Hoof health is horse health: Newly certified farrier enhances veterinary hospital services
July 11, 2023
“If there’s no hoof, there’s no horse.” That saying, reiterated by newly certified farrier Gabrielle Evans, sums up the importance of farriers.
Evans, the farrier apprentice at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital in the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, has undergone rigorous training, honing her skills in anatomy, physiology, pathology, gaits, horseshoes and more to become an American Farrier’s Association Certified Farrier.
A farrier is a skilled professional specializing in the care and maintenance of horses’ hooves, through trimming and fitting for horseshoes. National Farriers Week, the second week of July, highlights the importance of farriers in equine care.
Farrier work has been a male-dominated field, but Evans had a female role model – her own mother, Danielle Evans.
Gabrielle Evans, however, had no intention of following her mother in becoming a farrier. Difficulties with her own horse and some motherly advice started her down the path.
“It was during COVID, and I was working a part-time job,” Evans said. “My mom says, if you want to save some money, you should learn how to trim your horse’s hooves at the very least. And I really enjoyed it, so I decided that I wanted to go to farrier school.”
Evans apprenticed with her mother for a year before coming to Virginia Tech to work alongside internationally recognized farrier Travis Burns as his apprentice.
“It has been wonderful to watch Gabi refine her farrier skills and become an American Farrier’s Association Certified Farrier,” said Burns, chief of farrier services and associate professor of practice at the veterinary college. “I am certain that she will continue to advance her knowledge and farrier skills. The horses she helps care will continue to benefit from her dedication and work for years to come.”
Evans, from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, said that while she was “terrified” of the certification exam, “it was something that I felt I needed to push myself to do” to become a successful farrier.
“I think knowing the things that I studied for the exam has really helped me in my day-to-day work life,” Evans said. “I think I was not working with steel as often as I should have for the test. But that really forced me to be in here forging at odd hours of the day. And that has really helped with my actual shoe shaping for clients.”
Evans describes her mentor Burns as “amazing” at making horseshoes. “He just has a knack for being able to make a shoe and just put it on the horse and it fits the first try.”
Burns said that Evans’ growing ability and expertise has raised the bar for the farrier shop at the veterinary college.
“Gabi has been a tremendous addition to the Veterinary Teaching Hospital’s farrier service,” Burns said. “By retaining her after her completion of the Advanced Farrier Certificate Training Program, we have been better able to provide more clinical service for horses while also improving our ability to provide instruction to students. We have also been able to participate in two research projects involving equine gait analysis with her assistance.”
Evans already has her eye on the next step, becoming a Certified Journeyman Farrier.
“It’s not ever something I saw myself pursuing,” Evans said. “But it makes a lot of sense that I've ended up where I have, which has been really cool, because I never really knew what I wanted to do. So, to find something that is such a niche interest, and it's kept me really involved, has been really nice.
“I've always loved horses, and I love making them feel good and helping them have long and happy lives.”