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TOPIC: Whats up with the AFA?

RE:Whats up with the AFA? 01 Apr 2008 02:15 #106

  • Mike Ferrara
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Roy Amaral CJF wrote:
What were the project goals?

Are you asking about projects I worked on?
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RE:Whats up with the AFA? 01 Apr 2008 02:25 #107

Mike Ferrara wrote:
Are you asking about projects I worked on?

No, I meant the website. Has the BOD defined what the AFA wants/needs from the website?
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RE:Whats up with the AFA? 01 Apr 2008 02:53 #108

I think it is important to point out a fairly important fact. The content of the website is/was the responsibility of the website committee. At last notice Mr. Stovall is the Chairman of that committee. The IT Committee is/was supposed to provide support services and infrastructure services. While we were asked to lock Mr. Bonce and the other office staff out of updating the website when Mr. Bonce resigned, Mr. Stovall had access to make updates had he chose to avail himself of that option. To my knowledge he has not made any updates at this point in time.

Unfortunately, as I write this, I remember that I forgot to set up his access to the new servers before I resigned. I guess someone will have to rectify that error.

I will be interested to hear what is going on with the website from Mr. Stovall. Surely if there is something happening he must be involved in the planning as that is the mission of his committee.
Ronald E. Kramedjian, RJF

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RE:Whats up with the AFA? 01 Apr 2008 03:25 #109

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I've only recently joined the AFA and did so after consideration of several similar bodies.

Bruce and a few others have solicited recommendations from members that may prove helpful going forward. I'd like to offer some thoughts from a 'newbies' perspective.

I'm concerned about the turmoil that appears to be manifest in the organization but suspect and sincerely hope it will be short lived.

In short, the AFA is a comparatively expensive organization to join. The annual fee is in some cases more than three times the annual membership cost of other equestrian based organizations. Comparative examples might be the AQHA, NSBA, etc. Albeit, these organizations have a different focus, the general public would likely not see it as an 'apples to oranges' comparison. Neither do I.

One should reasonably expect that the defined goals of the organization would be at least minimally met in a good faith exchange for the membership cost. Those goals appear to be best described in the AFA slogan of "Education, Certification, Communication, Research and Innovation".

It is not clear to me that the AFA has been particularly successful in meeting the membership expectations of these five areas of committment.

Certification appears to be where the AFA really shines. In their other committments, the jury appears to still be out.

Education is the first mission priority defined in the slogan. In this, I've found the AFA particularly lacking.

Frankly, the website should be of utmost importance to the organization in meeting their goals of education and communication. That website, for most farriers and horse owners, is the face of the AFA. For many, it may be the only one-on-one interface that is routinely used.

Here's my take on the AFA website.

Yes, the technology behind the site is somewhat antiquated. From an IT perspective, this is problematic. From a non-technical viewers perspective, the presentation technology is far less important.

AFA leadership... please take this message to heart and put it at the top of your website needs list:

- The first 3 priorities for any website are: Content, content and content!

The number one problem with the AFA website, and thus it's organizational value to the reading public, potential members, and interested horse owners is, quite simply... static, somewhat limited content.

You do not need to be an IT/web guru to create content. That content should be extensively comprehensive; comprised of text and illustrating photos or drawings and, organized in a manner that is easily accessible to the viewing audience.

The content organization of the website isn't that bad. What information is available is of fair to good quality. The static and limited nature of the content is terrible.

Best example...

The "Education" link includes a 'coming soon' paragraph that should have long since 'come'. There are a total of three educational resources on this page. There should probably be three hundred!

Frankly, Tom Stovall's personal website offers greater educational and, in some cases, entertaining content to a farrier and horseowner than the entire AFA educational resource. The AFA "educational" link should represent the foremost authority on the subject of farriery available anywhere on the web. It doesn't take the latest technology to achieve this. It requires well organized, dynamic content.

The "Horse Owners" content is far more extensive but appears skewed towards enlisting owners as farriers rather than educating owners as to how farriery effects them and their horse. Case in point... the first link on the horse owners section tells them how they can become 'AFA Certified". Now, I don't want to presume to speak for every horse owner out there, but somehow I just don't think that becoming AFA certified is in the cards for most of them! At most, they might like to have a general understanding of what certification and various levels mean to them when selecting a farrier.

There is good information on the AFA website and I don't want to appear overly critical, but, I believe most would agree that the content should be far more dynamic and informative to the reading audience.

Remember, for most horse owners and many potential members, the AFA website IS the AFA. It's their first and perhaps only contact with the AFA.

