Monday, March 3, 2014

The Seven Dwarves of Thrush

We’ve had a very busy few weeks between work and weather and houseguests, so I hadn’t ridden my horse in a while. How long? Your guess is as good as mine. I’m not one of those overachievers who keeps a conditioning journal. 

One of the upsides of the new barn is that everyone is in love with my horse. This means they want to ride him just for the fun of it. This means I am getting free exercise/training from people who know what they’re doing. This is very good when I wake up one weekend and realize we haven’t done a real conditioning ride since early January. 

What is not good is (are?) Blue’s feet. Those twin abscess holes, still very visible, are pretty much old news. That damage is done. What worries me now is what you see when you pick those nasty feet up off the ground. All of his frogs (except, possibly, one of the hind ones) bear more than a passing resemblance to a fine gruyere—spongy, crumbly, stinky, tender, rubbery, slimy and moist. On second thought, I won’t besmirch the good name of a tasty dairy product. Let’s call these the Seven Dwarves of Thrush.  

In the mud pits of February, these little guys always show their ugly faces. And fighting them is a constant, exhausting battle in Blue’s case. For some reason, things are especially bad this year. It might be the new environment and whatever microbial life is in the mud here that wasn’t at the last place. It might be that a very dry fall and early winter gave way to a snowstorm, followed by a deluge, followed by above-average temperatures. Could be that I’m still trying to adjust Blue’s diet to work in a place where I don’t have as tight control over what he’s getting as I used to. Many possibilities.

Regardless of the cause, the result has been multiple frog blowouts and great flaps of rotten tissue to carve out of his already not-so-great feet. I shudder to think what it will look like when those wall abscesses grow down to the sole too. GAH. GAAAAAAAAAHHHH.

But even this year’s megathrush seems fairly run of the mill compared to Blue’s poor, flinchy back. Boy does not want me to put the saddle on him. He also would prefer not to be brushed with anything firmer than a feather duster. 

Coming down the long hill at Hardy Creek on Sunday, he was pretty much unwilling to go faster than a mincing trudge. Tiny, slow steps, the very opposite of his attitude going upwards an hour before or his usual downhill scramble back toward the trailer. I have suspected for a while that the Specialized was starting to dig him just below the point of the shoulder on the left side, and this increasing sourness at saddling (imperceptibly gradual, but after a few weeks away from him to gain sufficient perspective, the tail wringing and outright avoidance this weekend was very obvious) and wincing down the hill pretty much proves it as far as I’m concerned. Time to get out the shims again. Probably it was time to do that a long time ago, but it is so hard for me to tell if the saddle is doing what it’s supposed to or not. 

When the sweat marks all look great, but your horse is doing his best Bartleby the Scrivener impression, what does that mean?

I feel like the icing on the cake was a few nights ago when I went out to do a serious thrush treatment. I was planning a wash/soak with antibacterial Dawn dishsoap (thanks for the tip!) followed by betadine. They say you have to be careful with betadine because it can dry out the hooves. I can't imagine ANYTHING  drying them out right now. Hair dryer? Heat gun? Nuclear blast?

So anyway, I got out there all excited to do something productive on the thrush front, and I find my horse has one eye swollen shut. If you're a Facebook friend of mine, you've probably seen the photo of the abrasion on his eye. Happy to report that he's back to his normal appearance now, thanks to just under a week of atropine, antibiotics and banamine. Only time will tell if there has been lasting damage to his vision. :(

I feel like if Blue was a human, CPS would have taken him away a long time ago. “Your child has hoof rot and a sore back and the same time... and now you've been poking him in the eye with a stick? Ma’am, please step away from the animal.”

Seriously, please don’t report me. I’m working on this.


  1. Thrush is a bugger for some horses and in some locations! My full sympathy.

    RE his back, deff check the shims but don't rule out chiropractic, esp since he's been walking on those abscessed feet (and probably compensating). Do the chiro first, and fit the saddle later that day. A fitted saddle that's properly adjusted will support the chiro work!

    1. That is a FANTASTIC idea. He hasn't had any body work since October. See, this is why I need another endurance persona t the barn. To remind me of such things. :)

  2. saddle fit and thrush, two demons of horses! Scrubbing with dawn is great, and for full-blown thrush I love the oxine soaks (way less expensive than white lightning.) As a preventative I like to use apple cider vinegar mixed with water and a little tea tree oil in a spray bottle. Even if the feet are clean just for a few minutes before they go back in the mud, I think it helps.

    Good advice from Aerene about the Chiropractic, I didn't think of that first thing.

    I hope Blue starts to feel better. It always seems like it's seriously just one more thing. I'd be the last person to call Horse Protective Services, they do so much to hurt themselves on their own!

  3. Another good product recommended to me by Karen C. - Durasole. Sold at Valley Vet.

  4. I use betadine from time to time between near-daily use of vinegar. I cannot imagine a frog being too dry - really is that possible? In Western Washington and Western Germany, I doubt it.