Debunking Hoof Remedies for Equine Thrush

Equine ThrushNo horse owner wants to pick up the hoof of their horse to find the signs of thrush staring back at them. Seeing that blackish discharge associated with thrush or even catching a whiff of its unpleasant odor can ruin anyone’s day. We do a lot to maintain the health of our horse’s hooves, and fighting thrush can sometimes seem like a never-ending battle. There are many tips and home hoof remedies that claim to be the answer to curing thrush, but many of these “remedies” only allow the infection to spread or kills the microbes only on the surface. As equine science has progressed over the years, many of these “remedies” are now red flagged and known to cause more harm than help. Unfortunately, many of these substances that were once deemed “safe” are still being used today to treat equine thrush.  Much of this is to do to a misinformed public or even due to the tradition of use. In this article, we will discuss many of these unsafe or ineffective practices, and what to look for when finding a proper answer to thrush.

Caustic Chemicals Are Harmful to the Sole and Frog

It is important to remember that, as tough as the hoof capsule may seem, it’s approximately 95% protein. This is the same as your own hair and skin and is likewise susceptible to damage. Application of a caustic chemical to the frog and sole essentially “chemically cooks” the exposed proteins. Yes, you may be killing many of the microbes causing the infection, but you are doing so at a cost to good sole and frog tissue. The resulting necrotic tissue not only becomes a food source for additional microbes, but the damage to the proteins seals off oxygen therefore reducing the tissue’s ability to breathe. The surviving deeper-seated microbes have a low oxygen environment to divide with subsequent re-eruption weeks later. Chemically cooking the surface proteins to create a deeper low oxygen environment hasn’t solved the problem but has counter-productively created a recurring problem. Many horse owners who use caustic materials to fight thrush will find themselves fighting the problem repeatedly as the microbial invasion returns over time.

Caustic Chemicals can Create Fear of Treatment

Caustic materials can induce discomfort if the deeper sensitive tissue of the frog is affected from moderate to severe thrush. Many horses will begin associating the chemical treatment with pain. This can cause the horse to become uneasy during regular hoof maintenance and create unnecessary problems for you or your farrier. In some instances, the horse may even begin to refuse to pick up their hooves entirely. Some horse owners may associate this as “bad behavior,” when in truth it is not bad behavior. It is a fear of pain. To avoid creating pain, a good rule of thumb is to never apply anything onto your horse’s hooves that you would not apply to your own skin.

Examples of Unsafe Caustic Chemicals: Copper Sulfate, Bleach, Turpentine, Formaldehyde

Don’t Use Materials that Block Oxygen

We briefly mentioned that caustic chemicals will denature proteins of the hoof and reduce the hoof’s ability to breathe. Oxygen can also be blocked to the hoof from packed debris or from the application of grease and oils to the sole and frog. The microbes that cause thrush thrive in areas with little to no oxygen. To prevent or treat thrush we must ensure that we are not nurturing the microbes by cutting off the supply of oxygen. This is why it is also important to clean and pick the hoof every day and maintain a clean environment for your horse. Many of these oils and greases that are “home remedies” will restrict the amount of oxygen to the tissue, creating a perfect environment for thrush and other hoof related diseases. The low oxygen environment not only creates an ideal site for the organisms of thrush, but also encourages “hoof eating” microbes to invade defects of the hoof wall structure leading to additional defects and collapsing hoof horn.

Examples of Oxygen Blocking Chemicals: Petroleum Based Tar, Motor Oil, Axel Grease, Pine Tar, Bacon Grease

Bacon grease not only blocks oxygen from the tissues, but the salt also overly hardens the sole and hoof wall to decrease elasticity and increase the likelihood of cracks and other defects occurring.

Also note that wrapping a foot capsule with plastic wrap and other non-breathable materials creates an ideal environment for the microbes of thrush to divide.

