Thrush & Canker:Common Problems with Horses Feet.The Causes and Care Needed to Reduce Reoccurrences.

There is an old saying: “Horses have five hearts”. The frog in a horses’ foot is like another pump or heart in their body. There is a lot of circulation in the frog and if the horse has been properly shod or trimmed and the frog has correct contact with the ground, with every step, pressure from the ground will push on the frog like a pump and force blood flow through the foot and back up through the leg. This pumping action is essential for better health of the horse especially when enduring the rigors of carrying a human being and during flight. Inside of the horses’ foot is called the laminae, which has limited circulation the same as a horses’ tendon and these pumps are necessary for a healthy foot and leg. Thrush is one of the enemies. It is a bacterial infection with a foul odor and is black and gooey.

What are the causes of Thrush? Each horse is different as far susceptibility. Dirty stalls are usually the biggest offender and/or dirty and wet paddocks. When the stalls have a lot of manure and urine in them and the horse is standing in it, there is too much moisture kept in the foot and the bacteria is in heaven. When horses are in a stall all or most of the day, it is imperative that the stalls are cleaned thoroughly every day and that the manure is taken out as often as possible as well as the urine. Re-bedding the stalls daily with fresh shavings or straw is a must as well. Here are the reasons why. As thrush starts to develop, the bacteria are eating away the frog and stifles new growth. The frog will slough off the old flesh and underneath will be a good healthy supple frog if it is not infected with thrush. If thrush is not attacked and killed, it will continue to eat away the frog, there will be much less circulation and pumping of blood through the foot and leg and thrush will develop into canker and usually lameness will occur at some point. This can become serious and will be painful for your horse.

There are several thrush medications available on the market today. If you purchase this medication it must be used on a daily basis until the thrush is completely gone and then a weekly regiment must be followed. I am not saying that these medications do not work but I am still an old believer in good old iodine or bleach water. When I was a professional groom, about every other day I would have a bucket of soapy iodine water with a stiff brush in it, sitting out on the wash rack. After I bathed my horses and scraped them off, I would pick up their feet, pick them out and scrub the bottom of their feet with the strong soapy iodine water. This was used as a preventive measure against thrush. If I had a horse come into the barn with thrush, then this soapy water would be used every day until the thrush was gone. After the horse was brought into the stall and his or her feet had dried out, usually the last part of my grooming ritual was to put which ever thrush medicine I had decided to use, on both sides of the frog and anywhere else necessary. If you have a horse that is severely affected, take small pieces of cotton, using your hoof pick, force the cotton into the crevices that have been eaten away by thrush. When you apply the thrush medicine, it will penetrate the cotton and your horse will have a much longer lasting treatment and usually the thrush will be cured in a shorter amount of time. If you are going to use bleach water, about one third bleach to two thirds water, put in perhaps an empty dish detergent bottle. This type of bottle will help make it easier to make sure that you get it into the crevice of the frog.

If your horse has developed canker, you can ask your blacksmith to burn the foot out which means they take what looks like a blue stone, put some on the horses’ frog, pour turpentine over the stones and it will kill the bacteria. This is not something you should try to do, as you could burn yourself. Once the frog has been burned, your job is to keep on working on the foot to keep the thrush away and allow the frog to grow back healthy. Just as most other things with horses, one wrong thing is going to affect several other things in their body, meaning if your horses’ feet are bothering them and they are walking different, this of course is going to be compensated somewhere else in the body. Throughout the articles I have written about horses, I have not been able to impress upon horseman enough on how very important it is to make sure that your horses’ feet are a priority in horse care. Horses carry around hundreds or even thousands of pounds on these small little feet in comparison to the rest of their body. A very good blacksmith will insure a good foot up under your horse. A good groom insures the continuation of this healthy foot and in turn a healthier horse. Picking out your horses’ feet is a daily chore to be carried out more than once a day, but, if you are adamant about it, your horse will comply quickly and be very willing to accommodate you. By the way, there is another saying from the old timers, “No feet, No horse”.

Leave a comment if  this article was helpful.  Questions are always welcome.  Bev

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