Thrush in the horse’s hoof

With winter on the way, now is a good time to plan your winter hoof care regime for your horses and ponies.

With so many competitions and things to take part in (winter dressage series, eventing, lessons and pleasure rides for example) a large number of people continue riding throughout the winter season.

Regardless of the amount of work that your horse will do over the winter, horses feet still grow and need regular care. Just because the hooves may not be visible in the muddy paddock and you can’t see how long they have become, doesn’t mean they have stopped growing!

Even if your horse is taking a break over winter, maintaining hoof balance and suitable angles over the period of rest will ensure the hooves are in a healthy and strong condition when you decide to bring the horse back into work at a later stage.

Over the winter months, farriers often see an increase in incidences of certain hoof conditions including thrush. Some of these problems are preventable with careful management and a suitable hoof care regime.

Thrush traditionally affects the frog area on the underside of the foot. It can be identified by the deterioration and necrotic appearance of the frog which is often smelly and black in colour. Depending on severity of the condition, the horse may be sensitive or sore and particular care should be taken when picking out and cleaning the hoof. It’s very easy to jab the frog with a hoof pick and this may be uncomfortable for the horse. In some cases, a horse with thrush may be unsound.

As usually is the case, prevention of a condition in the first place is often better than cure.

The following points are common causes of thrush. Understanding these may help you prevent thrush in your own horse:

  • Irregular (not often enough) hoof trimming
  • Prolonged exposure to wet and muddy conditions
  • Poor stable management (wet bedding for example when horses are stabled or in stalls)
  • Unsuitable hoof balance: it’s important the frog makes contact with the ground when fully loaded for it to remain healthy and functional. The height of the heels will play an important role in whether the frog makes contact with the ground
  • An excessively overgrown frog. Thrush thrives in a dark, warm and moist environment. An overgrown frog with folded over flaps can create the perfect conditions for thrush

Your farrier and vet should play an important role together in treating thrush and this may involve keeping the area clean and dry, the use of a suitable topical treatment and perhaps ensuring the frog makes regular contact with the ground by suitably dressing the heels and keeping the frog functional and in use. Your farrier may like to trim the frog back to healthy frog and remove excess growth. This will play an important part in the treatment of the condition.

Twice weekly applications of Kevin Bacon’s Hoof Solution can help to prevent and treat thrush in the horse’s hoof

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