That said, I was very sorry to hear about the sudden departure of the IT team and Mr. Burton. I've come to know a bit about some of these gentleman, courtesy of this forum, and believed they would bring a lot of value to the AFA table.

I also believe a bit of diplomacy, proper management and the execution of some common sense could bring them back to that table.

I have a few other thoughts I'd like to share, but will do so in another post as I believe we are limited to 5k characters here.

Credentials appear important to some on this forum when addressing a given topic. In that interest I'll offer that I have some experience with IT science and large scale organizational management. Thankfully, that's all behind me now and my days are spent in the more leisurely pursuits of horsemanship and farriery.

Mark
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RE:Whats up with the AFA? 01 Apr 2008 03:47 #110

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Mark your post is interesting and well wrtten.

Perhaps your suggestions will be read and considered.
"you may not like what I say" !
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quote Cindy Matthews 1948-2006


I thought my life had come to a close with Cindy's passing, but there is life after death Thankyou Sharon !

Bruce Matthews
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RE:Whats up with the AFA? 01 Apr 2008 04:15 #111

Mark membership in the AFA or not. Shoeing a horse in handmades is an education worth having and a great skill to have. It will help your everyday shoeing. This is one area that I agree with the AFA's philosophy. It is not easy, requires a lot of learning and a lot of practice. I am still in the process of mastering this skill and already see how much it has helped my everyday shoeing. Joining the AFA and preparing for the test does help. Forget about the internal politics and battles, I really do not think that will ever change. We have seen this go on forever and many good people try to get involved and fix it only get brought down and stressed out.
Phil Armitage, CF
AFA member 7480

"Anyone who proposes to do good must not expect people to roll stones out of his way, but must accept his lot calmly if they even roll a few more upon it." Albert Schweitzer
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RE:Whats up with the AFA? 01 Apr 2008 04:17 #112

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Great post Mark - could you duplicate it in the AFA forums?
Jack Evers CJF AFA#426

The best things about the good old days -- I wasn't good and I wasn't old.

The older I get, the more horses I shoe, the fewer things that I can absolutely, positively fix.
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RE:Whats up with the AFA? 01 Apr 2008 05:10 #113

  • George Geist
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ray steele wrote:

The AFA early on simply put, got farriers,horseshoers,ironhangers, talking to each other, which in my opinion was a tremendous step.

Then sometime seems to have passed when the AFA seems to have become an exclusionary group, extolling a set of credentials as the "best" thus setting up the old divide again. In that divide is membership or not, cf or not,cjf or not, yet we are all farriers/horseshoers/ironhangers.


While the AFA originally sought to unite members of our trade,to me now it wishes to exclude membership because "it" the AFA has determined the "correct" way to handle the equine hoof or the correct way (AFA testing)to determine weather a practicioner can handle the equine hoof.

ray steele wrote:
Jim,

My way of looking at it is that my AFA dues was paying for what I did not want to see happen, exclusion, it appears that others did not see it the same, that is the way the game is played.
Ray,
A couple of really excellent points here. I agree with you 100%
George
For another fun place to play........
www.horseshoersforum.invisionzone.com
Come over and say hello.
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RE:Whats up with the AFA? 01 Apr 2008 06:31 #114

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Continuing from my last post...

Again, as a 'newbie', I wanted to offer a few more thoughts on my impressions of the AFA and the current difficulties.

I last talked about education. I would reinforce that this should become a primary goal of the AFA. I agree with Tom Stovall's comments regarding the value of the certification process. I believe the AFA has an excellent process for those who wish to pursue it.

Education should be behind that certification. That education should represent two priorities.

The first priority should not be educational resources for farriers. It should be educational resources for those dependent upon farriers, specifically, horse owners!

Why?

Because the AFA needs to grow its membership and it's reputation as "the" American farrier association. If owners don't know what the AFA is, an AFA certification has little or no value to them.

More importantly, horse owners outnumber farriers! They are constantly looking for information about caring for their horses and seeking service professionals.

The AFA needs to expand its focus beyond recruiting farriers to include a mass enlistment of horse owners that need farrier services and educational information. Doing so will increase the coffers of the AFA (needed to accomplish the AFA established goals); increase the publics awareness of the AFA; increase the knowledge of owners so they understand how critical proper hoof care and service is and, finally, create the much needed perception in the publics eye that there is a single, unifying organization that represents the needs of both farriers and the horse owners who depend upon them.

How do you enlist a large number of horse owners?

