Friday, July 01, 2016

Discipline Committee strips British farrier of right to practice; apprentice complained of bullying

A sculpture honoring the relationship between a master and apprentice above the Craiglockhart Primary School in Edinburgh, Scotland. Photo by Kim Traynor.

The Disciplinary Committee of the Farriers Registration Council (FRC) in Great Britain has announced the removal of a long-established farrier from the nation’s Farrier Register. The decision to “strike off” the farrier--thus ending his ability to practice farriery in that country--came after a much-publicized hearing in London in March, when the FRC publicly investigated complaints of bullying behavior lodged by an apprentice the farrier had agreed to train.

The farrier’s case before the FRC received tabloid-style publicity in London newspapers when the hearings on the charges were held. Ninety days later, the decision to remove him from the Register was announced.

The FRC decision today disclosed that this wasn't the first time his apprentices had complained about his treatment of them. The farrier had been previously charged with four accusations in 2002, all related to his treatment of four different apprentices between 1998 and 2001. The FRC announcement confirmed charges that had been listed in newspaper reports, including that the farrier had harassed his recent apprentice about his learning disabilities and personal life.

The farrier was a former elected board member of the Farriers Registration Council itself and had been granted a Royal Warrant.

In 2009, the farrier was interviewed by Horse and Hound Magazine, the United Kingdom's weekly horse newsmagazine. He was asked to comment on the rise of unregulated barefoot hoofcase in the UK as an alternative to traditional farriery, which is regulated by the Farriers Registration Act.

“I can’t believe the government is wasting so much money on a small number of people who are already catered for by the professional training available in the farriery profession,” he told the magazine, referring to the fact that farriers are capable of caring for horses who don't wear shoes. At the time, the farrier was vice-president of the United Kingdom Horse Shoers Association.

The decision to remove his credentials and ability to legally shoe horses was made by the eight-member Disciplinary Committee of the FRC,  which is chaired by a veterinarian and includes three or four fellow professional farriers. Oddly enough, the farrier under prosecution is listed as a member of the Disciplinary Committee, along with three other farriers.

Farriery is regulated (or unregulated) differently in nations around the world. Great Britain has one of the most structured systems of farrier education, practical training, and professional regulation, all carried out under an Act of Parliament known as the Farriers (Registration) Act 1975 and/or the auspices of the Worshipful Company of Farriers.

While gaining a place in the Farrier Register requires successfully passing the entry examination of the Worshipful Company of Farriers, the examination itself comes at the end of an extensive and mandatory on-the-job apprenticeship combined with college classes. The apprenticeship is scheduled to last four years and two months and matches a farrier with an apprentice. Farriers can have multiple apprentices at varying stages in their education and training.

A person wishing to become a farrier must first obtain a guarantee of an apprenticeship with a farrier who has been granted the status of Approved Training Farrier (ATF). ATFs must be approved by both the Council and representatives of the college, and their forges must be inspected by the college for health and safety provisions.

The onus falls on a prospective farrier to market him- or herself to a prospective master. Most are young teenage boys. Apprenticeships are reportedly very hard to find, and an apprentice may have no choice between prospective masters. Once in an apprenticeship agreement, it is complicated for either party to opt out of the formal arrangement. College representatives are charged with overseeing the apprentices and making sure that the training is proceeding apace with the schedule.

Apprentices are paid the minimum wage in Great Britain; government documents reveal that apprentices earn 3.30 GBP per hour ($4.67USD) and work a minimum of 30 hours per week. Training farriers receive financial support from the government’s Skills Funding Agency for their participation in the training of new farriers.

There are currently 99 ATFs named on a list supplied by the FRC. There will soon be 98, although the farrier who received this week’s judgment has the right to appeal the Disciplinary Committee’s decision against him.

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Update: As the Farriers Registration Council was preparing the statement about this disciplinary action on June 29, a new and revised Farriers Registration Act for Great Britain was undergoing its first reading before the House of Commons in the British Parliament. The new bill is called "Farriers (Registration) Bill 2016-17" and is sponsored by MP Byron Davies.

To learn more about British farrier apprenticeships:

British government document on farrier apprenticeship

British Government Opens Consultation Period for Reforms to Farriers Registration Act

British Minister Meets with Farriers on Future Registration, Discipline Changes for the Profession

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