Thrush & Hoof Cracks
Many horse owners do not realise their horse has thrush. Often with new clients when I examine their horse for the first time i ask them what they are treating the thrush with with. I get the answer "what thrush no one has ever told me my horse has thrush" I have come to realise that unfortunately many horse owners just accept thrush as normal many people do not realise that this is a big problem and can result in serious lameness and lead to white line disease, seedy toe and hoof cracks if left untreated.
So what is thrush?
"Thrush is an unpleasant infection of the horse's frog, which is predisposed by moist, damp, dirty ground or stable conditions. Thrush is an infection of the central and lateral sulcus (clefts) of the frog of the horse's foot, most often involving bacterial and occasionally fungal infection.
Below the before and after treatment of thrush. There is 6 months between the photos and 4 trims, the owner cleaned out with salt and washing up liquid and applied red horse products daily or as close to daily as she could manage. The bedding was changed from straw to wood pellets. The nutrition and diet was addressed.
Photo by Sarah Oliver
Below the same foot as above with 6 months between photos, the crack has grown out, the flare has reduced and the hoof is a better quality.
Photo by Sarah Oliver
What causes Thrush?
- Unhygienic environmental conditions: Stabling for prolonged periods on soiled, sodden bedding; turnout on constantly damp, swampy or marshy pasture. The damp conditions of a dirty stable provide the perfect environment for the anaerobic bacteria, (those needing a low-oxygen environment) which cause thrush to flourish. In my experience straw bedding is the worst for this, wood pellets are great for drying the hooves outs and preventing thrush.
- Diet and Nutrition. A copper and/or zinc deficiency and diets high in starch and sugars (too much grain,sugar beets, alfalfa and grass, etc.) are also linked with thrush in horses. If the dietary and nutritional imbalance isn’t corrected, it may be difficult to get rid of the thrush. Normally with this dietary combination horses are also prone to abscessing as well so watch out for this too.
- Poor Hoof Shape form and function (especially of the frog): Long narrow feet with under run heels, prone to contracted heels, with associated small, narrow frog and compressed inverted central sulcus; sheared heels, where a gap develops between the bulbs of the heels due to a chronic foot imbalance; a frog deformity, perhaps as the result of an injury. Poor shoeing and trimming badly placed nails can also result in thrush taking hold.
Treatment for thrush?
Firstly the cause of the thrush needs to be established, so look at making changes to the diet, stable, bedding, field, trim and hoof care provider.
Secondly, there are many products out there that you can use to prevent the thrush from worsening whilst you deal with the route cause. I often see horse owners making the same mistake over and over again. This is instead of thoroughly picking and scrubbing the hoof out people roughly pick it out then spray purple spray or iodine even bleach on top black slim and a dirty hoof, this doesn't treat the thrush or help much at all. All of these chemicals can cause further harm and damage to the frog tissue and hoof. Its important to scrap all the black off and scrub out with water, a good combination that works is making a paste with salt and antibacterial washing up liquid and scrub that frog and sole with a dandy brush until the bubbles are black then rinse with diluted hibby scrub then repeat. A sticky substance like the red horse field past or artimud is good to cover the sole and frog with, other products such as Kevin bacon and silver feet are good for minor thrush.
The Hoof grows from the Coronary Band downwards and growth is reliant on nutrients being supplied by the Arterial blood supply and subsequent diffusion through the capillary beds. The Coronary Band is comprised of Papillae each of which is responsible for the nutrition of a horn tubule, it is from here that the horn cement or Keratinisation process occurs giving the hoof its hard yet elastic structure.
- Overgrown feet / Hoof Imbalance
- Coronary band injury
- White line disease and seedy toe (caused by mild laminitis allowing the white line to become compromised and bacteria to work its way into the white line)
- Nutritional deficiencies like copper, zinc and selenium.
Below is an on going case study of mine, the horse in question has a few hoof crack issues along with laminitis, seedy toe and white line disease in fact its really as bad as its gets, however the cure is simple!! With a change in diet, nutrition and regular trimming the feet are improving. The first photos were March 2017 the last photos are September 2017.
Above hoof crack from coronary band growing out.
above the is crack almost grown out.
Treatment for Hoof cracks?
- Find a hoof care provider to help you identify what is causing the cracks
- clean all the thrush and bacteria out of the crack and pack with red horse hoof stuff.
- A balanced regular trim and a change in diet and nutrition is the simplest way to deal with hoof cracks.
I will continue to update this page with the mares progress.