A newly-qualified farrier has graduated with national plaudits – after spending four years learning the traditional craft with Myerscough College.
One of the newest recruits to the ranks of the professional farrier is 27-year-old Alex Ridgeway, who has completed a four-year apprenticeship, learning the same trade as his 32-year-old brother Laurence, who mentored him. During his Myerscough studies, Alex worked with his brother who became his Approved Training Farrier.
Of the 60 students who recently received their certificates from the Worshipful Company of Farriers in London, he won the awards for the best practical exam and best theory paper.
And he said that was the best possible start to his career working as a fully-qualified farrier alongside his mentor and sibling.
Alex, who lives in Hingham, Norfolk, said: “It was a shock. There were a lot of well-known people in the industry there, so to get those awards was quite a big thing as well.
“In this trade, you get a lot of people whose dads do it, but being trained by your brother is a bit different.
“Everyone says it must be a nightmare working for your brother, but we get on really well. You still have that brotherly relationship, but that’s outside of work. When you are here, you are in front of clients, and he is the boss, and I have to do what he says, big brother or not.”
“I was doing civil engineering at university, but if I’m honest I was not keeping up with it. I wanted to do something practical, but I couldn’t grasp the academic side, so I dropped out.
“I was quite snobby. I thought I needed a degree to succeed, rather than an apprenticeship – but that’s not true at all.
“Laurence worked for Gressenhall museum, where they had an old-fashioned forge and they had some funding to take on an apprentice. He said the opportunity is there if you want to come and work with me.”
Laurence said: “He has worked so hard, and those awards were the icing on the cake. Now that we are going into business together to work as a partnership, the benefit for the horse owners is if they need access a well-trained farrier, now there are two of us so we can be at more than one place at a time.
'’The skill of putting on a shoe has not changed much, but we are always trying to learn.
“That is why the apprenticeship is so long. You learn pretty quickly how to fit a shoe, but the important part is how that shoe affects the horse. The foot is a pendulum, so if the shoe is not balanced it will swing inwards or outwards and you can get interference injuries or it could load a particular side of a joint, which could lead to osteoarthritis. You are shoeing it to make that working period for the horse as a long as possible.”
Although most of the brothers’ work involves domestic family ponies, they also deal with working animals, endurance horses and racehorses.
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by Dave Salmon