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February/March 2015


No-fuss Thrush Treatment

Where to Find Research Info. Online




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We’ve all heard that necessity is the mother of invention and I’ve figured out ways to address enough odd problems to believe that to be so. But, I have to admit that sometimes plain old laziness provides another powerful motivation for innovation. Case in point: treating the mild thrush in one of my horse’s feet during Arizona’s rainy season.

Sport, my QH/Paint cross gelding, has never worn shoes and has always had a tendency to a very minor separation of the hoof wall across the toes of his front hooves. Not bad enough to require treatment other than vigilance and digging out the occasional tiny pebble that worked its way in, but persistent.



I’ve thought about some variations on the fly spray-inspired thrush treatment. If the simple recipe didn’t work, I would try adding some grapefruit seed extract, for its anti-fungal properties. And after surfing the web, I’m going to keep in mind the possibility of creating variation of Pete Ramey’s “goo” recip in case I feel the need for a thicker topical. (Link below)

I also think putting the liquid in a spray bottle actually worked better for me than using a squirt bottle with a pointy tip. For one thing, if the bottle falls over while I’m picking and cleaning the hoof, the liquid doesn’t dump out on the ground. Because none of the ingredients will stain or damage clothing, shoes or even bare skin, I don’t worry about a bit of overspray, either.

The situation was something I and my farrier discussed and monitored, but the condition never caused a moment of unsoundness. Until it did. For some reason last summer during monsoon season the separation got wider, making room for more mud and pebbles to work inside. And, when I’d dig out the damp muck and pebbles, I’d find a little line of that lovely black goo that most horse owners probably recognize by sight and odor. Thrush.

I haven’t had much problem with thrush since my horses left the irrigated pastures of Colorado for the Arizona desert. I find that for most horses regular hoof picking and the scouring action of our sandy footing generally keeps the clefts and sulcus of the frog pretty clean, cutting down the chance for bacterial or fungal organisms to take hold.

That meant I hadn’t kept on hand a supply of one of the essential oils used in the thrush treatment I put together years ago. While finding most of the ingredients requires only a trip to the grocery store and health food store, the EO palmarosa isn’t one of those you can usually buy locally. I could order it online, but I really needed something quicker because Sport was noticeably footsore in front.

Hmmm. What to do. I had just mixed up a gallon of my natural fly spray, powered up a bit for the wet season’s increased fly and mosquito numbers. Tea tree, eucalyptus, and a couple other essential oils, apple cider vinegar and a little dish soap to emulsify and make it stick. That could take the place of my thrush blend in a pinch. Tea tree is supposed to be anti-fungal and anti-bacterial. Eucalyptus is in my thrush blend to address anaerobic bacteria. And vinegar is has antiseptic properties.


Plus, it was sitting right in my grooming box in a handy spray bottle. So, I’d pick out Sport’s feet before his light work in a sandy round pen, then clean them again back in his pen to remove any little pebbles that had lodged in the space between the wall and sole. Then I’d spray liberally with the fly spray blend, making sure it ran down the clefts of the frog and got into all the area of wall separation.

Within three or four days I could see improvement – no black goo in the clefts of the frog or the separation spaces. As the monsoon ended and the ground dried, the hooves returned to normal.

A web search will show there’s certainly no shortage of thrush remedies out there – both commercial topicals and a whole host of home remedies. Several decades ago I used a dilute bleach mix, having nixed the inevitable green stained hands and clothing from the other widely-used treatment, Koppertox. I changed to an essential oil blend about 20 years ago after learning a bit about how using caustic substances inhibits healing of wounds.

I’d classify Sport’s thrush as minor, even with the slight foot soreness, so this topical might not work for more advanced cases that could lead to white line disease. And you should definitely consult both your farrier and your vet when treating conditions that are affecting the soundness of your horse.

Note: Find the instructions for making and applying Ramey's thrush treatment here.


Want to search for information on a topic related to horse health or wellness without having to wade through a bunch of useless links to PR pitches, generic forums and sites trying to sell you something?

I ran across a custom search engine that promised to query "only authoritative sites" on horse health and wellness, but it was either a page that was no longer updated or one trying to gather traffic for advertisers. So, I started looking for some places to look for useful information and came up with a few:

Google Scholar is a good source for academic research on horse topics, provided you can narrow your search terms. For example, I searched "navicular horse" and came up with 4,750 results I could narrow down by date or tweak with advanced search options. But when I searched "garlic horse" I got some studies of garlic use in horses, but also studies about horseradish and garlic. The site also allows for searches of federal and state case law, which I can't imagine a use for just now, but who knows?

PubAg provides access to published USDA research, though you'll probably have to pay to see full articles. Perhaps your veterinarian is a subscriber and will print relevant articles for you.

International Veterinary Information Service requires you sign up for a free membership in order to search, but the article summaries offer quite a bit of information to help you determine whether to pursue sourcing the full text.