Thrush Treatment & Abscess Soak Summary

I started this page 5 years ago, and every year, new strategies for fighting thrush have been discovered,

At this point, the list is long. Thrush is a deal-breaker for me as a barefoot trimmer. Horses with thrush are unsound and unhappy to ride, and with a trimmer, they are cranky and pull their feet viciously because their frogs and the tissue beneith them are painful.

They can't stretch their legs forward to go on the hoof jack because their shoulders are tense from trying to keep painful frogs from making contact with the ground. Many of the horses I see with chronic thrush also have chronic ulcers or GI discomfort. Horses with thrushy feet are very hard to work with, and the horses who have it are heartbreaking to work on.

Start with a reality check about how clean you get the infected frogs on a frequent basis. Clean helps!

How much of the problem is Diet, how much is the wet &/or muddy environment?

While living in a wet, dirty environment has taken the blame for thrush, the primary culprit is diet. Many supplements and processed feeds have very high levels of iron, and red colored salt licks (even the Himalayan licks) have very high levels of iron and other toxins.... when these are removed and copper and zinc is added? Frogs improve!

Thrush Prevention!

When I saw clients struggling to clear up stubborn thrush, soaking frogs for days on end, I knew there had to be a better answer. Then Pete Ramey suggested mineral supplementation after taking a Dr. Kellon nutrition class . Dr Kellon offers great on-line classes to help people learn more about equine nutrition and mineral balancing.

Another good friend has a boarding operation where I trimmed many of the horses. Her place is in a damp area, and at this time, most of the horses had thrush

She took the Dr Kellon NRC classes, then started testing the hay she fed at her boarding operation , offering custom balanced minerals as an option. Thrush immediately began resolving in the horses who were on the supplement, while the remaining horses frogs had thrush problems. . When these frogs started looking great "overnight", in a month? I noticed!

So I began talking my clients into balancing minerals to their horses diets, but many board at stables or purchase hay in small quantities, and custom minerals were too expensive or inconvenient.

That's when another friend and fellow PHCP trimmer Sally Hugg announced her new product, California Trace. Sally was using standard hay tests to come up with a generic supplement for her clients who purchased hay in small quantities or boarded. As word got around about it, more people asked to purchase it, and the California Trace commercial product .was born

Balancing minerals helps a lot, but the total solution for your horses frogs and health is to get your horse on a good grass hay diet, cut out the oat hay & alfalfa, and eliminate grain and grain based pellets unless your horses workload warrants the extra feed. High carbs and sugars have a negative effect on your horses feet and body unless they are working extremely hard.

See  and for more information. Essentially, CA Trace is minerals custom blended to balance the hays grown in California, and the western US, but actually is a good match for forages across the country and internationally.

There are other good commercial supplements for different areas. Join Whole Horse Health as ask for a list of current favorites!

When Diet Changes & Mineral Balancing Don't Work?

If your horse has chronic thrush or poor frog development, and diet modification doesn;'t work after a month or two, try adding pro & pre biotics along with a yeast product like Yea Sac Farm Pack or Kombat Boots for a month to see if frog condition improves.

Whole Horse Health Chat Group

Visit the Whole Horse Health Yahoo group for interactive advice on fighting thrush; Many of our members struggled with it and can help support your efforts!

WHH isn't just about barefoot, we talk about about diet, environment, pest management, vaccinations, barn management, vet care body work, chiropractic, acupuncture and acupressure. There are many professional trimmers and several farriers, vets, body workers, herbal specialists in the group. It is a restricted group in that it is closed to people promoting an invasive trim approach.

Dawn Dish washing Detergent - Clean Thrushy Feet - Then Keep Them Clean!

One aspect of the treatment that most people disregard is the importance of cleaning the frog thoroughly on a frequent basis. Depending on how severe your horses thrush is, cleaning has different meanings.

"Cleaning" means picking out the hoof thoroughly once or twice a day for mild thrush that is a fine black line at the bottom of the commissure) with a hoof pick. "Cleaning" also means a total foot bath with Lysol dilution or Dawn dish washing detergent with a good brush scrubbing in the wash rack if you have an infection that is taking more than a week or two to clear up!

If thrush has been an ongoing problem for you? Think of it as a bacterial infection in the horses foot, an open wound, and institute a daily scrubbing routine to accelerate the healing process. Use a scrub or wire brush to get the frog and all the cracks immaculate, then flush the frog with running water, dry it with toweling and proceed to soak with Lysol, Oxine, Clean Trax or White Lightning.

After treatments, dry the frog off and apply Zinc Oxide ointment (Desitin) over the frog and work it into all the cracks and crevices.

Cleaning infected feet daily and thoroughly is the best way to insure that your treatments won't be a waste of time or drag on for months. If you can't keep these frog clean, consider booting the foot for a week or two with Gold Bond powder.

