The Key to Soundness is in the Heels

Providing appropriate caudal support helps keep racehorses on the track

Keeping any horse sound can be a tall order. Keeping a Thoroughbred racehorse sound is nearly impossible. That doesn’t stop Wes Champagne from trying, though.

“No horseshoer can keep a horse perfectly sound,” says the Arcadia, Calif., farrier. “They all get injured eventually, but farriers can try to prolong their longevity.”

Champagne has been doing his best to keep racehorses sound for nearly 40 years. Yet, he’s probably best known for his work with keeping American Pharoah on the track so the colt could claim the Grand Slam of Thoroughbred racing by winning the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, Belmont Stakes and the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Champagne customized a half-plate shoe to protect a bruise on the bay stallion’s left front foot. He wore it in each of his races in 2015.

Champagne discussed his approach to shoeing racehorses for soundness in mid-November at the Thoro’Bred Extravaganza Clinic and Contest in Anaheim, Calif.

Farrier Takeaways

  • Avoid having the picture of a perfect foot and applying it to every foot. Shoe the foot to the best of its potential.
  • Supporting the back half of the foot will relieve pressure on the digital sheath that surrounds the superficial and deep flexor tendons.
  • Maintaining width in the foot and shoe will stabilize the distal limb and reduce suspensory problems.

Heel Support

Generally, the first things Champagne look at when picking up the foot are the frog and the placement of the shoe.

“Like most farriers, I shoe my horses using Duckett’s Dot,” he says…

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Jeff cota 2023

Jeff Cota

Jeff Cota has been a writer, photographer and editor with newspapers and magazines for 30 years. A native of Maine, he is the editor of American Farriers Journal.

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