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Thrush – not just a winter problem

Many horse owners are familiar with decay processes in the hoof area during winter. Horses are frequently turned out on unpaved turnouts, surrounded by a mixture of mud and feces. This environment can compromise the integrity of the hooves, fostering the growth of putrefactive pathogens.
In summer, in dry pastures, this problem is less of a concern. Nevertheless, there are many horses that suffer from thrush even in summer. Unfavourable hoof shapes such as deep frog furrows also favour the development of rotting processes.

External causes of thrush

However, thrush is always a problem that comes “from within”. The frog, in particular, comprises soft horn interspersed with immune cells that prevent the colonization of foreign germs. Nevertheless, various processes can compromise the effectiveness of this natural immune defense. This includes, above all, poor circulation in the hoof area.

This can result from improper hoof trimming, restrictive shoeing, or, notably, a lack of exercise.

If the pastures consist of relatively small patches not much larger than a winter paddock, the extent of exercise is severely limited, even during the summer. When two or three problems coincide, it’s plausible that the blood circulation in the hoof becomes so compromised that immune cells scarcely reach this area.

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Internal causes of thrush

However, more frequently, the root cause is traced further upstream, specifically in the metabolism. The horse’s detoxification systems are subjected to a diverse array of external and internal stresses. In addition to stress, internal pressures primarily encompass the accumulation of waste products in the normal body balance, as well as heightened pressures that arise, for instance, during the change of coat. Beyond essential medications such as fly spray, coat care products, worming treatment, sedatives, and vaccinations, external stresses encompass the presence of incorrect fermentation products resulting from a poorly functioning large intestine environment. Additionally, ingestion of plant toxins, exposure to agricultural sprays or chemicals, and microbiological stresses may occur when horses drink from puddles, poorly cleaned water carts or tubs, or inadequately drilled wells allowing agricultural stresses into the drinking water.

When high levels of sugar, fructan, protein, or endophytes are introduced to the pasture grass, the metabolism rapidly approaches the limits of its capacity.

The resulting “internal stress” weakens the immune system. In many horses, this weakening is evident in the hooves, particularly through issues like thrush. Additionally, repeated abscesses should be considered in connection with the immune system and a deficiency in detoxification.

Treating thrush

To address such processes of decay, it is essential to intervene at a local level. Various traditional remedies, ranging from iodoform ether to zinc ointment, are available. In cases of persistent infections unresponsive to standard treatments, fungal infections should be considered. These can often be effectively alleviated with an over-the-counter athlete’s foot ointment from the pharmacy. For the most suitable local treatment options, it is advisable to consult with your hoof trimmer. They are familiar with your horse’s hooves and can recommend an appropriate solution.

Supporting the metabolism

The quickest way to relieve the metabolic burden is to stimulate kidney function so that more waste products are excreted in the urine. This can be accomplished with kidney-stimulating herbs, such as OKAPI Detox Herbs or OKAPI Moulting Support. Homeopathy also provides excellent remedies, with classics like Solidago or Berberis, as well as complex formulations like Solidago comp. (Heel) sometimes achieves a fantastic effect. Consult with your veterinary therapist to determine which homeopathic remedies are suitable for your horse.

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Regenerating the mineral balance

To expedite the regeneration of hoof horn, it is essential to ensure an adequate supply of zinc and sulfur, in addition to providing a proper mineral feed (such as OKAPI Pure Minerals G, without synthetic vitamins). This can be achieved by administering zinc chelate and MSM (such as OKAPI Zinc Chelate Plus and OKAPI Sulphur Plus), alternated on a weekly basis. To normalize the mineral balance, combining mineral supplementation with the administration of Schüssler salts has proven beneficial. Zincum chloratum, Silicea, and Kalium sulfuricum are particularly effective for promoting hoof stability.

Additional external support

Furthermore, in cases of thrush and compromised hoof horn or horn growth, the supply situation in the hoof can be notably enhanced by massaging APM cream (available at pharmacies) once a day in an amount approximately the size of a cherry around the coronet band of all four hooves. This ointment stimulates meridian function, and since all meridians begin or end at the coronary band (referred to as Ting points), the entire meridian system can be activated. This, in turn, benefits the overall metabolism as well as the hoof.

By integrating both local measures (germ reduction, hoof treatment, shoeing) and systemic therapy (detoxification, nutrition, exercise), thrush processes can be effectively addressed in the long term, preventing them from causing issues for the horse in both summer and winter. Simply reinvigorate the metabolism to restore its self-regulating capacity, allowing the immune system to naturally combat any putrefactive germs in the hoof area.