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Certification History-An Examiner Looks Back

The Beginnings of AFA Certification

Dennis C. Manning, CJF 

Several firsts occurred during my first AFA Convention, April 1977, held just outside Denver, Colorado. Included were the first AFA horseshoeing and forging contest and the inception of certification. (It was also the first time I had been around other professional horseshoers, having basically been self taught up to that point.) An invitation was extended to all interested individuals at the convention to meet one evening to discuss possibilities of certification or licensing. I sat with the small group as a silent observer. AFA President Walt Taylor was there, of course, but I don’t recall the others. The struggle to develop a certification program for the AFA began from seeds planted at that informal meeting. As the program began to take form local chapters were encouraged to conduct their own testing using their own standards and measurements then recommend individuals for “AFA Certification”.

In 1980, Bruce Daniels took over the AFA program and developed the first “Standard for Evaluating Farriery” which was presented at the 1981 convention in Albuquerque NM. It was set forth as a standard from which that year’s AFA National Forging and Horseshoeing Contest, future contests, and AFA Certification exams would be evaluated. The well thought out Standards booklet became the foundation of today’s AFA Certification Guide. (Other firsts at that convention included the visit of Edward Martin and a large contingent of other notable farriers from Great Britain.)

I had moved my growing family to Texas to attend graduate school and was working as a graduate teaching assistant with Doug Butler PhD in the horseshoeing program at Sul Ross State University. Following the 1981 convention the first certification tests were administered in West Texas. Certification had been divided into two levels: Basic required shoeing two feet with machine made horseshoes, and Journeyman required shoeing all four feet with plain stamped, clipped, hand forged horseshoes. These practical exams were evaluated from the new Standards booklet. The “Basic Certification” written test sent out by the AFA office consisted of 25 fairly simple multiple-choice questions. The Journeyman written was still in the developmental stages so no one could complete that level at that time.


Utah Horseshoer’s Guild’s first official
AFA Certification examination 1982

Dennis Manning and Ray Payne testers.
Top Row
Mike DeLeonardo third from left
Dennis Manning fourth from left
Bottom row
Shayne Carter second from right

After returning to Utah I was granted permission through the AFA office to conduct the first AFA Certification exams in Utah. That took place in the spring of 1982 in front of my home near where The FORGE now stands. The late Ray Payne and I acted as testers. Mike DeLeonardo and Shane Carter were among those to pass the Basic Certification exams that day. The Basic Certification was later revised to become the AFA Certified Farrier (CF).

Finally, in January 1983, a comprehensive essay exam was officially adopted for Journeyman Certification. The exam was mailed directly to a local veterinarian. He locked me in his office where I frantically wrote for the allotted one hour. The veterinarian then mailed the exam back to the AFA where it was scored by certification chair Bruce Daniels. (That exam was every bit as difficult as the present day exam.)

The idea of AFA examiners had been developing in an effort to truly standardize the program. After promising to sit in the corner and be “as quiet as a mouse” I had been reluctantly granted permission by Bruce Daniels to sit in on certification meetings at the Houston TX 1983 convention where this was discussed. By the end of the meetings the principle of having an official AFA Approved Examiner at all AFA Examinations was firmly established. I was appointed to be an Examiner and became a member of the committee.

When Bruce Daniels was elected AFA President in 1986, he asked Myron McLane to take over the National Contest and me to take over the Certification program. Myron and I had been on the AFA Team (then the North American Horseshoeing Team) and had acted as judges for the AFA National Contest. Bruce had been running both certification and the contests up to that point. For the next seventeen years each succeeding AFA president ask both of Myron and me to stay on. After being replaced as certification chair I continued as an Examiner and a few years later was invited to rejoin the committee.

During the seventeen years I served as chair there was a major overhaul of the AFA Certification program. Basic Certification became AFA Certified Farrier (CF) with the development of a more challenging written exam and the addition of a shoe display requirement. The AFA Certified Journeyman Farrier (CJF) written exam was changed from essay, which was difficult and time consuming to score, to multiply choice questions. The forging of a barshoe was added to the CJF practical exam.

Brass belt buckles for successful candidates were adopted for which I had designed the CJF logo. The original AFA anvil logo was used for CF. I brought forth the idea of letters or initials to be placed behind the names of successful certification candidates. AFA President Allen Smith PhD. worked out the details through his university in Massachusetts. Endorsement programs were initiated with the introduction of the Therapeutic and Educator Endorsements. Requirements for becoming an AFA Approved Examiner were formalized and concept of AFA Approved Testers was developed. I flew all across the country training new examiners in various locations. It was a rewarding and stressful time but the enthusiastic support of local chapters and the many hard working and dedicated individuals who extended their efforts and resources for the program provided tremendous opportunities for the growth of the American farriers and for improvement in the quality of hoof care for the horse.