Absurd State Law Mandates High School Diploma to Put Shoes on Horses

"You don't have to know algebra to shoe a horse," says member of the International Horseshoeing Hall of Fame. California officials disagree.


Image courtesy Institute for Justice

There's nothing in the curriculum of California high schools—or any other high schools, for that matter—regarding the centuries-old practice of making horseshoes and putting them on horses.

That's why Bob Smith, owner of the Pacific Coast Horsehoeing School, used to train students to be farriers—the technical term for someone who makes and fits horseshoes—regardless of how much formal schooling they had. It's a good-paying job, one that comes with flexibility and independence. There are no licensing laws restricting who can be a farrier or mandating a certain level of training. If you can find someone to teach you the skill and find someone to pay you to practice it, you're all set.

At least that's what Smith thought, until the California Bureau for Private and Postsecondary Education sent him a letter last year. During an inspection of Smith's records, bureau officials discovered that he had been teaching students who lacked a high school diploma or GED certificate.

The letter informed him by a 2010 state law Smith could face fines or have his school shut down by the state if he accepted students who lacked a high school education.

"You don't have to know algebra to shoe a horse," Smith says. "You don't have to know how to read a novel to shoe a horse. Horses don't do math and horses don't speak English."

For that matter, the practice of making horseshoes and shoeing horses has been around a whole lot longer than the idea of secondary education. It's even been around longer than the First Amendment, which Smith says the state of California is violating by threatening to stop him from teaching certain students. With the help of the Institute for Justice, a libertarian law firm, Smith is suing the state in federal court.

"Just like publishing a how-to book or uploading an instructional video to YouTube is protected by the First Amendment, so is teaching," said Keith Diggs, an attorney for IJ, in a statement. "By limiting who Bob is allowed to teach and what Esteban is allowed to learn, California has not only harmed the students most in need of an education, but also violated their First Amendment rights."

The California Department of Commerce and the Bureau for Private and Postsecondary Education, the two defendants in the case, did not return calls seeking comment Tuesday.

Under that 2010 state law, students entering a private trade or vocational school must have a high school diploma or GED. The law was part of an effort to crack down on colleges and other postsecondary schools that functioned like "diploma mills," handing out bogus credentials to underqualified students while charging them high prices and offering the promise of high-paying jobs.

A similar federal law applies only to schools that accept student loans—passed as a way to curb supposed abuses of the student loan system by for-profit colleges and trade schools—but the California law applies to all postsecondary schools. Even those, like Smith's horseshoeing school, that do not accept student loans.

Smith's school is hardly a diploma mill. He's forgotten more about horseshoeing than any bureaucrat in Sacramento. He's been running his school since 1974, and has trained more than 2,000 graduates. In 2010, he was inducted into the International Horseshoeing Hall of Fame—a real thing that really exists!

Smith is not the only one hurt by this absurd law.

Becoming a trained farrier can provide a nice living for people without much formal schooling. People like Esteban Narez, who applied to Smith's school earlier this year. Raised by a single mother, Narez attended public school through his freshman year of high school, when he injured himself playing football and was forced to take time off from school to recover. He never went back. Now, at age 26, he's too old to do so under California law.

Narez has worked a variety of jobs but discovered a passion for working with horses while doing part-time work at Monterey Bay Horsemanship & Therapeutic Center. There, he met a trained farrier who suggested he take classes from Smith.

Smith rejected Narez' application because lacked a high school diploma. Narez is now a co-plantiff in Smith's lawsuit .

Had Smith accepted Narez he could have faced criminal "infractions" carrying fines of up to $5,000, $500 less than Smith's charge for eight-week course. Infractions in California law do not carry jail penalties, but in addition to the criminal violation, Smith could potentially face injunctions, have his school placed into receivership, or have it shutdown by the state.

And for what purpose? The law punishes people like Narez who have failed to obtain an arbitrary and ultimately unnecessary level of formal education before deciding to become a farrier. Why not require a college degree, one might wonder, or tell potential trade school applicants that they have to come back with a master's degree. Ridiculous, yes, but no less so than California's requirement.

