Q: What is the relationship between chronic, severe thrush and my horse’s contracted heels?

A: Thrush and contracted heels often go hand-in-hand…but by the time a veterinarian or farrier is called to help the horse, it is hard to tell which came first, particularly because so much "ordinary" thrush goes untreated. Some owners think horses’ feet always smell that way!

Hoofcare & Lameness

Preparing a young event horse for glue-on shoes at New Bolton Center.

Thrush seems to be a worsening problem, particularly cases of what we call "deep sulcus" thrush. The sulcus is usually not deep at all; when thrush gets in that area and "eats" away tissue, the horse’s natural mechanism for keeping the heels in their normal position is distorted, and sheared or contracted heels are a common result.

An interesting thing to do is look at a model of a dissected foot; look at the heels, sensitive (inner) frog, and digital cushion. Several researchers are studying the digital cushion’s ability to remodel itself, and at what point its fatty content changes and it can no longer return to its normal shape, causing a permanent,