Every day I approach the horses I work on with enthusiasm. I love what I do. I love helping horses and I love the materials I am able to help them with: glue and composite shoes. I am excited to be able to share with you my experience earning a farrier certification with a well respected organization based on these progressive materials. The Equine Lameness Prevention Organization CFGP: Certified Farrier Glue Practitioner.

I first became aware of the Equine Lameness Prevention Organization (ELPO) about six years ago at the International Hoof Care Summit. They are a fabulous organization made up of some of the most generous, open minded, and thoughtful people I know. Their mission statement is:  “Helping People Help Horses” which shines through in all of their actions and endeavors. The organization offers educational courses, certifications, support to their members and the community, and performs research about all hoofed animals.

Years ago I was intrigued by the programs and certifications offered through the ELPO. I wanted to learn more, especially about the techniques they were using to address lameness issues, many of which use materials right up my alley: composite shoes of all kinds, clogs, plastics, glue. I was also interested in the certification programs that were available. Only one dilemma: at the time I wasn’t using metal shoes in my hoof care work, and in order to earn credentials working with lameness, I needed to pass the basic farrier exam which was done with metal shoes.

My career as a farrier has always followed a non-traditional path. First barefoot trimming, then growing in my education and skills, I recognized a need for support devices beyond boots. I dove into alternative materials: composite shoes, casts, and glue.

I have a specialized skill set I can offer the horse with the tools I use, and am very busy just doing that, so chose not to expand my education into metal at that time.

Years passed, and each Hoof Summit I’d talk to the ELPO members at their booth. In 2012, we decided to offer an ELPO hoof mapping and trimming course on the East Coast at Daisy Haven Farm in PA taught by ELPO President Steve Foxworth and fellow Instructor Jen Reid. It was a great time, and all 20 participants learned a lot.

The following year, in 2013, the ELPO again traveled to Daisy Haven Farm in PA, this time to offer a Level 1 and 2 Certification. Through diligent testing on assessing the horse, hoof mapping and trimming, 15 of the 16 test takers passed their exams, and created additional momentum for further educational opportunities with ELPO for those of us using primarily glue and composite materials as farriers.

Then in June of 2014, I was invited to the ELPO Level 3 Farrier Certification Course in Penrose, CO. The ELPO leadership had decided to add to the existing structure of the Level 3 Farrier Certification by adding a glue and composite material option within the criteria for certifying. This course was specifically planned to sort out the testing criteria for glue and plastic.

Six years after I initially approached ELPO my dream was coming true. Many of the Level 5 Instructor/Examiners were present for the course. I gave a lecture and demonstration on glue and composite materials to the group, and the appropriate modifications to the Level 3 test were discussed amongst the Level 5 attendees. It was important the the core of the test was consistent between materials, metal and composite, and any changes made were only due to the differences specific to each. Very few modifications to the existing test were necessary, for example, foot preparation and finish for glue was added, and nailing made optional, although if you do nail on your test the same criteria as nailing for the metal test still applies.

At the end of the weekend I took my Level 3 exam. I was assigned a horse for my test in glue/composites out of many that were trailered in for glue work that day.

The other attendees began working on horses and practicing their glue work, except for one, the amazing farrier David Nicholls from West Sussex in the United Kingdom who was to examine me on my test. No pressure!

After taking the written exam, my practical test took four hours. I assessed the horse, I mapped and trimmed the horse’s feet, and glued EasyShoes on all four following the ELPO protocol to the best of my ability. It was a marathon of meticulous focus. I was aiming to demonstrate that I could successfully apply these principles with my glue and composite materials; the opinion I had expressed six years ago.

I passed with flying colors and earned the first CFGP: Certified Farrier GLUE Practitioner.

This landmark weekend has now paved the path for others to take the exam and earn this certification in glue and composites. I am grateful for the ELPO’s forward thinking mindset, and demonstrated support for those that work in these materials.

Since earning my CFGP, I have now also earned the CLS, Certified Lameness Specialist, and am working on completing the Level 5 CE/CI, Instructor/Examiner certification as well as completing the Level 3 Farrier Certification in metal.

I am truly grateful for the learning opportunities I have had because of the Equine Lameness Prevention Organization. I encourage you to take advantage of the progressive view of the organization, as I have.

For more information about the Equine Lameness Prevention Organization, upcoming courses, and CFGP Certification, please see: www.lamenessprevention.org.