"For students with limited education, this law is this biggest obstacle to their success," says Smith. "This law dictates that someone with limited formal education is not allowed to invest in themselves."

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  1. Absurd state law with pubsec Union official looking shifty, standing in the background.

  2. I actually know some farriers in Calfornia. My high school even taught blacksmithing and shoeing.

    What Bob Smith needs to do is stop teaching and just take on some interns.

    1. Gotta pay interns, because equality or something – I don’t think that’s a viable business model.

  3. With the help of the Institute for Justice, a libertarian law firm, Smith is suing the state in federal court.

  4. What about the buggy whip makers? Are they required to get a Masters?

  5. You don’t have to know algebra to shoe a horse,

    John has a long mustache.

    The chair is against the wall.

    1. Now THAT is a horse of a different color!

      So tell me… Why the long face?

      It’s just good horse sense!

      (I would rather horse around with some good sensimilla, sensimilliar to the Good Stuff in the Good Old Haze of the Good Old Days).

  6. It’s absurd. I cannot think of a good way to resolve it without stomping all over federalism.

  7. For obvious governmental reasons, background checks will also be required.

    1. Anthony Weiner’s second career hardest hit.

  8. “Horses don’t do math and horses don’t speak English.”

    FWIW, neither do many beauty salon customers.

  9. “In 1910 19% of 15- to 18-year-olds were enrolled in a high school; barely 9% of all American 18-year-olds graduated.”

    So how did all those horses get properly shod prior to, oh, 1940 or so?

    1. Obviously, many were *not* “properly shod”.

    1. It seems the National Enquirer was wrong, and Stevie Wonder is still blind.

      I’m sorry to hear it, but on the bright side, we can still tell those “have you seen the new Stevie Wonder documentary? Neither has he!” jokes.

    2. Stevie Wonder saw what you did there.

      1. Even Stevie Wonder can see how silly this law is!

  10. Maybe California officials can simply refuse to defend this case, like they did with the law about gay-marriage recognition?

    1. The ACLU will demand the state issue a licensing law to ensure the horses are shoed by professionals.
      Otherwise, disaster may strike the horse population.

  11. Pacific Coast Horsehoeing School, used to train students to be farriers?the technical term for someone who makes and fits horseshoes

    This is a bit irritating. Sure, he trains people to make and fit horseshoes but where? Without an explanation of the meaning of ‘Pacific Coast’ and ‘School’ how could we possibly understand the article?

    1. ‘horse ho-ing’?

  12. RE: Absurd State Law Mandates High School Diploma to Put Shoes on Horses

    Does the law mandate putting socks on the horse too?

  13. Crusty wanted to know if you needed a HS diploma to extract horse semen for “breeding”.

  14. Look. Trades are demeaning. They have a social stigma of being work for dummies who didn’t finish high school. Well, this law fixes that! Now tradesmen in California will all have a high school diploma! No longer will trades be stigmatized. What about those who didn’t get a diploma? What are they supposed to do? Well, that’s what a high minimum wage is for! It forces employers to pay a fair wage to people with no education or job skills!

    Legislation is magic!

  15. ‘Horses don’t do math and horses don’t speak English.’

    Clever Hans and Mister Ed have filed a defamation suit.

  16. “Horses don’t do math and horses don’t speak English.”

    “Your mama don’t dance and your daddy don’t rock and roll.”

  17. Don’t you just have to pass a test to get a GED?

    1. Pretty much. Getting a GED is so incredibly easy that even someone who is brain dead could do it. That really makes one ask why anyone would require it in the first place. For reason, some people refuse to get a GED out of principle. Why let others look down on you simply because you don’t have a worthless piece of paper?

      1. Credentialism.

      2. By the way, my brain dead ex wife would beg to differ. She said the GED test was really hard.

        1. That’s what she said about my…oops, I almost got too tasteless even for me, which is very tasteless indeed.

          1. Eddie please. You are one of the most tasteful people here.

            1. Just goes to show how tasteless this website has gotten.

      3. This is absolutely NOT CORRECT. The GED used to be a fairly easy test, anyone with half a brain, etc. My father teaches GED classes at a local vo-tech school, He used to graduate about 35 people every year of his class of 60. But then, common core came along. Now he has graduated 2-3 students per year of the same class.