Offer the horse owner a membership fee that is comparable to other equestrian organizations. I don't have a problem with the current fee for farriers, but offer a lower fee to entice horse owners. Offer web and printed content that appeals to owners. Ask member farriers to conduct occassional, free seminars focused on the needs of owners. Those free seminars will serve to bolster a farriers individual business and also serve to acquant owners with the AFA and its mission.

Place GREAT emphasis on the AFA magazine and expand the content to include information useful to the horse owner as well as the farrier. By example, the AQHA is all about showing/competing quarter horses, BUT... their magazine also places great emphasis on recruiting new members, tips and tricks for non-competing owners, and even articles useful to those who own breeds other than quarter horses.

I will say that the last couple of issues of the AFA mag have been very good, as has the "No Foot No Horse" newsletter that Danvers puts together.

After horse owners, it is obviously clear that greater emphasis is needed on providing educational resources to farriers. The AFA website should be the starting point and the focus of that resource effort. The education should not be singularly focused on the requirements of certification. Such education should be far broader and include information that both originates from within the AFA and is linked to the vast resources outside the AFA.


Advertising:

Advertise, advertise, advertise. The AFA logo, slogan and presence should be at every major equestrian event possible. Farriers should be able to purchase banners or large posters they can place on their rigs so the AFA logo and organization becomes visible and memorable to every horse owner that encounters these identifiers. In short, you have to make the AFA a "household term" known to horse owners and anyone else involved in the equestrian industry.

Apprenticeships:

The AFA has established a set of guidelines for certification. Now establish guidelines for managing apprenticeships. There should be a link between the educational farrier schools, practicing farriers and apprentices. That link should be the AFA.

Expend effort in determining the goals beyond initial schooling/education. Assist farriers in defining useful apprentice work expectations, salary guidelines and time schedules. Create a web based resource that can serve to link apprentices with working farriers in each district.

Certified farriers should be part of the educational and recruitment effort. You joined the AFA for the pursuit of various educational, certification and business reasons. Now make a personal committment to assist that same organization in helping the new guys up the ladder. Become mentors and expect reasonable compensation for your time and effort, whether in work or cash or additional business opportunities.

Some farriers view an apprentice as potential competition in their own area. Take a different tact! View that apprentice as a potential business associate. Expand your business and encourage that apprentice to help you grow your annual revenue. Consider your work as something that can be franchised for a percentage of the revenue. The retirement possibilities could go well beyond your ability to do the work yourself.

The AFA could serve as a resource in this, offering business modeling counsel beyond technical skill certification. While I've met many farriers whose technical skills are excellent, I've also met several whose business skills leave much to be desired.


Controversial Topics:

It was thru this forum that I became aware of the so-called "barefoot movement" and the "war" that appears to exist between those who offer trimming services versus full farrier service. It is clear to me that while there are certainly some competent trimmers, a good farrier will certainly bring a much broader and deeper knowledge of equine care to the table. It is also clear that those who promote the "barefoot only" philosophy are infinately better at marketing those same concepts.

The AFA could make a difference in this ongoing debate. Take a position and underscore that position with the wealth of knowledge and experience available thru the membership. Instead of individual farriers "going to war" with trimmers, embrace them. Use that collective knowledge and experience to educate and encourage correct hoof care. Disseminate useful information that increases the knowledge base of equine physiology and biomechanics among those individuals who have taken the 'barefoot only' path. The AFA could offer certification at a 'trimmer only' level to ensure it's done correctly. Encourage trimmers to expand their knowledge and pursue additional training/certification in areas of appliance needs and application. This would yield greater membership; greater annual revenues; improved equine care and meet the needs of the buying public.

I've found the AFA to be organizationally silent on such controversial topics. Taking a strong position would go a long way in helping farriers better educate horse owners, trimmers, students and anyone else exploring the broader topics of equine management and hoof care.


The AFA, You and Me:

I knew when I joined the AFA that I was becoming a member of an organization whose focus was on farriers and the practice of farriery. What I simply had not thought about at the time was the "bigger picture".

Yes, the AFA is and should be all about farriers and farriery... but perhaps the larger focus as an organization should be about the service that farriers provide to the horse owning public.

The best representation the AFA can provide me is to help the horse owning public understand what the AFA is and why it is the premier source of information and service providers for the care of their horses feet.

I believe I came to that realization when a new customer called my home and said, "Hi, I found your name listed on the AFA website and I'd like to talk to you about shoeing my horse."

So.. I'm a newbie and why would anyone care what I think about the AFA and it's current troubles?

Because the "newby" members and potential members are the only thing that will grow the AFA, its revenues and its ability to become the largest source of hoof care information and service providers in the country.

