Campus Ecosystems: Work with horses and forges

KPU’s Farrier Science program is being redesigned to include an apprenticeship

Horses for the KPU Farrier Science program are brought in by local horse owners. (Kyler Emerson)


Did you know Kwantlen Polytechnic University has a Farrier Science program? That means horses and forgery. 

The program is one of the originals from when KPU was a college in the 1980s, where it started as a 12-week program. Now it’s a 30-week program, and this is its first year with the foundation in a farrier apprenticeship.

“It was redesigned to get students into the field when we felt they were ready. So we have a practicum built in and then the students finish the program and go into the field and work with farriers as informal apprentices,” says instructor Gerard Laverty, who moved to British Columbia in 1982 and joined the KPU community in 2003 to teach in the farrier program.  

When students start the program, the instructor will provide a list of equipment they will need to purchase before they start, which is approximately $2,200. Students work with horses, forges, and attend lectures in the classroom to learn the anatomy, physiology, and common health indicators of a healthy horse. 

“All of these things, a farrier has to be aware of or be knowledgeable of, so they can be part of the solution to keeping horses as healthy as possible,” he says. 

Learning how to create and fit horseshoes is one of the main jobs for farriers. Horses’ hooves are kind of like fingernails, but underneath is a callus that has to be maintained as close to what is natural for the hoof. 

“We put horses in an unnatural environment, we ask them to do unnatural things like carrying a person and jump over fences, so the farrier has to keep that hoof healthy and also fashion footwear so the horse can do what we’re asking it to do,” he says. 

The horseshoe has to be tailored to suit the job the horse is going to do, and also suit the conformation, breed, and size of the horse. Hooves need to be cared for about every six weeks. A farrier may have 300 horses on their clientele list but they might be owned by 100 people. 

Many farriers are self-employed, and have a mobile workshop in the back of their truck and travel from one location to another to look after their clientele. A farrier can invest between $40,000 to $50,000 in equipment and tools.  

“The days of horses coming into the shop are gone. People are too busy, they can’t afford to take the time to haul the horse to a location, so the farrier is like a mobile welder with a customized tool box in the back of a truck,” Laverty says.  

For the program, KPU accepts all kinds of horses from miniature horses or miniature donkeys to the biggest draft horses, to trail or backyard horses. 

A requirement to apply to the program includes submitting two references verifying a student’s experience handling a variety of horses. Students can get that kind of experience anywhere that has a business built on using horses in some way, Laverty says. 

“It could be done at Stanley Park in the carriage tour business, or the Hastings Park racetrack, or in the Fraser Valley at any of the horse barns that have a therapeutic writing program,” he says. 

“All of these are skills, especially horse handling, that are going to be useful if you’re coming into the farrier program,” Laverty says.  

KPU is hosting an online information session about the Farrier Science program on Nov. 29 at 6:30 pm, which you can register for at the program website. 

“If you want to travel and work, this can be one of the best ways to do that kind of thing.”