Thrush is a major problem for most horses and it’s pretty much the first thing we look for on a horse that is having any issues with it’s feet including all walking, trotting, cantering and jumping. Around here in the pacific northwest it’s wet for most of the year and as moisture is usually the catalyst, thrush is pretty much everywhere. As moisture isn’t the only culprit to look at, let’s see how and why so many hooves get invaded by thrush and sometimes just stay that way.
While this is an overview of basic thrush, if you’re seeing worse than this then please check out our deep and aggressive thrush article here.
First off, thrush is very happy to take hold in wet, moist and muddy environments. Not to say it doesn’t or can’t happen in regularly dry places but it’s definitely less common. This moisture may just be caused by being rainy, but more often than not it’s because a horse can’t escape it’s own fecal matter and urine. Once thrush takes hold though, without constant attention, it can always keep a hold in a frog and bother a horse for a very long time. Furthermore, if not treated aggressively and consistently, thrush can end up making a horse severely lame as it can affect so many other parts of the horse. For example, the effect of stepping incorrectly due to the pain that thrush causes can, over time, cause the shoulder to have your horse turning poorly in one direction. The pain of landing heel first or flat may cause the horse to land toe first, over time this destroys the back end of the foot along with the hoof wall itself. More on that in another article.
Thrush is a fungal infection of the frog, to put it simply. It is anaerobic, meaning it doesn’t need, nor want, oxygen to survive and as such it thrives in places like the frog, deep in the tissue and under every flap of frog that exists on horses. A lack of regular picking of the feet helps this along and if the horse happens to live in really dirty conditions where it is stepping a lot in it’s own feces then thrush will pretty much be guaranteed.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure as thrush is quite difficult to eradicate from the frog and takes time and money to do so. Keeping the environment clean and caring regularly for the horse’s hoof can go a long ways to delaying and stopping thrush before it can happen. In the case that it does take hold, getting it early is the best, if you wait until you have deep thrush, it can take weeks or even months depending on the change of conditions and what is used on the thrush.
Deep thrush is very easy to spot and usually looks like this:
The gap between the heel bulbs should not exist. If you see that on your horse, you have a thrush problem. Treating this needs to reach deep in to the crease and be consistently done until there is no more gap there. Other ways to recognize thrush are smell, as it stinks when a frog is rotting away, and also a black sort of slimy residue on the frog. This will especially be the case in the sulci of the frog and the central sulcus. If there are flaps on the frog then make sure to remove them as they are the most likely places to harbor thrush. If black and a sort of slimy chalk like substance exists, remove and clean as much as possible and then treat it.
Thrush isn’t something to take lightly, if detected or even just suspected then we recommend treating quickly and aggressively. The less damage done to the frog the better as the horse needs it to carry itself properly. A lack of frog can lead to walking wrong, toe first, flaring of the hoof wall, laminitis and possibly founder with enough damage done. This then leads to likely a thinner sole and the dominoes keep falling until the horse is finally completely lame. All for a bacterial infection that can be stopped in it’s tracks with a bit of dedication or even just proper hoof care each day with picking and cleaning.
Along with proper trimming and removing rotten portions of frog, the recommended treatment is to use White Lightning soaks or Thrush off topical powder or liquid or a mixture of triple antibiotic with anti-fungal foot cream. Each of these do work and destroy the fungus and help the foot heal itself. Time and patience is the key.
Please feel free to contact us about any questions regarding thrush, we’re happy to look at pictures of your horse and give our opinions and how you might treat your horse. Thrush is painful and we’re putting ourselves out there to get one horse at a time out of pain and back to enjoying life.