A site dedicated to Farriers

Forge & Farrier, For Farriers

Q&A with Wayne Upton AFCL, Master of WCF

Category: Farriery Industry

Added 15th July 2015. Updated 25th March 2016

At the beginning of the year, we invited farriers to put their questions to Wayne Upton, AFCL, Master of the Worshipful Company of Farriers. Here we publish his honest response and thank him for the time taken to answer.

1.    Is there any way the exam process for higher examinations can become more transparent? At present farriers pay a lot of money to sit exams and if they fail the response from the WCF is “sorry, not to standard”. I feel for nearly £500 per module, farriers should be able to receive justified reasons as to why they may not have passed with a breakdown of the marking process making them more transparent, as there is a view with many farriers that the WCF only pass people who they want in there club.
Also there are less than 40 FWCF farriers. That number is disappointingly low, it should be nearer 10% of the farrier population. I think there needs to be more encouragement for people to sit higher exams, more transparency in the exam process is just one way of encouraging people to try, and if they fail they will learn from the experience. Not just get told you are not good enough.

The Company is justly proud of its higher examinations. Applications are at an all-time high, and those that undertake the process of preparing for the exams enjoy the challenge of improving their skills, as well as experiencing considerable pride when they achieve these demanding qualifications. The fees for the AWCF (currently £400 per module) reflect the costs involved in these labour intensive exams - the Company is not a profit-making organization and does not make any money out of any of its exams. I am truly shocked to hear the suggestion that the WCF only pass people that they want “in their club”. The Examiners are highly professional and the marking process is carefully standardized. Regarding the FWCF, this is an elite examination, achieved only by those who have the high skill level required, and are prepared to do the research and analysis required to produce a thesis of the required calibre.

2.    In 20 years time what do you see the industry training model looking like? Will it be a slimmed down apprenticeship?

Without a crystal ball, I can’t possibly say! However, the Government announced last year that in 2017/18 the current apprenticeship system is to be replaced by “New Standard” apprenticeships, based on the Richard Review, which recommends that apprenticeships should be employer-led, more flexible, have less emphasis on assessments, and must have an end point assessment with final testing to confirm competency. A farrier-led Working Group is currently working with government support to develop the New Standard apprenticeship for farriery. The Worshipful Company of Farriers is supporting this important process with advice and practical assistance.

3.    What does the Worshipful Company do for everyday farriers?

In addition to maintaining the high profile of British farriery by organizing the most prestigious farriery exams in the world, the Worshipful Company promotes the farriery industry at Shows and events and through the farriery press, and organizes training events. In addition, the Company’s Charitable Trust supports farriers in crisis where there is a proven financial need. The Company also provides a contact point for farriers who want information, and provides help and support whenever possible.

4.    What is the difference between the Worshipful Company and the Registration Council?:

The Worshipful Company and the Farriers Registration Council perform separate but related roles. Under the Farriers (Registration) Act the Worshipful Company of Farriers has “the general function of securing adequate standards of competence and conduct among persons engaged in the shoeing of horses (hereinafter referred to as “farriers”) and shall promote, encourage and advance the art and science of farriery and education in connection with the said art and science.” In modern language, this means that the Company is responsible for maintaining and improving the standard of farriery in Great Britain. We are also the Awarding Body for the DipWCF, and the Company’s Higher examinations, the AWCF and the FWCF. We must be doing a good job, as British farriery is highly regarded worldwide, and the demand for our qualifications is at an all time high. The Farriers Registration Council are responsible under the Act for the registration of farriers, for the approval and supervision of courses, qualifications and institutions, and for the investigation of disciplinary matters.

5.    Does the Worshipful Company accept any responsibility for the demise of the FTA?

Sadly the NFTA had become too bureaucratic and expensive, and out of touch with the industry. Government funding was inevitably withdrawn from the NFTA because of their responsibility for the weaknesses identified by OFSTED when they inspected the Farriery Training System in January 2013.

6.    Is there any way that FWCF thesis papers can be made available to farriers so that they are an easily accessible free resource to further the education of all farriers?

The suggestion that FWCF dissertations should be made available online had been raised many times, and the problem is that the dissertations have not been corrected so they will not necessarily be 100% accurate. It is possible that they may in future be made available with a disclaimer. I believe that Myerscough College have started making dissertations available as pdfs in their online library and these can be accessed for a limited period of time.

7.    Is it true apprentices can be fast tracked in the future if they are deemed to be up to standard?

As I have already explained, the new farriery apprenticeship is currently being developed by a farrier-led working group and it would not be helpful for me to speculate. However, the Company’s view is that the full length apprenticeship provides apprentices with an invaluable opportunity to gain experience as well as skill.

8.    I saw a friend’s copy of ‘The Clench’, there are so many non-farriers in the Company enjoying nice dinners. How is this relevant to our craft?

The Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Farriers come from a wide selection of backgrounds, but almost all share an interest in horses and a strong belief in the importance of good farriers for horse welfare. They pay for their nice dinners, and also contribute annually to the Company who do a great deal to promote farriery, and also help to support farriers in crisis.

9.    What is your biggest worry for the farriery industry?

My main worry is farriers themselves. We have been extremely lucky to have chosen a profession where the training for farriers in this country is second to none. The opportunities are endless, both here and abroad, with the high regard the equine world has for the WCF exams. However, sadly, many run their businesses badly and some act in an unprofessional manner. Unlike other professions, most of us are at our highest earning capacity when first qualified, but regrettably too few have old heads on young shoulders! We generally have the skills to shoe a horse well, it’s the business expertise we lack. (A few years ago the WCF ran farriers’ business courses which were badly attended, so sadly they were discontinued.) There is also a general degree of apathy – it would be nice to see a few more giving something back, for example, through involvement with the FRC Council and BFBA. Our forefathers did it for us, so it’s about time we did something for the next generation.

10.    It’s great to see a farrier Master of the Company once more, how do you feel you can help us directly?

Since I was fortunate enough to be asked to join the Company about 15 years ago, I realized that there was little point in being in the Company if you didn’t get involved, so when asked I joined the Craft Committee, and later the Court. I see the job like shoeing a horse: first you watch, listen, and learn as much as you can, you learn how it all worked and how things are done. As you become more competent you take on more responsibility and eventually you can do the whole job. Then when you are there, (in my case the Master) you look at the whole animal, take one foot at a time, and when shod, you hope things have improved when you have gone, but like shoeing a horse, you can’t do it all in one shoeing! Being a farrier certainly helps, because you have less to learn before you start with regard to the world of farriery, but it’s a huge learning curve with all the other things involved. We are extremely lucky as a profession to have the Worshipful Company, for there are people from all walks of life in the Livery who care and want to help farriers and the horse, and their counsel and expertise are second to none. Being a farrier, who is the Master, is just one piece of the whole picture, an important piece, but it’s just one piece.