Have you ever been cleaning your horses hooves and be hit with an odour like you’ve never smelled before? Chances are it could be thrush.
Thrush is a very common ailment of the hoof, simple to deal with if you recognize it and treat it early.
"Thrush is an infective condition of the frog and its sulci which results in degeneration of the horn (the protective frog callous) and the production of foul smelling gray/black discharge.
Factors involved in thrush include:
- Poor Past Trimming or Shoeing - Almost every horse that I take out of shoes has some thrush and other signs of a chronic toe-first landing. Barefoot trimmers need to know that they can contribute to thrush, too! Toes that include a lamellar wedge (long toes) prohibit correct movement, and untrimmed frogs and undiagnosed thrush are a component of good hoof maintenance.
-Past Injuries - Horses with injuries that result in favouring a foot often end up with a contracted heel on that foot, and any contraction results in cracks that welcome Thrush's anaerobic bacteria.
- Hoof Hygiene - Does the horse stand in damp footing that contains Urine? Urine contains Ammonia, and Ammonia dissolves the proteins in the frog! Are the feet picked out regularly? Are the frogs trimmed in an appropriate manner? Is footing dry and clean or soupy filth?
-Frog Conformation - Open and calloused, atrophied or over trimmed? Frogs with deep cracks, crevices and flaps are most susceptible to Thrush, as are frogs robbed of their protective Horn.
-Hoof Capsule Conformation - Are heels contracted or open? High heels or low? Is the outer wall worn too short, or is the inner wall too long? Horses will walk on the sides of their feet or favour their toes when they have thrush to avoid "hoof mechanism", the flexion in the hoof that enables shock absorption. Good blood circulation is necessary for a healthy frog, so good heel-first movement is a priority.
- Environmental Deficiencies - What is footing like? Is it clean and dry or damp? Does the organic material provide a refuge for bacteria and ammonia?
-Diet - Does the horse have a rich diet that emphasizes grains rich forage and alfalfa, or is it a grass based low carb diet?
-Exercise - Horses need to move; is there adequate room for the horse to move and stretch, or is he given adequate exercise opportunities
Symptoms of Thrush:
-Nasty, pungent, foul smell coming from the bottom of the hoof
-Black, pus like substance in and around the frog area
- Soft frog with unusually deep clefts or grooves
-Sore and/or tender heels.
Thrush is a very manageable and treatable disease. Products like Koppercare, Thrush-XX, or Pritox are available at your local tack shop.
Treatment may include using over the counter products or depending on the severity a more aggressive approach.