Does your horse suffer from thrush? Follow these guidelines

The frog acts as a shock absorber for the foot as it strikes the ground. If the frog is infected with thrush, your horse will be reluctant to walk and could even become lame, warns Kim Dyson.

Does your horse suffer from thrush? Follow these guidelines
Healthy hooves have a circular appearance.
Photo: Kim Dyson

As a child, I used to be afraid of picking up a horse’s hoof. If you are reluctant, even as an adult, to do so, spend time with those who are more comfortable around horses.

You’ll soon see that if you are gentle with your horse, it will become accustomed to having its feet lifted up.

I mention this because it is good practice to examine, pick out and clean your horse’s hooves twice daily, or even more frequently in wet weather.

Failing to do so could result in the horse getting thrush, a common and unpleasant infection of the grooves on either side of the frog. (This is the triangular-shaped section of the hoof that extends mid-way from the heels towards the toe.)

Caused by Fusobacterium necrophorum, thrush produces an accumulation of moist, black, foul-smelling gunk in the grooves. If your horse has become reluctant to move forward and you can see no visible cause such as an injury, you might well be dealing with thrush.

If the sensitive tissue in the depths of the grooves is infected, the horse will become lame.

Treatment
After picking out and cleaning the hooves, apply eucalyptus oil – an anti-fungal antiseptic – once a day as a preventative measure. Never apply pure eucalyptus oil to the skin, especially if the thrush has spread into the foot’s sensitive tissues, as the oil will burn and cause great discomfort.

If you suspect that the thrush has spread, apply a thin layer of an aqueous solution containing 10% formalin, instead of the eucalyptus oil (again, be careful not to get it on the skin). However, since lameness is almost sure to follow, it’s best to contact a vet at this stage.

Treatment will involve antibiotics or a tetanus booster if necessary.

While the horse is recovering, feed it 30g of fresh, crushed garlic three times a day until the hoof is healthy again.

Horses prone to thrush are likely to have a copper deficiency. Feeding 30g rose hip seed oil (extracted from Rosa canina) twice a day will go a long way towards preventing the infection from re-occurring.

Other precautions
Bedding soaked in urine and manure is a breeding ground for infection. Keep the stable clean and the bedding fresh. Dry sand, straw or shavings are best.

If your horse lives outside, make sure it has access to a dry shelter.

As thrush is contagious, you will need to disinfect your stables in the event of an outbreak.

Finally, ensure that your farrier removes the excess frog when trimming the hooves and cleans out the grooves on either side of the frog.

This will have the added benefit of improving the horse’s balance!

Kim Dyson breeds Arabians and Lusitanos, and has 22 years’ experience in holistic equine and human body work.