Equine thrush is caused by anaerobic bacteria that, when trapped in moisture, can create a fungal infection that slowly eats away at the horse’s hoof tissue, particularly the frog area. Most of the time this will create some mild discomfort, but as long as it is addressed quickly it rarely does anything more. Left unattended for a period of time the thrush can eventually make its way into the sensitive areas of the frog, causing a bit of bleeding from the frog.
Many horse owners become a bit gun-shy with a horse’s hoof and create false diagnoses of thrush the moment they notice a peeling frog or a strong scent. Peeling frogs or soles are not abnormal, and generally occur when a horse is due for a visit by the blacksmith. In addition hooves are wonderfully (or should that be dreadfully?) capable when it comes to trapping foul smelling bacteria, manure, etc., so an unappetizing scent during hoof cleaning isn’t uncommon at all. A hoof that is afflicted with thrush will exhibit soreness, black pus-like liquid as well as a scent that can send a skunk running. If you detect these symptoms you can either attempt to treat it yourself or call a blacksmith to assist you.