Soaks & Cleansers for Thrush & Abscesses

Oxine Soaks

This extremely popular and very effective solution is something worked on jointly by many members of the Yahoo Barefoothorsecare group, which is another favorite online forum for discussing barefoot horse care. Many of us had tried a variety of methods for managing thrush, and some of the members uncovered Oxine and came up with the formula in conjunction with the manufacturer or the distributor.

I purchase my Oxine and Citric Acid from Revival Animal Health's store, and the cost when I last checked was under $50 for enough solution to last a year for several horses: Oxine AH Gallon by BioCide International and Citric Acid.

Oxine is Chlorine Dioxide, a sanitizer used widely in the food processing industry, and it makes an easy and aggressive but safe soaking solution. It's mixed with Citric Acid to activate it, then diluted with water and used in a soaking boot, bag or bucket. It can also be used as a general barn sanitizer, and I've heard of people using it for scratches and rain rot,

CAUTION: Some horses skin is irritated by the Oxine, so I suggest not to mix it too strong or leave the soakers on longer than 20 minutes. We've had reports of horses getting tender from over soaking as well. If you have a sensitive horse, start with a milder solution. Avoid contact with your eyes, and don't inhale the fumes from the activating Oxine!

The dilutions for soaking are:

1 gal water, 4 oz. Oxine, 1 tsp citric Acid
1/2 gal water, 2 oz. Oxine,1/2 tsp citric acid
1 qt water, 1 oz. Oxine, 1/4 tsp citric acid

Oxine does not need to be mixed with Citric Acid to be used! It can be very effective if mixed with water. Citric Acid activation does make it a more powerful soak.

  • Clean the horses feet thoroughly, scrub the frog well, trim any shedding or lose frog flaps and put the horses feet in soaking boots
  • If the horse has deep cracks and flaps that can't be removed, push cotton deep enough into the cracks to hold them open while soaking. This cotton will need to be removed later!
  • Mix as much Oxine as you will be able to use immediately. Mix the Oxine and citric acid together and wait exactly 3 minutes for the solution to become active, then add water.
  • Fill the soaking boots to the level of the walls or slightly higher; the objective is to immerse and soak the frog and sole, so I cover the wall but don't fill the whole boot.
  • Soak for 20 minutes, remove boots and rise with water. I suggest daily soaking for 2 or 3 days with monthly treatments as needed.

From BioCide

John Craggs 515-577-9979, a representative of BIOcIDE International Inc., maker of Oxine. John said that the type of  water we use with Oxine makes a difference. If well water has high iron levels, Oxine will be less effective, so its better to use de ionized water if you have high iron levels. He also said that Oxine dilution kills bacteria on contact, so is a good topical treatment.

For initially treating tough thrush infections, he suggested soaking 3 times a week for a month using the:  4 oz., 1 tsp citric acid, 1 gallon of water. For maintenance, he suggests 3 oz. Oxine, 2 tsp citric acid, 1 gallon water.


Lysol & Borax Soaks

Several years ago, many of us were resorting to soaking thrushy or yeasty feet in Lysol or Borax dilutions. These soaks were often effective if used diligently for several days in a row once every two or three weeks, but the results were unpredictable, and the thrush often subsided for a month or two only to flare up again. Pete Ramey still loves his Lysol, and I still use it for foot scrubs, but there are more options now.

Lysol Soak

For Thrush, white line disease and surface crack cleaning. Read direction on the Lysol bottle and use the dilution suggested for cleaning floors. DO NOT apply undiluted! Soak feet for 30 minutes a day for 4 to 5 days, repeating if the thrush returns.

For a topical treatment, mix a solution that is twice as strong as the recommended dilution for floor cleaning, and apply to the thoroughly cleaned foot once or twice a day.

Borax Soak

Cleansing Soak. Dilution: 1/2 a teaspoon of Borax per soaking boot of warm water or 1 tablespoon Borax to 1/2 gallon of warm water.

Apple Cider Vinegar Soak

Organic apple cider vinegar (ACV) is a great natural way to restore pH to hooves and skin. I use it when I have a horse with scratches, as well as for regular soaking to get feet to loosen up. Horses seem to like apple cider soaks better than plain warm water, but I'm careful with vinegar and horses because some horses don't handle the acids in cider vinegar well. I have a gelding who is allergic to his sweat when he's had cider... He ends up with severe burns where he'd sweat.

Dilution: 1 part organic apple cider vinegar : 2 parts warm water. Soak 20 minutes to 1 hour.

Epsom Salts Soak

For drying out abscesses. Dilution: 1 cup Epson Salts :1 Gallon of water

Tea Tree or Oregano Oil Soak

Add 1 tbs tea tree oil or oregano oil to a soaker and soak for 30 minutes.

White Lightning and Clean Trax

(see White Lightning Page ) - These both remain very popular, but are more difficult to use than the solutions listed on this page. Both have strong advantages for use to treat Thrush, White Line Disease and Canker. Clean Trax is still preferred by many for While Line Disease treatment, and I've had it work on thrush that nothing else would touch.



