoy pitting my skills against others in competitions. The ultimate challenge is getting it right as there is a lot more to being a skilled farrier than it looks".
For the future Andrew sees himself with a few acres, some horses and his own business with a few guys working for him like Wayne. He believes that the "art" of farriery is a craft that is handed down from farrier to farrier and it is important to "bring young people through" and accordingly he would like to play his part in the future of this age-old craft.