Saddle-up, the Cloverdale rodeo is in town and that means lots of horses, lots of horse shoes, and lots of trips to see Aaron Maida, KPU’s apprentice farrier.
Maida studied farriery at Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) and now works as a program assistant in the university’s farrier program.
Working a traditional forge, Maida’s hammer clangs on red-hot iron amidst the occasional whuff and whinny from the horses overlooking the process while waiting to be re-shod in the barn located on KPU’s Cloverdale campus.
“Few people realize that horses still need shoes that have to be made by hand,” said Maida. “There are no machines that can do this job. It’s still requires a human touch and effort.”
He would know. Maida’s mom is a horse trainer and he grew up around horses on the family farm in Kelowna. The Cloverdale Rodeo brings back childhood memories of watching calf roping and barrel racing as a child growing up in the Okanagan. Horses have been a part of his life for a long time. Maida decided to pursue farriery as a career and came to KPU to study the theory and to master a range of skills necessary to be successful in the trade.
Students learn about the anatomy and biology of horses in order to understand how shoes will affect the internal structures and tissues of the horse and their overall health and performance. The work is physically intense and requires focus and concentration. To prepare for the rigors of working with animals that weigh over 1,000 pounds, students take part in fitness training twice a week. Farriers also need patience and confidence in working with animals. Trust must be built between the animal handler and the horse so that the job can be completed quickly and efficiently with no injury and minimal discomfort to either party.
Local ranchers and riders bring their horses to KPU’s farrier barn on a six-week rotation for regular care and maintenance of their horses’ hooves. 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.
Maida recalls the first time he placed a shoe on a horse that he forged himself. “That 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.”
Farrier training is offered through the Faculty of Trades & Technology at KPU’s Cloverdale campus. It is a nine-month program offered in three blocks of three-month terms. For more information, visit kpu.ca/trades/farrier-training.
Photos of Aaron Maida forging horse shoes and shoeing a horse are available on Flickr.
By Tatiana Tomljanvoic