Remedies for Equine ThrushFinding the Right Treatment for Thrush

We encourage you to stay away from “home hoof remedies” because many of these items are caustic, will block oxygen, are untested, or simply have no impact on the health of the hoof. There are many remedies and treatments for thrush on the market, but many are still using the harmful ingredients we mentioned above. When looking for the right treatment, pay attention to the ingredients and ensure they do not contain any material that could be harmful. Make sure it is safe to use on your own skin and contains natural ingredients. Here are a few other tips to finding the correct treatment:

  • Contains non-caustic ingredients
  • Does not block oxygen
  • Contains safe anti-microbial ingredients such as Tea-Tree oil and/or low levels of iodine
  • Contains anti-microbial ingredients that penetrate into tissue
  • A product that stays in the sulci for extended periods of time

Thrush can lead to serious problems for your horse and finding the correct treatment can be difficult. If you begin to see signs of thrush it is important to tackle the issue efficiently and correctly before it leads to lameness. To treat and prevent thrush we strongly encourage the use of a non-caustic antimicrobial hoof clay that will stay in place for extended periods. The same product can fill and protect hoof defects, nail holes, and wall separations.

You can visit our website to find further information on the causes, treatment, and prevention of thrush. Always consult your farrier and veterinarian on any hoof related issues. If you have any questions, feel free to call us at 1-800-624-1873.

The Importance of Maintaining a Regular Farrier Schedule

Regardless if your horse wears shoes or goes barefoot, hoof care is an important part of keeping your horse sound and comfortable. A major part of this maintenance includes trimming, resetting the shoes, and regular hoof care provided by the service of a farrier. But how often should your farrier visit and why is it important to maintain a regular schedule?

Ernest Woodward, a professional farrier, stated that “Routine and frequent trimmings and shoeings on a regular schedule creates a uniform shoeing cycle with no extremes.” In other words, keeping a regular schedule with your farrier leads to a more consistent and healthier hoof. Which makes sense; a regular schedule allows the farrier to ensure the hoof remains healthy, consistent, and helps prevent other issues from developing. There are many reasons why a regular farrier schedule is important to keep. Below we discuss a few of these benefits.

Farrier Trimming Hoof

Benefits of A Regular Farrier Schedule:

  • Balanced Hooves
  • Tendon/Joint Support
    • Overgrown toes and imbalanced hooves create extra stress on the hoof wall. This extra stress can not only lead to cracks and separations but puts strain on the joints and tendons. The extra strain on the joints and tendons can lead to injury. Proper trimming and a consistent schedule helps to prevent this added stress to the hoof wall, joints and tendons.
  • No Extremes
    • As Ernest Woodward said above, routine visits remove the risk of an extreme situation from being created. Having a regular farrier schedule decreases the chance of a hoof related issue from developing. It also acts as a preventive measure against hoof related issues and diseases.
  • Horse’s Comfort
    • By keeping a regular schedule and ensuring the horse has no extremes, correct support, and balanced hooves, you are helping to keep the horse sound which allows the horse to perform. The regular visits will also help your horse become more comfortable with the farrier and the routine checks.

The average horse needs to see a farrier every 4 to 6 weeks, but not every horse is the same. Some horses may need to see a farrier more, or less, often than the average horse. Determining how frequent your farrier visits will depend on the growth rate and current health of your horse’s hooves. A hoof that is badly damaged or suffering from a hoof related disease may require more attention, but assuming the hoof is healthy, the hoof growth can help us determine how often the horse needs to see a farrier. To do this, we must also look at the factors surrounding the horse that can affect hoof growth.

“Routine and frequent trimmings and shoeings on a regular schedule creates a uniform shoeing cycle with no extremes.”

Factors that Affect Hoof Growth:

  • Genetics
    • Although there isn’t much we can do to change genetics, some horses are born with the genes to build better quality hooves than other horses.
  • Nutrition
    • Nutrition plays a vital role in the growth and health of hooves. One of the first signs of poor nutrition will be hoof related issues and a dull hair coat. Correcting your horses nutrition and feeding a quality hoof supplement will help promote hoof growth.
  • Age
    • As a horse grows older the growth of the hooves will begin to slow. Younger horses like foals or yearlings will typically have much faster hoof growth than an aged horse. This is due in part to a higher metabolic rate in young horses.
  • Environment
  • Exercise
    • Horses that receive regular exercise will typically have better hoof growth than a horse with little activity. Exercise will increase the metabolism, which increases the available nutrients, hormones, etc. necessary for hoof growth.

