You may have encountered an unpleasant odor coming from your horse’s hooves when you go to pick them out, especially during the rainy season. This distinct rotting smell originating from the underside of the hoof indicates a bacterial infection called equine thrush. 

What causes equine thrush?

Thrush is an infection in the central and lateral sulcus of the frog on the horse’s foot involving a bacteria that eats away at the tissues and leaves behind a black discharge. Living conditions and quality of the hoof may predispose a horse to thrush. Most commonly, thrush is caused by moist, damp, dirty ground, or stall conditions. However, abnormal hoof shape, improper trimming, insufficient exercise, chronic lameness, poor diet, or poor circulation can also disturb the natural cleaning mechanism of the hoof. 

The horse’s hoof naturally cleans itself through movement. Exercise helps to clean out the sulci or the grooves on either side of the frog when the weight of the horse pushes down on the frog and surrounding structures. So, horses on stall rest may be more prone to growing bacteria without additional care and precautions.

How can I prevent it?

Since the bacteria that causes thrush (fusobacterium necrophorum) is found mostly in wet, muddy, or unsanitary conditions, there are some basic steps you can take to avoid equine thrush. 

  • Keep your horse’s stall environment clean and dry. 
  • Remove wet shavings daily and allow for optimal turnout, weather permitting. 
  • Pick out your horse’s hooves daily, both before they go out and after they come in from the pasture. 
  • Have your horse see a farrier regularly to maintain a balanced hoof. 
  • If the horse is on stall rest due to an injury, provide them with a thicker bed of shavings to help absorb excess moisture. Ensure that these horses also get their feet cleaned out twice a day. 

How should I handle it?

In severe cases, your farrier will likely trim away the loose diseased frog tissue (or “necrotic debris”) and apply diluted bleach. Following this, you may want to apply a gentle astringent such as Betadine or another anti-thrush product. In mild cases, there are many over-the-counter options you can find at any tack or farm store. It’s important to evaluate the horse’s current living conditions. It is all well if the frog is cleaned up and topical agents are applied to remedy the thrush, but if the horse still lives in wet, dirty conditions it may only be a matter of time before you are facing a repeated infection. It is important to consult your farrier and veterinarian to come up with the best plan for your horse.

Does equine thrush contraindicate pulsing?

If you have gotten approval from your farrier and veterinarian first, it is perfectly safe to pulse a horse with thrush. Always consult with the veterinarian prior to pulsing a horse to be sure they have no contraindications. Start with a clean and dry hoof, free of any topical ointments or astringents as PEMF will speed up the absorption rate of any topicals applied.

PEMF is a complementary modality[11] that supports general relaxation by providing sedation-free gentle pulsing.[4,5] The holistic nature of an animal’s body uses PEMF as a catalyst for full-body energy.[6,7] By stimulating and exercising the cells, PEMF encourages the body to function more effectively for overall wellness.[1]

Tips for pulsing a horse with thrush

First, start with the first 10 full-body positions. Then, pulse down the limb to the affected hoof or hooves. Depending on the size of the hoof, you can either place the small or medium loops around the hoof with the top of the loop at the coronary band and velcro to keep it in place. Stay in this location for 10-15 minutes with the magnetic field strength set to the horse’s comfort level. Look for normal signs of release and staying where they are most comfortable. The MFS can be higher as if pulsing a normal hoof wall.


Since thrush is a bacteria-based condition, it is important to note that, if we do not change the external factors, we may not see a change. Remember that PEMF is not a treatment or cure. It simply addresses underlying cellular dysfunction, supporting the body’s natural ability to self-heal and self-regulate.[2]

 

[1,2,4,5,6,7,11]To locate the citations referenced above, visit info.pulseequine.com/research.

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