Noble Life

Part 1: Thrush, A Stinky Situation


If you’ve never picked out your horse’s feet and been about bowled over from a horrible smell, consider yourself lucky! Most horse owners battle thrush in their horse’s feet at some point during their equine’s lives. Thrush is a bacterial infection in the frog of a hoof that tends to cause a strong odor, appear black in color and crumble when prodded with a hoof pick LINK to our hoofpick.

Though thrush occurs naturally in the environment, certain conditions can exacerbate its occurrence and allow it to take enough of a hold in the horse’s hoof to cause problems. Wet, muddy conditions and organic matter packed into the hoof create a perfect environment for thrush, which thrives in areas that have little oxygen (such as the clefts of the frog). Because of this, horses with deep clefts or contracted heels are more at-risk for thrush.

Though most horses don’t become lame from thrush, the infection can migrate to sensitive parts of the hoof, causing lameness. Therefore, it’s important to become aware of and adequately treat a case of thrush as soon as infection is present.

A horse with thrush does not imply that his owners are negligent and keep him poorly; even stalled horses can get thrush. It is thought that the less a horse moves (for example while stalled), the more likely he may get thrush. Less movement means less circulation and less blood flow: Perfect conditions for thrush!


Treatment of thrush can vary, but the first step to ridding your horse of this stinky infection is to pick out his feet really well each day.
Photo: Scraping hooves by magnusfranklin, on Flickr

Check back next week for more on how to treat and prevent thrush! 


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The Author:

Sarah Coleman grew up riding any horse she could find; she competed on both the western and hunt seat teams at Ohio University, where she graduated from the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism and was a member of the 2002 IHSA National Championship Hunt Seat team. She has since settled into the hunters and is now based in Lexington, KY, where she competes her OTTBs Bayou Brass and Chisholm. She is the director of Education and Development for New Vocations Racehorse Adoption Program, as well as the secretary and treasurer for the Kentucky Hunter Jumper Association.

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