Get A Leg Up On Common Foot Woes

Hoof-care professionals share strategies to prevent and stop thrush and white line disease


Pictured Above: Farriers can help prevent thrush by opening the passage through the collateral grooves to the back of the foot, which encourages it to clean itself.

One of the consequences of domestic life for horses is hoof disease. Diet and heredity, along with confinement, contribute to certain serious conditions of the hoof.

Two of the most common and difficult hoof conditions seen in domestic horses are thrush and white line disease. Both these issues can result in everything from reduced performance to serious lameness. Fortunately, farriers can take steps to help prevent, eliminate and control these conditions.


Thrush is defined by equine veterinarian James K. Belknap, with the Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences at The Ohio State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, as a degeneration of the frog with a secondary anaerobic bacterial infection that begins in the central and collateral sulci. Belknap writes that the central sulcus is more commonly involved if the horse has sheared heels. Horses without sheered heals — which make up most cases of thrush — are generally affected in the lateral sulci.

“The affected sulci are moist and contain a black, thick discharge with a characteristic foul odor; the borders of the frog are commonly necrotic,” according to Belknap, who says these signs alone are sufficient to make the diagnosis.

From a farrier perspective, thrush is a disease that represents in the soft structures of the hoof, principally the frog, showing up in the cleft and along the collateral grooves, according to…

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Audrey pavia

Audrey Pavia

Audrey Pavia is a freelance writer and author of 23 books about animals. She lives with a host of animals at her Norco, Calif., home.

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