Horse Thrush and Treatment
Signs, Symptoms and Horse Thrush Treatment
Thrush is a fungal infection that is found around the frogs and heel bulbs. It generally attacks the tissues at the back of the hoof, especially around the heel bulbs but can then spread and go deep within the central sulcus and the co-lateral grooves.
It can cause real lameness in a barefoot horse unless treated, hence the importance of knowing and recognizing it.
Why it Occurs
Thrush occurs in horses’ hooves due to the general ill health of the hoof.
Without going into great detail and simplifying this – this ill health is due to a number of reason:-
- poor feeding practices,
- poor circulation
- poor trimming
However, by removing the shoes and trimming the hooves according to the barefoot model along with correct feeding and hoof treatment this problem can resolve completely.
The basics signs of thrush in horses hooves are the following:-
- Do the frogs smell?
- Are the frogs pitted and being eaten away
- Is the horse tender around the heel bulbs
- How healthy are the frogs looking
The easiest way to find out if you have horse thrush is to first, pick out the feet and then smell around the frog area, if they are smelly you most likely have some thrush present.
If it is bad it will be easy to smell but if it is less severe, to be sure, you need to smell quite close to the frog, especially in and around the crevices.
Bottom line there should be no unpleasant smell.
If you are still unsure, then compare with your nose one foot against another. Some feet can be worse than others so this may help. Or if necessary, compare your horses hooves with another horses hooves.
Apart from the smell, if the tissue around the frog and heels bulbs is pitted and looks like it is being eaten away, this is thrush.
If you put your thumb on the heel bulbs and apply pressure see if your horse flinches and is uncomfortable. If he is this is another indication of thrush. Horses can be very sore here if thrush is present.
Thrush can severely compromise the back of the hoof, preventing the horse from fully loading the back of the hoof which then can result in footiness and lameness.
Treating Thrush from Within
If you address each of the following areas you will resolve all your thrush problems.
Pete Ramey explains very clearly that in order to resolve thrush we need to outrun it. By this he means grow material faster than thrush can eat it.
So what stimulates this growth? Exercise, i.e.. pressure and release on the heel bulbs and frogs from regular daily movement and exercise.
This is much more important than anything you apply externally. Just like spots – you can put spot cover on, but it is only when you get the skin well, from within, that you get real healing.
Treating Thrush Externally
So another thing to be done which can help heal the thrush, is the externally application of something that will help prevent it from attacking the frogs.
It is important not to use anything that is too strong which may treat the thrush but may also kill the surrounding live tissue.
If you kill the thrush, but also the live tissue, the cycle of thrush will continue as the new dead tissue will attract new bacteria and fungus which will then invade and destroy the tissue again.
Pete Ramey says, if what you put on the thrush you can’t put it in your mouth you should not be putting it on
the horses frogs. So keeping that uppermost in your head:
- Pick out the feet, and then spray them with undiluted Apple Cider Vinegar which you can buy in large containers from eBay
- Or spray them with Neways Eliminator,. a mild antibacterial lotion. Both are excellent.
- Keep the above in a
Spray Dispenser which you can buy here or from any DIY store.
It is worth spending a few more pennies and having a strong Spray Dispenser and if you buy one, I would in fact buy several. We have found if the spray bottle is filled up and to hand the job gets down.
This may mean having one in the:-
- by the gate to your field
- in the school/riding area
- or even in your lorry.
(i.e.. wherever you are going to be picking out their feet!)
If you spray the horse thrush regularly it will get better. If it is bad you should do it everyday until symptoms disappear. As the symptoms reduce you
will not need to spray then so often.
Trimming Frogs and Frog Flaps
Although we are not discussing how to trim here. It is very relevant to mention however that if you are routinely trimming your frogs this will be creating an environment for horse thrush to flourish in.
Frogs need to be left alone and the deep calloused material lying over the top of the frogs needs to be left in tack. This is because it is protecting the underlying new frog tissue which is soft and sensitive and if exposed too early can create lameness.
The only time you may need to trim bits off a frog is if there are any loose flaps covering:-
- the collateral grooves
- and the central sulcus
Because if there is exfoliating material and dirt trapped underneath these flaps they may harbor muck in the collateral and central sulcus grooves and so possibly creating a breeding ground for horse thrush.
Pick out the horses feet regularly, at least two or three times a week. Although the crevices and frog area may fill up again with dirt very quickly, it is fresh dirt. You may wonder whether this really will make a difference, the answer is it does and it will especially in the early days of transitioning a horse.
By picking out the feet regularly, the dirt does not become embedded down, i.e. it is changed. If your horse is barefoot in time the hooves may well not need to be picked out. You will need to monitor their hooves to see.
In addition to the above, correct feeding and correct trimming (as described on this site) is essential if you wish to prevent thrush re-occuring.
With barefoot horses once the feet are properly balanced and trimmed and you have addressed their diet and created as much movement as possible you should have no further problem with your horse thrush.