Thrush in horse's hooves

What is thrush?

Thrush is a bacterial – fungal infection that eats away at the healthy tissue of a horse’s hoof. The bacteria and fungus live naturally on the horse’s hooves and in the environment. Thrush is found mainly in the frog’s central sulcus and collateral grooves. These areas can get packed with debris and retain moisture. It is in this damp, unclean environment where the bacteria and fungus can thrive causing the infection thrush.

What are the benefits of detecting and preventing thrush?

  • The most important concern is preventing lameness.
  • By keeping the frog healthy, proper blood circulation is maintained.
  • Healthy hooves equal healthy horses.

What are the signs that thrush is present?

  • Thrush has a distinct odor, but may not be present in every case.
  • When picking out, the first sign to look for is a sticky, dark gray or blackish clay like substance that will cling to the end of the hoof pick.
  • With a more advanced case of thrush, the sticky clay-like substance will have fluid with it.
  • The horse will react uncomfortably when picking out or putting pressure on the frog.
  • The frog may look unhealthy, appearing ragged and with crevices and holes.
  • The collateral grooves extend to the bulbs looking like cracks in the hoof.
  • The central sulcus groove has a crack! This can extend to and into the hairline in extreme cases.
  • The frog is soft or spongy underneath but looks normal and dry on top.

Remember: whitish-gray, flaky, crumbly “chips” are the natural way a hoof sheds its sole. This is not thrush!

What causes thrush?

A horse can get thrush in any environment. Damp, unclean environments are where the bacteria and fungus can thrive causing the infection thrush. Even if you keep everything clean and dry, your horse may stand in a fresh pile of manure or urine every day. Thrush might be present in only one hoof or even in one groove. Horses in moist areas are more prone to thrush. Horses that stand in mud or other wet conditions, stay in poorly cleaned stalls, or don’t have their feet picked out regularly are at risk for having the bacteria thrive in their hooves. Thrush does not survive well in an oxygenated environment, so pick out the feet well.

How is thrush treated?

You can purchase commercial remedies or make homeopathic ones. It’s not the remedy, it’s the application!  Speak with your farrier because he knows the local environment and which remedy should work best for your horse. When thrush has advanced to become an open wound, it will show much more liquid and possibly some blood. In this situation, we would not recommend using harsh products that may burn.

  • Make sure you pick out all the dark-grey or blackish clay-like thrush.
  • It is important to get all the way into the collateral grooves.
  • Be very careful when picking out in the central sulcus groove. This tissue is very sensitive.
  • It is a good idea to wash the hoof for the first-time treatment.
  • If it is winter or time is a factor, don’t worry – you can still treat the thrush.
  • What is most important is to get the remedy all the way down into the grooves of the frog.
  • It needs to heal from the inside out otherwise the top may dry and look healed, but a pocket of thrush  still  lives on underneath.
  • Check really well the bulb area with bar, plate and any other shoes that cover up much of the frog and the grooves.

How can I get the remedy all the way into the grooves and cracks?

Good Horse has come up with the international patent pending THRUSH-TIP™ Applicator!
This tip easily reaches into all crevices and the bottle can be filled with any liquid remedy you provide, chemical or homeopathic. Our goal is to get your horse healthy. Because of the applicator’s length and narrowness, the consumer is assured that whichever remedy is chosen will get applied deeply to where it is needed.

Why can’t I just use any applicator?

Some cracks are very deep and the remedy doesn’t get to the source of the thrush. The remedy gives the illusion to “heal”.  The crack tightens up and becomes narrow, even dry on top. This leaves a pocket of thrush to live on deep inside. It’s impossible for the applicators on the market today to get in. They are too short and/or too wide. You can always soak but that is very time consuming. Sprays only cover the surface. Stuffing cotton is passé and we have seen people over stuff, making their horse more uncomfortable. Needles are very dangerous!

How many applications does it take to treat?

When thrush is severe (the frog area shows any cracking) we like to be on top of it 4-7 days a week depending on environment. When it is minor it can be treated 1-2 times a week. It is a good routine to check for thrush at least once a week. It can be done easily while you are picking out the feet.

How is thrush prevented?

Avoid letting the horse stand in muddy, wet, unsanitary conditions for long periods. Pay attention to where your horse stands and passes urine and manure in his stall. No matter how much you clean, there are horses that will constantly stand in a fresh wet spot or manure pile.

  •  Keep the stall clean.
  •  Keep the horses hooves clean and dry whenever possible.
  •  Clean out all dark-gray or blackish thrush.
  •  Apply the remedy deep inside, where it’s needed.
  •  Have the horse stand in a clean environment.
  •  Clean thrush off the hoof pick.
  •  Check for thrush once a week, minimum.
  •  Maintain a steady farrier appointment.
Read about Hiding Places of Thrush