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Thrush is an unpleasant smelling infection found in the central and lateral grooves of the frog in a hoof. It is a problem that everyone needs to be aware of as it tends not to be managed correctly because it doesn’t always inhibit the horse’s performance.

Signs to Look Out For

  • Foul-smelling hoof/hooves;

  • Black discharge from the frog area;

  • The frog may appear soft and irregular in shape;

  • Possible pain around the infected area;

  • If very severe, there maybe filling of the limbs and lameness;

  • May spread to the bulbs of heels or hoof wall which may then cause horn disintegration.


Thrush is caused by a keratin-dissolving (Keratonolytic) bacteria that attacks the softened tissues of the frog, causing it to rot away. The bacteria can enter the hoof and cause thrush in a number of ways:

  • Unhygienic environmental conditions, such as dirty stables or wet/muddy turnout, that are perfect for the bacteria to thrive;

  • Poor conformation of the feet, especially the frogs. This may include, but isn’t limited to, sheared heels, deep grooves, small and narrow frogs;

  • Poor or incorrect foot trimming and/or shoeing;

  • Irregular cleaning and picking out of feet.


As always, speak to your vet for specific advice and guidance about treating thrush in your horse.

Ideally, if your horse has thrush the underlying cause needs to be identified so that it can be remedied.

Your vet and farrier should work together to initially treat and then manage the condition, which can be a lengthy process. They are likely to recommend that your horse is moved to a clean and dry environment and that the feet are cleaned daily.

They may also recommend treating the area with an astringent medication or antibiotic solution/spray. Please, be guided by them on the best course of action.


  • Good foot care, including picking out feet daily;

  • Regular farrier treatment;

  • Avoid wet and muddy areas;

  • Exercise or regularly hand-walk your horse because movement encourages blood flow;

  • Avoid unhygienic stables by keeping the bedding as clean and dry as possible, and consider shavings.

Thrush will never be resolved until hoof hygiene is improved and remains good, so always make sure you keep to the highest standards that you possibly can.

Nutrition also plays an important role in preventing your horse from getting thrush.

A horse needs a healthy hoof with a good wall structure and there are certain nutrients which will help to encourage this. They are:

  • Calcium – for bonding of cells

  • Zinc – needed for healthy Keratin (found in outer layers of frog and sole)

  • Methionine – amino acid which is needed for strength and elasticity of tissues

  • Phospholipids – needed to form healthy cell membranes

  • Copper and Ascorbic Acid (Vit C) – for strong and healthy connective tissue

These nutrients need to be provided in the correct amounts and ratios (without over feeding them) so talking to a feed or supplement producer would be a good starting point.

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