With pain that ranges from slight discomfort to severe lameness, thrush is a pathological infection of the frog that is caused and aggravated by unnatural diet and boarding conditions. Thrush compromises hoof function, results in incorrect loading and unnatural wear patterns. If your horse has thrush it is a clear indication that all is not well.
What does this mean for my horse?
Thrush is the result of a bacterial infection that has invaded the frog, or sole of the hoof and caused decay. It is painful, results in poor hoof development and creates muscular strain (leading to muscular atrophy).
Your horse will be unable to comfortably take its weight on the hoof designed to carry it, and so will compensate in ways that place unnatural forces on the entire body. Put a sharp stone in the heel area of your shoe and walk around the room, this will give you an idea of what thrush does.
How can I recognize it?
Despite its easily recognisable characteristics, many horse owners are unaware their horse has thrush. When you next pick out your horses hooves pay close attention to smell, texture and appearance. A healthy hoof should not smell when you pick it out, the sole should not be powdery or flaky and the frog should be a solid firm pad.
If you notice a foul smell, and oily or black material around the frog, your horse has thrush.
If the sole is weak or flaky with many black lines or cracks that are easily scraped away, your horse has thrush.
If the frog has holes, appears to be decaying, or is weak and spongy, your horse has thrush.
If the frog has a deep split in its central sulcus, your horse has a severe thrush infection.
How can I help to see this healed?
Every horse owner should learn to recognise the signs of thrush, both in their own horse and others. Many horses suffer on a daily basis largely due to ignorance.
Consistency is the key. If you've found thrush in your horses hoof you should take immediate action to see it prevented from becoming any worse. Although thrush is found on the hoof, its impact is on the entire body.
If you can, clean the hoof daily both with a hoofpick and stiff bristled brush to remove as much of the bacteria laden material as possible. Once thoroughly cleaned an anti thrush treatment can be applied. In the case of severe discomfort you may want to consider the use of a properly fitted hoofboot.
How can I make sure this doesn't happen again?
A few basic practices go a long way in keeping thrush away for good. Check your horses diet, boarding and hoof function, as it is most likely one of these elements which has resulted in the thrush infection taking hold.
A horses diet that follows NHC guidelines, stays away from processed feeds and sugar rich grasses, is a diet that will help support the hoof in its recovery.
Follow a regular trim schedule with an experienced hoofcare practitioner. Poor hoof function results in thrush formation as the bacteria cannot be driven out by the hoof mechanism.
Do what you can to provide dry ground for your horse and ensure manure is removed from the area your horse lives. What would happen to your own feet if you spent your day in soiled mud for prolonged periods? The same rule applies. However possible, encourage your horse to move. Track systems, herd members and natural riding methods are all tools that keep a horse in good health.
Clean hooves daily, both with a hoof pick and stiff bristled brush.
Provide dry standing areas and regular movement.
Once thoroughly cleaned apply a thrush remedy to the affected hooves:
Unpasturized Apple Cider Vinegar (containing the mother and sugar free) and water can be sprayed onto the area to clear the infection. Use a 50:50 blend in cases of severe infections. Once the thrush has cleared a maintenance mix of 1 Apple Cider Vinegar : 8 Water can be applied every few days to maintain hoof health.
NT-Dry is another alternative that seems to be effective in some situations.
Essential Oils are a powerful medicinal tool that should not be underestimated in their effectiveness - we're in the process of testing a blend and will have this information up as soon as we can.
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Content and photographs copyright EquiCare 2013-2016 - Stock Images used with permission - Ghost Saddles used with permission. ConTact C.A.R.E, Flinchlock, and Flinchlock Release Therapy are all registered trademarks of Dale Speedy Ngatea ConTact Care and have been used with permission. No part of these articles may be used in part or in whole without the written permission of the author