Equine Thrush

Equine thrush is a disease that affects the horse's hoof. It is a bacterial infection which usually settles in the frog of the foot, but can spread throughout the hoof if not treated properly.

The good news is that the bacteria that causes thrush is anaerobic. This means that it cannot survive in the presence of oxygen...

...so all you need to do to keep your horse's hooves free from thrush is to keep them exposed to air...

...which is WAY easier said than done, I know!

Signs of Equine Thrush

Horse thrush can be recognized by two distinctive signs:

  1. A black gooey like substance that leaves a dark stain
  2. An odor so offensive that it'll almost knock you off your feet

Now, we all know our horse's feet go through some pretty nasty things on a daily basis...so their feet can smell pretty bad anyways, even when there is not thrush. But if the stench is accompanied by the goo, or gets excessively worse fairly sudden, there is a pretty good chance that it is probably thrush.

The picture below shows what equine thrush looks like:

Equine thrush

Equine Thrush Remedies

There are a number of remedies on the market for equine thrush, all which work pretty well.  Make sure when you apply these remedies that you coat all areas of the hoof well, working it into the cracks and crevices.

Products such as Hoof Magic Thrush Antiseptic Treatment are available in most tack stores, as well as horse product catalogs.

Both Stateline Tack and Jeffers Equine have a good selection of thrush remedies if you prefer a different brand.

Do be aware, if you are not already, that many of these treatments are dyed, allowing you to see clearly where they have been applied.

However, they also dye everything else they touch, including you, the barn floor, the too-curious-for-his-own-good barn dog's nose...

...and the list goes on.

After having treated numerous cases of thrush and having green hoof-prints marching up and down my concrete driveway, I stumbled (literally!) upon a great solution to the staining problem...

...I put the medicine to be applied in a cheap spray bottle and spray it on the hoof.

One or two squirts effectively covers the entire bottom of the hoof, and gets into the cracks and crevices pretty good.

Because the spray bottle only applies a thin layer (instead of the thick layer you usually get if you try to apply from the bottle) it also shortens the drying time from unbearable minutes (which seem like hours when your horse is tired of this and tries to turn it into a tug-o-war game!) to under a minute.

I do still wear gloves when using the squirt bottle though...

I learned that lesson the hard way when the sprayer malfunctioned and I ended up with green hands for a week! (Try explaining that one to your school teachers!)

So, what does thrush have to do with nutrition?

I'm glad you asked!

Thrush is one of those opportunistic infections. The bacteria that cause thrush are always living in your horse's environment. Most of the time they don't cause a problem. However, if something compromises the hoof, they are more than happy to move in!

In the case of equine thrush, many times the hoof is simply compromised by not having access to dry areas to stand. However, if your horse often gets thrush, even when he has dry places to stand, his nutrition could be playing a role.

If he is not getting adequate nutrition, not only is his immune system compromised, but his hoof will not be as strong as it could be...which leads to him suffering from medical problems that otherwise would probably not occur.

Improved nutrition will increase the strength and durability of his hoof, and allow him to fight off the thrush-causing bacteria on his own more easily before it ever becomes a problem.

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