Your farrier should be able to review these factors and get a good sense of your horse’s hoof growth, the conditions surrounding your horse, and how often the visits should occur. Then determining how often your farrier visits becomes a discussion between you and your farrier. The key point to remember is to establish a schedule based on your farrier’s recommendations, and consistently keep the schedule. Going months without seeing your farrier puts your horse’s hooves at risk of developing serious issues. Hoof maintenance should not be ignored or put off. It is a day-to-day requirement and crucial to hoof health, comfort, and the performance of your beloved horse.

If you have any questions regarding hoof health or maintenance, feel free to contact us at 1-800-624-1873.

Does My Horse Need a Joint Supplement?

Farrier Holding JointSome of you may already be asking yourself the question, “Should I be feeding my horse a joint supplement?” Maybe you’re noticing that your once energetic horse is slowing down and seems to be stiff and not as nimble. Perhaps your award-winning steed is now taking longer to recover after a competition or a long ride. Maybe your horse is young and thriving and you want to prolong its life and career. We all want to see our horses live a long, healthy, and enjoyable life, but can a joint supplement really make a difference? Would your horse benefit from receiving a joint supplement?

Before we go on any further, we first need to establish what is a joint problem. To make the joint work, it takes the collaboration of tendons, cartilage, bone, soft tissue, and fluid. Any number of these working parts can develop problems and create discomfort in the joint. Some of you may not consider a joint problem an issue until it’s just that – an issue, but a joint problem begins at the first signs of discomfort in the joint. If you ignore the first signs of a problem, it will likely bring more discomfort and develop more issues for you and your horse. If you pay close attention, you can catch the signs of joint discomfort before it develops into something worse or creates irreversible damage.

So, how do we know a problem is there? As the horse owner, you will spend more time with your horse than anyone. You are familiar with your horse’s personality, habits, the way it walks, and so on. You are the first person in a line of checks and balances concerning the health and well being of your horse. Watch the way your horse walks and runs. Keep an eye out for any changes to it’s gate or any initial signs of discomfort. These signs of discomfort can especially be seen when you pick up the foot to clean and pick the hoof. Also discuss your horse’s health with your farrier. If you’re regularly maintaining your horse’s hooves, your farrier will be working with your horse’s feet and legs on a regular basis. Your farrier will see the signs of discomfort in the joints as they watch your horse walk or pick up the foot to work on the hoof. Your veterinarian can also assist you in determining if there is an actual problem.

Horse Jumping

It is also important to note that it is much easier to prevent a joint issue than to try and fix one. Prevention is all about protecting the joint before a problem can develop and extending the life and durability of your horse’s joints. Prevention is especially important for horse owners that are regularly using their horse for competition or for work. Competing with your horse in the form of racing, jumping, dressage, three-day eventing, reining, roping, barrel racing, or other athletic competitions and training will regularly apply stress to the joints of your horse. These horses are at the highest risk of developing joint issues or suffering from a joint injury.

Just think of a human athlete. How many NBA, MLB, or NFL stars have we seen fall early in their careers due to an injury involving a joint? Today, these stars are taking precautions to extend the life of their careers. Eating healthier, stretching, taking supplements and staying in shape. It is an investment for them to prolong the life of their careers. We can do the same thing for our athletic horse and extend the life of their athletic careers through their diets, training, and supplementation. Feeding a joint supplement like Farrier’s Formula® Double Strength Plus Joint will provide the nutrients important for the health of the joints and will make the joints more flexible and less prone to injury. These nutrients will also help your horse recover more quickly after a competition and compete at its peak performance. By feeding a joint supplement early you’re not only preventing future problems but investing in the longevity of your horse.

Supplementing will also help relieve discomfort and pain for a horse that has already developed joint issues. If you have an athletic horse that developed an injury during competition or training, the nutrients in a joint supplement will help rebuild and strengthen the connective tissue within the joint. Feeding the supplement will also provide relief to the problem areas, allowing your horse to regain movement that was once too painful to make. This is especially important for the older horse who may be arthritic or have problems due to the build up of past injuries. This will prolong the longevity of your horse, strengthen the joints, and help prevent issues from worsening.