When discussing the AFA, conversations invariably turn to a dialogue about certification. Frankly, if certification was the only reason there was to join the AFA, I would have kept my $150. The magazine and newsletter, good as they are, aren't worth that annual cost to me.

It says something that this forum seems to attract greater interaction between farriers, vets and horse owners with farrier questions than the AFA site. Although that speaks infinately well of Baron... I'm not at all sure it reflects well on the AFA.

One final recommendation/observation and I must include myself in this.

The AFA is an organization of farriers. As such, when members interact with non-member farriers and particularly when interacting with horse owners, some of us have not always spoken/behaved with a level of professionalism, courtesy and respect that would reflect best on the AFA as a whole. I'll admit that I, in a few posts on this forum, have occassionally been guilty of this.

As such, my recommendation would be that each AFA member, certified or not, make a personal committment to excellence in communication and personal interaction that better establishes AFA members as the professionals they are. Our communication should be constructive rather than critical. Our presence should be one of assistance and service rather than ridicule and or competetive disdain. Our dialogues should represent useful information, education and an openess to new ideas. Most important, when interacting with horse owners on forums such as this and others, we should leave those owners with the feeling that "Damn... I'm glad I found and talked to those guys!".

As Bruce Matthews is so fond of saying, "my 2 cents".

Respectfully,

Mark Gough
Clover Creek Stables
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RE:Whats up with the AFA? 01 Apr 2008 07:09 #115

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Phil Armitage wrote:
Mark membership in the AFA or not. Shoeing a horse in handmades is an education worth having and a great skill to have. It will help your everyday shoeing. This is one area that I agree with the AFA's philosophy. It is not easy, requires a lot of learning and a lot of practice. I am still in the process of mastering this skill and already see how much it has helped my everyday shoeing. Joining the AFA and preparing for the test does help. Forget about the internal politics and battles, I really do not think that will ever change. We have seen this go on forever and many good people try to get involved and fix it only get brought down and stressed out.

Hi Phil.

I do appreciate the counsel and agree that learning to make handmades is worthwhile. I can't go to a farrier school long enough to acquire that skill due to personal issues so must learn on my own or with help from local farriers. That's been tough. I've offered to pay other farriers to come to my shop for serious mentoring... none have taken me up on the offer. Yes, I do hope to someday attempt certification at the CF level. I believe I can achieve that.

I have no illusions that I can fix anything in the AFA but like other members, I am concerned about the health of the organization. After all, I've got $150 bucks invested, right!? :D

As such, I had hoped that some of my comments may be read by any of the leadership members and perhaps they may find something useful in those words.

In utter fairness to the AFA, I must admit that my membership expenditure was quickly reimbursed, after a fashion, the first time a customer called based on my AFA membership listing in the database.

I'm a poor wordsmith and vastly inexperienced in the organizational history of the AFA so, one could argue, I'm ill equiped to comment on some of the problems the AFA faces. Still... I have an off day tomorrow and so can afford a late night passing some time among these virtual friends and colleagues. While doing so, I thought some may appreciate a few thoughts from one of the newer members.

Granted, I'm no long-standing member of the AFA or well versed in its specific affairs, but, I have walked the darker halls of one of the largest companies in the world and am well versed in the nuances of organizational structure and business in general.

Your point is well made though. I would probably be better served (and my customers!) by burning some propane than divesting extensive energies here.

Nonetheless, the topic is "what's up with the AFA". Better to stick to the topic at hand than change to the topic of hand-made.

My best regards to you and yours,

Mark
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RE:Whats up with the AFA? 01 Apr 2008 12:03 #116

Mark_Gough wrote:
Yes, the technology behind the site is somewhat antiquated. From an IT perspective, this is problematic. From a non-technical viewers perspective, the presentation technology is far less important.
Mark,

Just a few words on your quoted statement. The technology behind the site is all state of the art Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP. As part of the recent upgrades all of the existing code was upgraded to run on the most recent versions of each platform except PHP. One of the challenges was in fact to make sure that everything ran at the new version levels. PHP was upgraded as far as we could within the old major version (Version 4), but we did not move to the next major version (Version 5) because we could not cost justify the time and money involved in the upgrade knowing that in the next fiscal year we were planning a major upgrade to the graphic presentation of the site

The presentation layer is in fact where all of the current problem with the website exists. It is graphically old and navigation is a bit cumbersome. The content does tends to lag a bit. But these challenges were not on the IT Committees plate. Rather they were or should have been all rightly on the Website Committees agenda.

