When you think of horses, unless you’re typically depressed all the time, you usually think of them galloping freely and kicking around with a grand old time. But mention a horse’s health to any owner and they’ll quickly run down a list of the usual offenders, such as Cushing’s or abscesses. Eventually they’ll land somewhere around thrush and be reminded to go check their horse out to make sure he’s still galloping free without thrush. Do you know the signs and how to prevent further infection? Here’s what you should know about thrush in relation to your horse.
While thrush is one of those ailments synonymous with horses, it isn’t actually as devastating as it may initially sound. By itself, it won’t do too much to your horse other than cause a bacterial infection around the hoof area that will have a rather fowl odor, though if left unchecked it can get much worse and will eventually spread. If it does happen to spread away from the frog of the hoof into the more sensitive parts, it can actually cause lameness to occur, plus your horse will become far more sensitive to having his hooves picked as blood will be seem more frequently in the picking routine.
Generally then it’s a good idea to prevent thrush before it has a chance to spread beyond just the frog of the hoof. You’ll be able to most readily identify thrush by the combination of the putrid odor from a spot that’s infected, as well as the visible difference in color between the healthy parts of the hoof and the thrush-infected part. The frog should be white and grey, whereas thrush will cause the area to darken noticeably, so be careful to spot these signs during your horse’s daily picking sessions. The hoof itself may even become black and crumble easily if scrapped. An attentive owner can prevent or half thrush entirely if they’re being observant.
Horses with deeper clefts in their hooves or who have narrow, contracted heels are more likely to suffer from thrush, as well as those that are living in unsanitary conditions. Basically if it becomes apparent that your horse is having health issues due to your inability to clean their stalls properly, you’re doing something severely wrong. Granted, you probably won’t notice there’s anything wrong with their feet anyway if you can’t be bothered to clean, so it’s all relative. Those who care will spot the problem and prevent it whereas those that are likely to be the cause won’t be able to see when the problem has occurred until it’s too late.
In the event that thrush is contracted for one reason or another, and it does happen whether you’re being careful or not, treatment is rather simple. First, you want to make sure to carefully pick their hooves twice a day, specifically concentrating on the two collateral grooves and the central sulcus. After this, scrub the hooves and feet with a detergent or disinfectant and use warm water, then apply a thrush-treatment product to the frog, or failing that, use an iodine solution with cotton balls backed into the clefts. It’s best to keep them in dry and especially clean environments until their hooves are healed. Depending on how severe the infection is, it may take a full year for the hooves to fully recover.
Thrush is one of those facts of equestrian life. It’s not fun to deal with, but it is fortunately not the end of the world, assuming you’re being attentive to your horse’s needs of course. Be careful to watch your horse and take a real interest in his health! It will save you a lot of time, stress, and money in the future!
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