AffectJointHealth3

You may not be jumping hurdles or taking your horse on week long rides, but it doesn’t mean problems can’t occur. Feeding a joint supplement is never a bad idea, especially if you are seeking to extend your horse’s ability to work and compete or wish to address issues developed from injury or age. If you are looking for a joint supplement, we recommend Farrier’s Formula Double Strength Plus Joint. Farrier’s Formula® Double Strength Plus Joint strengthens the connective tissues of the joints, tendons and ligaments and contains nutrients to promote lubrication of the joints. The inclusion of proline, ornithine, glucosamine and manganese provide targeted joint support. This product contains the sulfur needed for joint health in the form of the amino acids methionine and cysteine. Farrier’s Formula® Double Strength Plus Joint also provides nutrients important for hoof growth and joint health without the concern of over supplementation that could occur from feeding a separate hoof and joint supplement. If you have any questions on Farrier’s Formula® Double Strength Plus Joint, proper supplementation, or on joint health please call us at 1-800-624-1873.

How Important are Well Balanced Hooves?

Farrier Trimming Hoof

If you own a horse or grew up around horses, you have probably heard the saying “No Hoof, No Horse.” Many of us horse lovers take this statement to heart. Without healthy feet, a horse is unable to be a horse. Running, working, riding – all these activities become a chore; a painful chore at that.

The importance of a healthy hoof is well established, but what about a balanced hoof? Can an imbalanced hoof create hoof related issues? If so, what issues can arise from an imbalanced foot?

We took this question to Darren Owen, a professional farrier, and asked, “Is a balanced hoof important to hoof health?” Here is what he had to say:

“In my opinion the answer would be yes. The imbalanced foot may become predisposed to the invasion of Thrush or White Line Disease. When the hoof of the horse has greater weight responsibilities placed upon it in an uneven fashion it may distort. This distortion will promote the separation of the wall from the sole and allow for bacterial / fungal invasion. I recently had an opportunity to speak with a number of farriers on the topic of “Hoof wall separation.” While this conversation was taking place, imbalance and distortion were discussed as a cause of the wall separations that harbor tremendous bacterial / fungal invasions.”

We took the same question to Dave Giza, another professional farrier, and asked him about his experience with imbalanced hooves.

“When I trim and shoe a horse, I always pay very close attention to the placement/balance of the heels, how deep the cleft split of the frogs are (the groove/split that starts in the back of the central sulcus of the frog that transitions up the back of the heels and between the heel bulbs), and to the movement of the heel bulbs themselves.  If a horse has well balanced feet, with both heels contacting the ground at the same time, there will be very little independent movement of the heel bulbs, frog cleft/split will be shallow, and the horse will be sound.  If the trim is out of balance, with the medial side hitting first and then the lateral side or vice versa, there will be independent heel bulb movement and separation that will cause lameness issues.

Hoof Imbalance
Hoof Imbalance with cleft split starting at the frog central sulcas and splitting up into the hair line.
Separation of Heel Bulbs
Insertion of narrow blade vet knife into the frog cleft to show depth and separation of heel bulbs.

If you look at the hoof from the back and visualize a triangle (the base of the triangle having points at the medial and lateral side of the hoof and the top of the triangle at the apex of the frog cleft), this will present a better picture of what is actually happening.  When the base of the triangle hits evenly on the ground, there is no movement at the top of the triangle, just compression as the bulbs move as one unit.  However, if the triangle base hits the ground, one side first followed by the other, the top of the cleft will be forced to move from right to left or vice versa.  This imbalance will cause tearing and or shearing of the soft tissues between the heels, and deep heel splits that cause the heel bulbs to gap open and allow debris to enter into the cleft gap.  Now the stage has been set for infected/swollen sheared heels.  The debris that is lodged deep into the frog cleft becomes Thrush, the constant independent movement of each heel bulb and shearing causes the heel bulbs to become irritated and swell closed, the developing thrush is entrapped, and the result is a very sore heeled, lame horse.

frog cleft
Cleaning out debris from frog cleft.
Balanced Trim
Balanced trim with infected central sulcas and frog cleft.

