What is Thrush?
Equine Thrush is a common bacterial infection that affects the central and collateral grooves of the frog. It is most commonly a result of the softening and damage of the soft tissue structures in the foot. This is caused by Keratonolytic, fusobacterium and necrophorum bacteria that attack and rot the frog tissue.
How do I know if my horse has Thrush?
The most common symptom of thrush is a bad smelling black substance that leaks from the frog. Most often, this doesn't cause visible lameness or discomfort. Other symptoms can also include:
- Foul smelling discharge coming from the hoof
- An unpleasant smell when picking out the hoof
- If severe infection is present, lameness or significant heat in the hoof and limb
- Soft spots on the frog
- An irregularly shaped frog
What causes Thrush?
There are multiple causes of Thrush, however it is important to remember that some horses are just more susceptible to it than others - a little bit like how some people are more susceptible to hay fever than others.
The horses environment
Stabling for long periods of time on soiled or very wet bedding can result in Thrush. Similarly, turnout on damp, wet paddocks can cause Thrush symptoms. That said, as discussed above, poor hoof conformation can be a contributing factor. Horses with long narrow feet, contracted heels or deep clefts in the frog may be more susceptible to become a breeding ground for Thrush causing bacteria. Another common cause of thrush is lack of hoof care.
How to treat Thrush
One of the first things to do when treating Thrush is to remove the cause. If the horse is in wet, damp conditions, remove them from this environment to a dry clean stable. Occasionally, in severe cases, veterinary treatment may need to be carried out - a good opinion to ask of if you think your horse has bad Thrush is your farrier. Regular cleaning of the hooves can also treat mild Thrush. This includes:
- Regularly picking out the hooves to remove dirt and debris
- Using an antibiotic solution or spray
- Regular mucking out and skipping out of the stable to reduce damp conditions
- Using an absorbent bedding
The best way to prevent Thrush is to prevent the causes of Thrush. If your horse is turned out on wet or damp paddocks, stable them for a few hours per day or in the evenings on absorbent, clean, dry bedding. Also make sure you are properly caring for your horses hoof - this is particularly important if your horse has poor hoof conformation.
Proper hoof care
Picking out the hooves is an important part of daily grooming for horses. Best practice is to pick out the hooves once per day however some horse owners choose to remove debris from their horses hooves more frequently. For example, some horse owners who stable on shavings beds choose to pick out their horses hooves before leaving the stable to prevent shavings being spread across the yard. Others will pick out their horses hooves both before and after riding - this is particularly good practice as you are able to assess your horses hoof condition before you get on and check for injury and remove trapped debris that may have stuck to your horses hoof whilst you were riding.
Using the right tools
Using the right tools are important too. We recommend using a hoof pick with both a metal pick - to remove debris from the sole and bar grooves - and a brush - to flick debris away from the frog and heel. Like the one featured in the photo above, by Red Gorilla.
Friends of #TEAMRED are a group of equestrians who have shared their riding experiences, hints tricks and stories with Red Gorilla. Check them out on the Friends of #TEAMRED page or if you've got stable management tips send them in or post a photo with the hashtags #RedGorilla. Get in touch via the Contact Us page.