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If Your Horse has Thrush Can You Still Ride it?

Last updated: July 24, 2023

By: Miles HenryFact Checked

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On our recent visit to the Thoroughbred training center, we saw a trainer we know checking his horse’s foot. He explained the horse has thrush, and he’s deciding between resting the horse or letting the exercise jockey ride him for his morning training.

A horse shouldn’t be ridden with severe thrush, but a horse with mild thrush is fine to ride. Whether you can ride a horse when it has thrush depends on the severity of the infection.

Thrush is a common foot infection in horses. If you own a horse or plan to get one, it’s essential to know the causes, treatment, and steps to prevent thrush.

You Can Ride a Horse with Mild Thrush.

Mild cases

Horses with mild cases can be ridden; however, horses with severe cases of bacterial infection in their feet need time to heal and should be given some time off from riding and training.

If you are unsure, consult your farrier or veterinarian before proceeding. I consider a minor case is one that is only noticeable because the horse flinches when I put pressure on its foot.

In other words, if the horse doesn’t limp and has no heat or swelling, he should be ok for easy riding. If you decide to ride your horse, use common sense and don’t push your horse.

Picture of a person cleaning a horses hoof,

It’s important to be mindful of the terrain your horse is traveling on and avoid riding over rough or challenging surfaces to prevent potential harm. Pay close attention to your horse’s gait and watch for any signs of distress.

If you notice any issues, it’s crucial to stop and dismount immediately to avoid causing any physical or psychological damage to your horse. In particular, if you notice signs of thrush, such as limping or excessive heat and swelling in the hoof, it’s important to refrain from riding your horse until the issue is resolved.

Continuing to ride your horse in this condition can cause further damage and prolong the healing process. Remember to prioritize your horse’s well-being and take the necessary steps to ensure its health and safety.

Picture of a healthy horses foot, clear of thrush,

Signs and symptoms

It has thrush if you notice a foul smell and see black discharge from the sole of your horse foot. Apply pressure to the area and watch your horse’s reaction; he should flinch, indicating pain if he has an infection.

You can catch and treat the infection early by having a good daily grooming routine. Most thrush is minor, and horses fully recover without any problems. A severe case results in swelling of the lower leg with heat in the affected area.

Thrush is a Bacterial Infection.

Thrush is a bacterial infection of the frog and heel surface of horses’ feet. It grows in the moist, dark areas in and around a horse’s frog. Horses with deep crevices in the sole of their foot are highly susceptible to developing the infection.

If the condition is not treated, it can spread and even destroy the frog and cause open sores. The bacteria strains are extremely aggressive, so it’s imperative to treat the horse’s foot immediately. Thrush is typically painful and can lead to lameness.

How long does it last?

If you catch thrush in the early stages and treat the infection, your horse should heal relatively quickly, typically within 7-10 days. The first thing you need to do is thoroughly clean your horse’s foot.

Cleaning its foot includes removing all the debris, cleaning deep into cracks, and cutting out infected flesh to healthy tissue. Once the foot is clean, wash out the area with iodine or another recommended solution. Continue this treatment daily.

Clean your horse’s stall before its return. Most cases are caused by horses standing in moist, dirty stalls. Bacteria from filthy stall floors migrate to crevices of horse’s feet, create an infection, and multiply. If you fail to provide a dry clean stall, your horse will continue to get foot infections.

Picture of our horse in a stall.

Thrush Can be Prevented with Proper Stall Maintenance

Daily foot care and stall maintenance are the best steps you can take to prevent bacterial infection in your horses’ feet. Your daily grooming routine should include picking your horse’s feet to remove debris. Dirt and debris in the horse’s feet trap moisture and create an environment for bacteria.

Maintaining a clean and dry stall is key to minimizing infection risks. This includes using quality bedding materials, such as pine wood shavings. Remember, harmful bacteria flourish in damp, unclean stalls. If your horse has a foot condition that heightens infection risk, proper stall hygiene becomes even more crucial.

A correctly shaped frog is self-cleaning. When it contacts the ground, it expands and pushes dirt out. Some horses’ feet don’t self-clean because of genetics or lousy hoof trimming. A farrier may be able to correct the frog disorder with corrective trimming or shoeing.

cleaning.hoofs edited

Products Used to Treat Thrush

Successful treatment kills infectious bacteria and keeps them from returning. This objective can be accomplished with a variety of products.

Commercial products

Thrush Buster

We use Thrush Buster when any of our horses get this foot infection. We’ve been using it for longer than I can remember, but assuredly more than 25 years. It’s an effective and fast-acting product.

Note: While researching, I became aware of a claim that Thrush Buster is caustic and could damage a horse’s frog. I’ve never noticed any ill effects, but you may want to check into this further.

White Lightening Thrush Treatment

White Lightning is highly recommended for treating stubborn infectious bouts in horses’ feet. It is a concentrate that you mix with vinegar before applying it to your horse’s foot.

No Thrush

No Thrush is a powder thrush treatment. It is easy to spray powder in the cracks, and I find that it quickly draws out moisture. No Thrush works fast and gets rid of thrush.

Customer reviews:

These are my treatment product recommendations. But it’s always helpful to read what other customers have to say about a product. So, here are links to Amazon customer reviews:

Picture of the sole of a horses foot.

Everyday Products Used to Treat Thrush.

Apple Cider Vinegar mixed with water is a safe and effective product you can use to treat an infection. It can also be used as a preventive measure and helps maintain a healthy frog. Mix the vinegar with water, soak your horse’s foot in a tub, or spray the mixture on.

Bleach also kills harmful bacteria and fights bacterial infections. You must dilute the bleach before using it on your horse’s foot. A good mixture is one part bleach to four parts water.

Lysol is an antibacterial product that effectively treats bacterial infections in horses’ feet. It also needs to be diluted before using on your horse.

An anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-microbial household cleaner could be used to treat thrush. But check the ingredients before using and mix with water or vinegar to dilute.

Iodine has been a useful treatment for years. It is safe and effective but costly.

Below is a helpful YouTube video that provides advice on how to prevent thrush.

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Miles Henry