Recent changes to the Australian consumer laws may very well be the catalyst for change in the trade of farriery. The new laws give the horse owner legal redress for substandard work carried out by the farrier and has far reaching impacts on our profession.
In this country as in many others, any person with even limited knowledge is allowed to provide hoof care to horses; there are no laws to prevent them doing so even when their efforts result in lameness to the horse; as a result many owners have gone for months or even years before finding a true tradesman to get satisfaction, with no redress for loss of costs.
Doubtless many people in the industry of providing hoof care will be concerned by these new laws, however we should be welcoming it as an opportunity to change. Starting from the top, farriery must be recognised as a skilled trade and profession by the Government.
It may be a real opportunity for the two farriery associations in Australia to move forwards to forming one body to represent the industry in a more powerful way to the government. It should be common sense that if one government department holds farriers accountable, the other department should soon be willing to recognise that it is a skilled trade.
Once that has happened, hopefully compulsory registration and licensing will follow, then the industry standards will be able to be raised and maintained at a much higher level, for the good of the whole horse industry.
The current problem is that farriery is a skilled trade with not enough skilled tradesmen working at it; there are not even any laws to prevent unskilled people from working as a farrier or hoof care provider. You only need to attend any race meeting or horse event to see the variable standards of work in all its glory, and to wonder why the general public thinks it can reliably bet on these horses and win.
I have always been of the opinion that an owner who is educated about correct hoof care is a valuable client, and if enough owners are savvy about correct hoof care they then have the power to decide that only a properly trained and accredited farrier should be attending to their horses hooves.
Perhaps now all farriers will also realise the need to carry professional indemnity insurance, and also to be more particular about work place safety and work practices, thereby encouraging owners to provide better facilities for hoof care work to be carried out.
I know that many horse owners and farriers already have good professional working standards and will never have to go down the path of legal accountability, but they are in the minority by comparison. Perhaps it will take a costly legal challenge to make all horse owners and those people providing hoof care to realise the importance of working professionally and being legally accountable.