I was sent an interesting link (thanks Rachel for the heads-up on Facebook!) which ties in very nicely with a post I was already in the throes of writing.
Here's the link, first of all: http://www.thehorse.com/articles/32942/study-underrun-heels-impair-horses-hoof-loading-ability. Its about a study which was done by the RVC into how collapsed heels affect performance. There are lots of interesting elements, which I'll come back to in later blogs, but while concluding that collapsed heels are a problem, the article concludes:
"Current treatment options for collapsed heels (e.g., gel packs, bar shoes) are often not as successful as farriers, veterinarians, and horse owners would like".
So contrast these feet - the top one shod in wedges and pads. These are traditionally used to "support" the collapsed heel but, as the article comments, sometimes seem to perpetuate the problem.
This is the same foot after a few weeks out of shoes (yes, its Dylan, for those who follow him!). The foot is still under-run, the heels are still collapsed BUT look at the heels and compare them and have a look at how the hairline is changing. There is actually more bulk in the lower photo and the collapse is less severe.
Here is another horse who arrived here 2 days out of shoes which - again - had been intended to provide palmar hoof support following DDFT damage. The top photo clearly shows how collapsed both his heels and his digital cushion have become - the hairline is again the place to look and you can see it dips towards the frog.
This photo, taken 10 weeks later, shows a much stronger and less collapsed heel. The hairline is straightening which means the frog and digital cushion are supporting the palmar hoof from within.
Building internal strength is so much more effective in my opinion than propping something up from the outside.
After a few months, much better hoof balance and better development of the heels, digital cushion and frog.
But give the horse the chance and she develops palmar hoof support of her own, far more effective and longer -lasting and with the added benefit of a more balanced foot.
So if you want support for the palmar hoof, try asking the horse, rather than the shoe, to provide it. It will provide better shock absorption, last longer and allow for better hoof function.
Important note - Heels: I should make it clear that although all these horses had much stronger palmar hooves after a few months working barefoot, that is NOT the same thing as having heel height.
Here is a horse shod with a bar shoe for "support" and note the long hoof wall (focus on the distance from hairline to the shoe's surface).
In the same foot a few weeks' later the length of the hoof wall is much shorter but the depth of the palmar hoof (heel, digital cushion and frog) is much greater. That's the difference between internal and external support.
If you looked at any of the hooves pictured above from the sole view, they will look like this and there will be little or no heel height above the frog, a shorter length of hoof wall but much greater palmar hoof depth.