        Apparently the common-core people decided that if they made a harder test, then their graduates would look better in STEM test comparisons to other countries. Intentions and all, but it really just means fewer graduates. I don’t know about the English and Essay portions of the test, but the Math portion now requires students to know algebra, point-slope formula for a line, and the quadratic equation.

        Do you remember your point-slope formula? Have you ever used it in any of your daily job activities? Do you really believe these “brain dead” people who can scarcely understand percentages should have no trouble with the abstract concepts in algebra?

        1. The test is only “harder” in the sense that our standards regarding education are utterly pathetic. Rote memorization should not be considered ‘hard’ or meaningful.

          Do you remember your point-slope formula? Have you ever used it in any of your daily job activities? Do you really believe these “brain dead” people who can scarcely understand percentages should have no trouble with the abstract concepts in algebra?

          Actually, yes, I do remember it. It has been a long time, but I still remember such things. However, I believe that this is not the case for most people. Still, how does this make the test ‘hard’? You just have to memorize a few facts and then recall them when taking the test. The test proves nothing, even if one passes.

          You use the word “understand”, yet the test is not about understanding at all, but about rote memorization. Because of that, most facts memorized will be quickly forgotten by the vast majority of people after the test has concluded.

          If there are a significant number of people who cannot pass such a pathetic test, then we are in trouble.

  18. I love how nearly everyone recognizes that our schools are an unmitigated disaster, and then a lot of those same people go on to mock people who don’t waste their time with the abomination we call the ‘education’ system. There is no actual education to be had there, since it’s all about rote memorizing a bunch of information and then spewing it back on tests and homework assignments without understanding any of the actual concepts. So, I would say that 99% of actual high school graduates don’t understand algebra. Someone who did not graduate might very well understand algebra if they got an education using alternative means (homeschooling, self-education, etc.).

    I guess we’re supposed to pretend that anyone who doesn’t have a piece of paper is automatically uneducated, and we’re supposed to do this in an age where people have easier access to high-quality information than ever via the Internet. This archaic way of viewing things needs to die, just like traditional schooling.

    1. The “Made Simple” series of books taught subjects better than formal schooling did.

  19. Wait. Let me get this straight. It’s against the law to educate someone without an education?

    1. That assumes that a piece of paper from the government is an indication of an education.

  20. BTW, you could do worse than to support IJ. Those guys deliver the goods.

    1. Absolutely love IJ. They’re on the Give list.

  21. Everybody together now: FUCK YOU, THAT’S WHY!!!!!!

  22. Everybody together now: FUCK YOU, THAT’S WHY!!!!!!

  23. So, to combat shoddy & fraudulent schools, lawmakers tightened the requirements for applicants.

    Why do legislators make such shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty law?

    1. Hypothetically, what if the announced purpose of this law wasn’t the real purpose?

      1. Surely you are not implying someone is making money off this law.

  24. Absurd State Law Mandates High School Diploma to Put Shoes on Horses

    Gotta tithe to the teacher’s unions to have a job.

  25. Don’t know much about geography,
    Don’t know much trigonometry
    Don’t know much about algebra,
    Don’t know what a slide rule is for
    But I do know that one and one is two,
    And if I want to put on a horseshoe,
    Then I’ll have to pass my GED

  26. You have to take senior level math in California before you can be expected to reliably count to 4. Think of all the poor partially shod horses before you repeal this necessary law.

  27. The system of education today wants all people to be well-educated. These people are much nicer to talk to, they are aware of their strong suit and they can build their own business. However, those people who have left school to support their families also deserve respect. They have learned the skills on practice and they have experienced the difficulties. These people are the working class that can share the great experience with the young. So, I think these people would better contact the Review Essay Service for them to write good essays for and get ready to take a higher education degree.

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