A government report published on Wednesday takes another step toward modernizing a law governing who can shoe--or possibly trim--British horses.For almost 50 years, the Farriers (Registration) Act 1975 in Great Britain has been held high as an example of a national government's trust in the farrier profession to take responsibility for the care of horses' hooves. While entrusting the hoof to professional farriers, the Act also sternly requires that anyone who has not been through the rigorous training and testing of the British system never pick up a rasp and nippers with the intention of driving a nail in a horse's foot. "Illegal farriery" is a real offense in Britain, and people are prosecuted every year.
But the time has come for Parliament to update the Act, and things are not as cut and dried today as they were when the original Act was written. The farrier apprentice training program has just been through upheaval, the veterinary regulatory system is being revamped, and the barefoot trimmers want their own recognized professional status.
This fall, the government invited anyone who had an opinion to submit his or her thoughts on how the Farriers Registration Act should be administered through the Farriers Registration Council.
True to form, the Consultation Responses Summary Document compiled the responses of those who submitted opinions, and the government duly made comments on summary decisions to adjust how the farrier profession's regulatory body might change when the adapted Act becomes law.
To outsiders, the reforms outlined in the document look minor and amount to a re-arrangement of furniture in a pre-existing room but there are subtle implications of the changes regarding what qualifications of farriers can be elected to serve on the Council to govern their peers and who the non-farrier regulatory members might be.
The FRC explains on the website, "The views expressed, and summarized will be used to formulate the final proposals, which will then be put before Government for collective agreement. If the final proposals are accepted by Government, a number of proposed reforms will require changes to primary legislation. Defra intends to prepare a draft Bill to make the amendments, which it will then present to Parliament when the opportunity arises."
This first stage of the legislation review is strictly limited to administrative governance of the profession and the process of disciplinary actions. Practicing farriers may be disciplined for violating the code of the Act, and there are strict regulations on what apprentices and non-farrier helpers can and cannot do.
The FRC also states on its website that "One of the areas of concern that the FRC raised was that of work done on unshod horses. The practice is not regulated by any legislation and options are being considered for the consultation in order to seek out views on this matter. The FRC has alerted some 'barefoot trimming' organizations to make them aware that this work is being done. It must be stressed that at this stage Government has not made any firm proposals and it is not clear if any regulatory changes will be made."
Currently, the Act specifically defines the work of the farrier as the preparation of the foot for the application of a shoe, so barefoot trimming has been exempt from the Act. The use of glue-on and casting tape hoof support devices has been the subject of debate--and legal action--over how exactly a horseshoe is defined.
Read the document and responses from the public at this link: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/farriers-registration-council-reform-of-governance-and-structure
The FRC will hold a meeting next week in London.
Another document from the government is expected in the future.
Photo at top: Farrier apprentices at the Royal Highland Show in Scotland © by David McCrone, used with permission.
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