We've had a unusually wet year so far, and so we're seeing more hoof thrush now than we have for some time.
Hoof thrush occurs when horses are habitually standing in moist conditions and bacteria has an opportunity to thrive.
You can tell your horse has thrush when it smells very bad, and you will often see a dark or black sludgy discharge. You may also find that sole is crumbly or has black stains. Bacterial and fungal infections like this can also leave our horses more foot sore and sensitive than usual.
Hoof thrush is hard to beat. Vets and some farriers might recommend the use of harsh or even poisonous products to help combat this condition, but the hoof surface is in essence, skin, and in some cases applying poisons might cause further damage to this already compromised tissue. It is possible to use products that you would be happy to apply to your own skin.
Combating thrush requires a consistent approach to husbandry. There are off-the-shelf products. We sell some, which we will tell you about later in the post. Many of the off-the-shelf products in the saddlery or produce store contain ingredients that are easily available, safe products you might have in your house already.
1. Listerine/mouth wash in a spray bottle.
Antibacterial mouth washes are terrific for combatting hoof thrush. They are cheap! It's readily available at the supermarket. You can put them into a spray bottle which means they are also fast and easy to apply. This is a product that you are willing to put in your own mouth, and so it is very safe to use repeatedly and long term. Simply pick out your horse's hooves and spray the mouth wash on. Ideally you will do this daily.
2. Napisan in a soaker boot.
Napisan, or different brands of nappy sanitisers have excellent antibacterial properties, and they are gentle enough that you will allow intimate apparel washed in it to touch a baby's skin. It is easier to apply in a soaker boot. Put the horse's hoof in the boot dry, and then add premixed (a teaspoon or less) napisan and water into the boot.
Soaker boots are tough, reusable and great for a range of hoof treatments. They are a handy tool to have in your tack room for hoof/fetlock injuries, or abscess as well as for treating bacterial or fungal infections of the hoof or fetlock (like greasy heel, for example). You can find them here:
3. Antibacterial dishwashing detergent and a scrubbing brush
Again, a product you probably already have at home, and that you would be willing to apply to your own skin. If you don't have a soaker boot you can always put some detergent in a bucket and scrub your horse's sole with a scrubbing brush. Make sure you get into what we call the 'central sulcus', which is the middle of the frog. It can often open up in an unhealthy hoof and allow bacteria to invade. This is something you're going to have to do pretty often to have an effect.
4. Eucalyptus or tea tree oil spray.
Eucalyptus and tea tree are natural products that have disinfecting properties. You can buy them at the supermarket in an aerosol can, so that makes them very easy to use. Being oils, they can also temporarily help to repel water
5. Nappy rash cream or 'jock itch' cream.
There are zinc-based creams available specifically for horses but they are often more expensive comparatively to human products that contain the same ingredients. Check the price on a gram for gram basis.
For a hack, try applying with a syringe (just the syringe without a needle). This can help you get into the deep crevices around the heel bulb.
We have two products that we have developed in our hoofcare business that we find highly effective. They are available on this store.
Good to Go powder is a dry product made from natural ingredients that fights bacteria and fungus but has the added benefit of making the hoof environment drier, and therefore a less habitable place for bacterial and fungal infections. It's also great for use in hoof boots.
We also have a product we call Go Easy, which is bluestone mixed with tea tree oils in an easy squeeze tube. This is particularly effective on seedy toe, or 'white line disease', and allows an owner to treat infections in the hoof wall using the same topical treatment that farrier's use, but without the mess.
We sell them separately but you can also find them cheaper when sold together here:
Either way, it is possible to treat fungal and bacterial infections in the hoof using natural, relatively inexpensive products. No one treatment works the best. Often a combination of these treatments is the solution in the long run.