Lucky for horses, Surrey farriers forging ahead

Kwantlen Polytechnic University offers a program for training farriers, out of its Cloverdale campus

Here’s something straight from the horse’s mouth.

Horses need shoes, too.

Lucky for them, and their owners, Kwantlen Polytechnic University has a thriving farrier training program offered out of its Cloverdale campus, through the faculty of trades and technology. And with the rodeo in Cloverdale this weekend, business could be booming.

Aaron Maida, 26, is a Surrey resident, apprentice farrier and program assistant at KPU’s nine-month-long program. He uses a traditional forge, hammers and tongs to get the job done in a barn at KPU’s Cloverdale campus.

“Few people realize that horses still need shoes that have to be made by hand,” Maida says, adding no machines can do this job. “It still requires human touch and effort.”

Having grown up around horses – his mom is a trainer – Maida joined KPU’s program in 2014 and hasn’t looked back.

Maida says the first time he forged a shoe, it was “the greatest feeling, to see all of my hard work and long hours spent practicing come together and watch that horse trot off happily.”

It’s an age-old profession, but by no means an anachronism.

Maida’s a busy man, juggling work between the school and his own clients. “It’s been pretty hectic the last month or so – I haven’t really had a day off, it’s been just one thing after another, you know.”

Maida is often asked about the History Channel’s popular show, Forged in Fire.

“There’s definitely more awareness nowadays since that show’s come out, of what exactly it is we do.”

How many clients does KPU have on its six-week rotation?

“I want to say 40 to 50, without really sitting down and counting,” Maida says. “About every six weeks we’ll see the same clients, because that’s about the cycle you need to put new shoes on a horse, every six weeks or so.”

He’s also done a bit of toolmaking as well as knives, like in the TV show.

“Everybody who does this trade kind of gets their hand at practicing knives, especially the guys you know, everybody wants to make knives because y’know, we’re dudes, that’s what we do, right?

“We make different pairs of tongs, sometimes we’ll make hammers, make stamps and pritchels for punching the horseshoe nails through. There’s no limit to what we can make. The sky’s the limit; if you’ve got the imagination, you can do anything, really.”

Maida said a skilled farrier can make a pair of horseshoes in about 10 minutes. The average price for a set of four horseshoes is about $170.

Tatiana Tomljanovic, of KPU’s communications department, says while farriers are specialists in equine hoof care, blacksmithing and fitting shoes, students also learn about horse anatomy and biology.

“The work is physically intense and requires focus and concentration,” says Tomljanovic.

Local ranchers and riders bring their horse to KPU’s barn on a six-week rotation for regular hoof care and maintenance, Tomljanovic adds.

“The students each have their own forge right in the barn and work on the horses under the watchful eye of Maida and award-winning lead instructor and farrier Gerard Laverty.”

tom.zytaruk@ surreynowleader.com

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