I would be a little afraid of letting her run around bare foot. There was a time where I had her in a turn out in 6 inches of sand barefoot, and she still managed to get bruised. Being a thoroughbred she's not very hardy.
Wow! She probably has ultra thin soles to get bruised so easily! But whether or not she has ultra thin soles, I definitely DON'T suggest you just turn her out bare, for now at least. She desperately needs protection & support for her weak feet.
As mentioned, if she's always been conventionally managed - eg lived on soft footing, under exercised, shod, etc. - it is likely that she never developed strong digital cushions & lateral cartilages in the first place. So regardless of how she's trimmed, she will be unwilling to land on her sensitive heels.Padded hoof boots or such should hopefully provide her with the support to begin landing heel first. No promises of course, but with the right care it is likely she'll develop her dc's well enough to be able to go bare for turnout & ridden on yielding surfaces at least.
It's not by breed that TBs often aren't so 'hardy', but by management. Altho of course this type of horse(not just TBs) tend to have feet that go 'splat' when not well managed/fed, while other types, such as ponies, QHs for eg tend to grow higher, more contracted heels when in the same type of situation.
Obviously the problem's become too acute for shoes to mask the problem any longer, so wedges are now (hopefully) providing some comfort to her. But as explained, this type of palliative treatment actually worsens the basic problem, so she will continue to deteriorate and need gradually more intense measures until such time as nothing works. If she were an old horse, palliative measures may get her through the rest of her life in comfort, but being young, this is likely to greatly reduce quality as well as quantity of life.
She proposed a rocker shoe, that allows her to decide how much weight she wants to put on her heel, which hopefully will be more and more
If a horse is to be shod, I think rocker toes or such are a good move generally, as they help the horse move more naturally. As treatment for heel pain, I just can't see the point tho. Prior to wedges, the horse already had that choice, and due to weak sensitive heels, chose to walk on her toes. Why would she change her mind about that if her heels weren't protected & supported in such a way as to allow her to do it comfortably? Especially if she has now become so sore that regular shoes cease to provide relief?
the drug was a vasodialator and was thought to improve circulation to the affected area.
Yes, it may well improve it a bit, but it is hoof function that appears to be the biggest aid to circulation, and if the horse is not using her heels, there will be little circulation, regardless how dilated the vessels. On that note, further to explaining domestic horse's lack of dc development, it seems that to a large degree, the blood vessels aren't even there to be dilated anyway.
When I first started learning about all this and dissected & examined a heap of knackery hooves, I got used to seeing the soft, fatty white lump of dc & of the hooves I chose to keep for 'show & tell' items, I would cut out the dc, because there was nothing much to it, it didn't dry well and you could better see the nav. Bone & ddft without it. Apparently this is extremely normal, for domestic dc's to be like that.
It wasn't until I started to really study Pete Ramey's stuff and get a couple of 'outback' brumby hooves(the ones from cushier climes are more similar to most domestics), and was also lucky to examine a barefoot endurance horse's dc, that I realised the 'norm' was not what they were meant to be like. Well developed dc's are actually relatively hard & fibrous, a lot thicker than others I'd seen and, to the point of circulation, were choc-full of tiny blood vessels! Most domestics don't just lack strength, but they lack these blood vessels too.
Some horses do continue limited competitive careers after a navicular diagnosis; it depends on how managable it is. I'd say jumping's probably out of the question. Dressage training is a double edged sword
Of course it depends on the level of damage - namely it seems, how badly damaged P3 & joints may be due to the toe-first landings - but it is entirely feasible that the horse can return to UNlimited competition or other 'work'. Including jumping & tight turns, etc. If it is possible to get her dc's into a healthy state, she may even become a 'rock crunching' barefoot trail horse even!
Management over hoofcare plays such a huge part in this tho, & f/t stalling is one thing going against her. If paddock life is out of the question where you are(in which horses are often still rather sedentary & live on soft ground anyway), perhaps a maze of pens is possible, or some manner of 'paddock paradise' setup(google it for info) on a track around your house or such? Or failing that, perhaps you can employ someone who wants to get fit & walk her....?
And what causes contraction is shoes and stalling. If a young horse is diagnosed with navicular syndrome, it is very possible to cure the horse in one correct trim. That is because the bars are usually the culpret of heel pain.... But when there has been long term shoeing and contraction the hoof shrinks onto all the soft structures (blood vessels, corium, ligaments and tendons) the foot dies. ....The best you can do is try to learn all you can....so that you can keep your next horse from suffering a similar fate. BTW most conventional vets and farriers will not be interested in any holistic methods of returning your horse to health. They are only interested in relieving pain.
Of course differences of opinion are a way for us to learn, and as such, I'm interested in learning where yours come from hoss. But I'm inclined to disagree with most of what you say above.
I agree that stalling, or otherwise lack of exercise with good hoof function(eg using heels) is the main cause of contraction, and shoeing can worsen the effects. I don't see shoeing as a cause tho. I agree that it is possible to 'cure' a horse just with correct trimming, but not probable, as I disagree that overgrown bars are much of a 'culprit' of heel pain, and it is, as explained, commonly lack of development of dc's & lateral cartilages (BTW, grammar buffs, writing dc's is irritating me too, but I feel it's clearer than dcs!)
I have never heard the theory of the foot shrinking around the 'soft structures' & dying as a regular occurance, but I've heard of rare stories of 'navicular' horses' feet just dropping off due to gangrene(don't ask for proof tho). Altho as explained, lack of circulation, therefore lack of growth is a symptom. Perhaps that's what you mean? If the foot hasn't died, there is always hope, and I speak from experience in saying that older, long term 'navicular' horses can indeed be returned to full soundness(of course no promises tho). Therefore I definitely disagree with your 'best you can do' statement, altho IMO whether a horse has hoof probs or not, owners educating themselves & not just trusting blindly to 'experts' and tradition is vitally important.
I also thoroughly disagree with vets not being *interested* in returning the horse to health. I think this is unfair. I think the problem is in many people believing things aren't 'real' or worth trying unless there's scientific proof, so they disregard methods that don't have this. Much research and examples of the theories & rehab I speak of is quite recent, so there is little 'proof' on many specifics(tho this is changing). Most older research and treatment has indicated that the problem is mysterious and without 'cure', so in many vet's & farrier's opinions, palliative pain management is indeed the best they can hope to achieve.
Blah, now that I've spent too long on my soapbox yet again, I'd better get off & go do some housework & hopefully get in a little time for my own beasties!