Oxine Topical Treatment

I have experimented with mixing Oxine in a large catheter tube and flushing cracks in the frog out as a topical treatment in between soaks, and have had great results.

I always suggest that people scrub the frog thoroughly with a soap like Dawn Dish Detergent and rinse completely, because I've found that scrubbing alone is a powerful treatment. 

To mix, pull Oxine into the tube, then draw water into the tube until full and shake. Insert catheter tip into cracks and irrigate gently.

No Thrush

No thrush has all "natural" ingredients and is based of diatomaceous earth base that creates an environment that won't support yeast and fungus growth.

Usnea Tinctured in Organic Grain Alcohol

Usnea Tincture is a fast and easy topical treatment for mild to moderate Thrush, particularly good for days when there isn't time for a hoof soak. I don't suggest using it for severe to extreme cases. Usnea is a tree lichen that has anti fungal properties and has been used as a medicine for centuries. ( Wikipedia description link ).

I suggest applying it daily for 3 days then every 3 or 4 days as needed. Feet need to be thoroughly picked out prior to a Usnea application.

Grapefruit Seed Extract

2 drops per oz. of water. A 16 oz. bottle needs about 32 drops. Shake very very well before each use.   You can make it stronger for more serious cases; its not an exact science.  If you don't get results use more drops. 

I used this solution to treat my horses Pigeon Fever abscess after it vented, and the healing was impressive. I also use this solution to soak any areas that get ringworm or any other skin fungus. Broad spectrum means it kills a lot of different microbes.  Grapefruit seed extract has many constituents like most herbal preparations, so it is very hard for microbes to develop resistance or mutations. I have heard some controversy, but it worked for me

Alternative Treatments

Organic Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) Soaks, Oregano Oil, Tea Tree Oil - All of these have their fans too! There is a wide variety of ways to use oils topically, and ACV makes an extremely mild and effective soak for mild thrush, yeast and shedding frog problems.

Pete's Goo

A brainchild of Pete Ramey, this is a combination of triple antibiotic cream (such as Neosporin) and athletes foot cream (several have been tried successfully) which is mixed in a syringe and injected into the sulcus and any cracks of a thrushy frog. I clean the frog thoroughly prior to treatment and remove any loose flaps.

I have a friend who is a nurse, and she says that many physicians are refusing to use Neosporin for various reasons.... you may want to check out the recent chat on it, but this stuff does work for many people.

Zinc Oxide Ointment

Thrush creates a burning, itchy sensation in the frog, and stalled horses with thrush will stand in their urine, seeking relief from the discomfort of thrush. This creates a problem because urine contains ammonia, and ammonia breaks down the protein in the frog, making it more susceptible to thrush. Slathering zinc oxide ointment (Desitin) over a thoroughly scrubbed (with soap and water) and treated frog, working the Zinc Oxide into the cracks, helps protect the frog from urine.

Athletes Foot Spray, Athletes Foot Ointment, Jock Itch Spray,  

All of these have been tried with some success depending on the case. Success seems to depend on cleaning the hoof. Works better with a dietary change.

Tomorrow Dry Cow Ointment is an antibiotic and is subject to over-use which can create a resistance, but it works when nothing else does. Thoroughly clean the frog and apply!

Vetericyn is a multipurpose veterinary wound treatment. It works as a topical treatment and is also good for Rain rot, Ring worm , Eye and ear infections, Scratches and skin infections, Dryland Distemper / Pigeon Fever ... it's good to have in the first aid box.

Gold Bond Medicated Foot (Hoof!) Powder

I liberally sprinkle Medicated Gold Bond (or the generic form) in rehab hoof boots prior to putting them on. By "liberally" I mean almost 1/4 cup! I usually buy mine in the Dollar store or at Wal-Mart. I get the blue container - the medicated powder.

Thrush creates a burning, itchy sensation in the frog, and horses with thrush will stand in their urine, seeking relief from the discomfort. This is a problem because urine contains ammonia, and ammonia breaks down the protein in the frog, making it even more susceptible to thrush.

When horses with thrush have a habit of planting their feet in urine, I advise that the thrushy feet be cleaned and treated, then placed in boots with a lot of "hoof" powder. This is often enough to break the habit of standing in urine. and will dry up superficial thrush in a week or so.

Scorched Earth Approach?

I caution clients about using most over the counter thrush preparations. Most are so harsh that they chemically peel the entire frog, leaving a scab-like covering that usually has more thrush growing under it. Many other "natural" treatments chap the horn hand or only kill superficial thrush, while the hard-core stuff is flourishing in cracks and commissure's.

Many people ask about using Hydrogen Peroxide, bleach, iodine, sugar-dyne (sugar and iodine), and unfortunately, all of these contain ingredients that destroy the thrush but destroy the frog along with it, delaying the development of a healthy frog.