That said, welcome to the AFA and horseshoes.com. I hope your experiences continue to be positive ones.
Ronald E. Kramedjian, RJF

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"In matters of style swim with the current; In matters of principle, stand like a...
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RE:Whats up with the AFA? 01 Apr 2008 13:17 #117

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Mark;

If the organization is to advance then folks like you who have taken the extra time to sit and express yourself ARE NEEDED.
Farriers know Farriery. Some are good business men many are not.
But the organization has to advance with the territory around it or it will fade into obscurity.

Part-time shoer-past member of the dark halls of the corporate world. Frankly I don't care if you shoe 1 day a week and sell ice creme cones on the street corner.
There is no restricton on what makes you a shoer other than your own desire to LEARN a trade and PERFORM said trade with integrity and to the best of your ability, in my book.

One thing you bring to this board is a way of expressing yourself in a manner that is NOT offensive or aggressive to others.
Your intelligence in what you have spoken and suggested come through in a manner where only a complete ***** would be rude to you.

Mark if you were in my area I would gladly come over and work with you in your shop. We both could learn at the same time.

my 2 cents
"you may not like what I say" !
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"you'll never have any doubts where I stand
quote Cindy Matthews 1948-2006


I thought my life had come to a close with Cindy's passing, but there is life after death Thankyou Sharon !

Bruce Matthews
Southeast...
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RE:Whats up with the AFA? 01 Apr 2008 13:36 #118

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Mike Ferrara wrote:
I don't know Rick very well but I'm confortable enough with his honesty. However, that doesn't tell my how well he'd do in a finance officers position.
What matters is the membership of the AFA elected Rick to the postion, which by defualt makes him a member of the EC. It just to bad that the rest of the EC is so disfunctional that they can't check their egos at the door, put personalities aside, and work togeather for the betterment of the AFA.

Mike Ferrara wrote:
From what I've read here, there was an IT project that went bad?
What I have read it was a IT project that went bad because of management interferance.
Gary Miller, PF

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RE:Whats up with the AFA? 01 Apr 2008 13:44 #119

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Gary_Miller wrote:
What I have read it was a IT project that went bad because of management interferance.

That's the way it usually works and is to be expected, IME.

I found that one of the most important skills for an engineer is being able to manage managers.
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RE:Whats up with the AFA? 01 Apr 2008 13:48 #120

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Thanks for taking time to provide the additional information Ronald and for the warm welcome to the organization.

My comment regarding the state of the technology was based on information provided by earlier postings and my own review of the websites content and apparent level of activity.

While freely admitting that I'm not yet well-versed in the organizational structure of the AFA, I did mistakenly assume that the IT committee and the Website committee were one in the same. I based this on the AFA website list of committees which presents only a website committee chaired by Mr. Stovall.

http://www.americanfarriers.org/about_afa/afa_committees.php

It would appear that you agree with the overall perception that the presentation layer represents older navigational and content presentation. This is consistent with my own observations and should, in my opinion, represent a major thrust of any new administration.

Again, basic dynamic informational content is technologically the easier side of ensuring a useful resource from the end users perspective.

The rather verbose thoughts I provided earlier represented a specific response to requests for "what would you do?" and were largely focused on the perceptions a new or potential member may have.

While possibly useful, such thoughts are a bit out of scope of the internal issues facing the organization as characterized by this thread.

In my own experience, those problems, as described herein, represent concerns encountered with great frequency in many large organizations. Such problems can be magnified when the parties involved are volunteers.

Just for the sake of discussion, allow me a guess at the root of the problem. I'll let others more closely involved grade my speculation.

The current rift represents an organizational pathology whose most causal origins reside in the following, common management dilemna:

The allocation of organizational responsibility without commensurate authority, understanding and specific direction to execute upon those same duties within the framework of the desired goals.

In simpler terms, someone ordered the farrier to shoe a horse, but forgot to mention which horse in the barn needed shoes, how much they should charge, where the tools are located and what the protection, traction or performance goals were.

The engaged farrier threw up his hands in disgust, packed his toys and went home.

Am I close?

On a final note; I've read everything Mr. Stovall has written and published on his personal website. The man has some serious talent for engaging the serious farrier, horseman and layman alike with his knowledge of farriery and his witty and folksy use of the English language.

Let's not do anything to chase that kind of talent off.

'Course, it wouldn't likely happen anyway. Mr. Stovall strikes me as an individual that is about as likely to quit anything as Marshall Dillon was to hang his hat at Kitties place.

Thanks again Ronald.

Mark
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