Despite good hoof hygiene and exercise, horses sometimes get this unpleasant condition; rapid recognition and proactive management can prevent deeper damage.

You’ve seen it many a time–a horse gallops across a field and dirt clods fly every which way. With normal activity, your horse’s hooves are subject to a natural cleansing process that scours the bottom of the hoof and removes debris collected there. Any reason for inactivity, such as lameness or constraints on exercise and turnout, can influence how successful the natural cleaning action is that comes with moving across dry ground. It doesn’t require a fast run to accomplish this; even just regular movement at a walk and trot will be beneficial.

Bill Moyer, DVM, department head of Veterinary Large Animal Clinical Sciences at the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at Texas A&M University, has had a special interest in equine foot health for decades. He stresses, “Most cases of thrush occur in inactive horses that live in stalls. Unfortunately, this describes a huge percentage of horses in the United States, since over the past few decades horses have become ‘apartment dwellers.’ As a result they may be standing in any number of different conditions, yet the foot isn’t flexing and so doesn’t get the opportunity to self clean.”

The nature of your horse’s environment impacts the health of his hooves to some degree. Certain conditions and environments predispose the frog to bacterial or fungal infections; horses live in the presence of manure and soil where potentially destructive organisms proliferate, particularly if dirt and debris remain trapped in the crevices or grooves (sulci) of the frog. Pads also tend to trap moisture in the bottom of the foot and facilitate such bacterial or fungal growth. While poor hygiene can set the stage for development of thrush, even with the best of ca