I recently drove 700 miles to treat a horse named Cody diagnosed with equine Canker; however, Cody was misdiagnosed and rather suffered from infected, sheared heels.  Without a doubt, Cody’s issues were caused by improper trimming.  Upon examination, I found that the heels of each hoof were out of balance, causing heel bulb displacement with deep frog clefts penetrating up into the hairline and entrapping infection.  The infection not only compromised the heel bulbs, but had also started to compromise each frog.  I trimmed, balanced, thoroughly cleaned and treated each sheared/split heel on Cody’s hooves.”

Both farriers agree, balanced hooves are important to hoof health. As a farrier, it is extremely important to properly trim and balance each hoof. If this is not done correctly, more issues can arise and create further problems for you down the road. Horse owners must also pay close attention to this detail and do their part in picking and cleaning the feet on a regular basis. If you believe your horse’s hooves are imbalanced, do not be afraid to bring it up to your farrier or to seek the opinion of another farrier or veterinarian. If your horse’s hooves were trimmed improperly, it is important to have this fixed as soon as possible. A hoof supplement combined with a safe anti-microbial hoof clay and liquid will help the hooves recover from cracks, splits or other hoof related issues that arise from the hoof imbalance. Using a hoof supplement will also promote the health of the hoof and increase its growth rate.

 

 

A special thanks to:

Darren Owen, CF, APF
Indian Fields Farrier Service Inc.
Phone: (757) 478-1399
Email: indianfields@msn.com

Dave Giza, APF-1
Genesis Farriers
Phone: (571) 921-5822
E-mail: GenesisFarriers@aol.com

Hoof Care Doesn’t Stop in the Winter.

Worse walking in snow

Winter is in full force and Jack Frost is blanketing many of our pastures with snow, freezing rain, and ice. Many of us are now concentrated on keeping our horses healthy, while maintaining body condition through this cold spell. We all have different routines we practice to keep our beloved horses as comfortable as possible during these months. We can debate all day between blankets VS a horse’s natural coat, or even more barn time VS more pasture time – but the one thing we cannot argue about is that proper hoof care doesn’t stop in the winter. Providing a balanced diet, staying on top of any hoof problems caused by the environment, and routine farrier work is a year-round effort.

Worse walking in snow

It doesn’t take an expert to see that any amount of snow is going to leave our pastures wet and muddy, and as we have discussed in previous articles, wet and muddy conditions can create the perfect environment for “hoof eating” microbes to thrive. Prolonged exposure to water can soften the hoof capsule, leading to stretching and separation of the white line area. Regardless of how much pasture time you are allocating to your horse during the winter, ensure to properly clean and dry the hooves before moving your horse back into the barn.

Even if your horse is not spending a lot of time out in the cold environment, it is still important to regularly clean your horse’s hooves. Some horse owner’s may choose to restrict pasture time due to the freezing weather. Extended periods of time in a stall might keep your horse warmer, but this confinement can create hoof problems as well. While stalled, your horse will be standing in its own waste. This exposes the hooves to different bacteria that will affect the health of the hooves. Regularly cleaning your horse’s hooves and maintaining a clean environment for your horse can help prevent problems, but issues such as Thrush or White Line Disease can develop if left unchecked.

Farrier Applying Hoof Topical

Even with regular cleaning, sometimes you may need a little extra help maintaining the health of your horse’s hooves. Regularly feeding Farrier’s Formula® will provide the nutrients your horse needs to promote stronger and healthier hooves. These stronger hooves will be more resilient to problems such as White Line Disease and will help prevent the softening of the hoof capsule. Farrier’s Finish® and Life Data® Hoof Clay® may be applied after cleanings to help fight and kill any “hoof-eating” microbes. These products will also help maintain hoof quality, and are non-caustic to you and your horse. We also recommended talking with your farrier and veterinarian to create a plan to properly care and maintain your horse’s hooves. Regular farrier and veterinarian visits are always recommended. Farrier visits should not be eliminated because of the winter season.

If you have any questions please feel free to call us at 1-800-624-1873 or e-mail us at cservice@lifedatalabs.com.

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