Managing Thrush with Protection and Sole Support
by Tab Pigg
In the spring, the wet climate, punctuated by ample rain, sets the stage for thrush to run
rampant through the barn. Thrush is a bacterial infection that resides in the soft tissue of
the frog. The moist environment, combined with manure and mud, create unsanitary
conditions in the stall, and dirt, debris and other bacteria get trapped in the frog. If
horses hooves are not picked out on a daily basis, thrush sets in and it can be difficult to
conquer. And, when a horse has beginning stages of thrush, it probably won’t even
show lameness symptoms unless the infection becomes more severe.
The Anatomy of Thrush
When looking at a horse’s foot from the bottom, the hoof wall circles from the outside
heel around the point of the toe, and on to the inside heel. The frog is a dark-colored
soft tissue that is triangular in shape, and stretches from the heel to midway toward the
toe. Because the frog and hoof wall bear equal weight, the frog is always touching the
ground when a horse is standing, thus, bacteria collects in the frog and remains trapped
if not cleaned out on a regular basis.
Thrush thrives under conditions where there is minimal oxygen. The preliminary sign of
the condition is a strong odor coming from the hoof. Thrush is composed of many
different types of anaerobic bacteria and usually resides in the soft tissue of the frog. If a
horse is barefoot or unshod, the hooves are usually self-cleaned as a horse moves
around and runs, because the debris can escape the hoof cavity more easily. With a
shod horse, it is harder for bacteria to escape. And if a horse has a silicone pad product
applied, bacteria can get trapped underneath the pad.
Traditional methods of managing thrush have changed over time. One evergreen
approach for preventing and managing thrush is to clean the frog out on a daily basis,
and sometimes more often than that. This is something that is often neglected, but very
important for horse owners to pay attention to. Depending on the severity of the
condition, there may have to be medical attention with a scrub or topical ointment.
The use of pads (plastic and leather) with silicone or other packing material underneath
can lead to thrush problems as well. If the area underneath the pad is not completely
sealed, moisture and debris can migrate to the sole creating thrush issues.
Newer pour-in pad materials adhere to the bottom of the foot sealing out moisture and
debris avoiding this problem. Vettec’s Equi–Pak CS will bond to the bottom of a horse’s
foot, eliminating the possibility of bacteria being trapped and causing an infection. Equi-
Pak CS is a fast-setting soft instant pad material, and is infused with copper sulfate to
effectively manage mild and moderate cases of thrush. Equi-Pak CS provides extra
protection and support during wet seasons, and also bonds to the sole eliminating the
need to pick out the feet and apply daily medication. It is also an effective, preventative
measure for thrush.