DANGER…A HEEL CRACK is a WARNING SIGN – Thrush Alert!
Hi, I’m Heath Kizzier, VP of Four Oaks Farm Sport Horse Rehabilitation and Reconditioning Centre, and Four Oaks Products. The cover photo above is the same horse Before / after treatment with No Thrush Powder (AKA NT DRY in Canada and EU) The dimple in the heel on the right is what we want. Let’s look at another before / after example below. These were provided by Josephine Trott, PhD UC Davis during a clinical trial of No Thrush powder, [Published in the Horse’s Hoof Magazine, Issue 41- Winter Issue 2010]
NO THRUSH Powder Photo Journal – 37 Days Total
Below we will discuss how to fix this, but first, let’s discuss what a heel crack (Sulcus Crack) is:
A “heel crack” (an opening into the sulcus) is the number one warning sign of thrush. These cracks are not natural. In fact, they are wounds created by bacteria as it seeks a way to get inside the foot. The tissue between the heel bulbs is soft and pliable, so the bacterium burrows in and creates a breeding ground. This breeding ground is warm and moist inside, so until we completely eliminate the crack, we should expect a thrush invasion at least 3-4 times per year.
Normally people only treat for thrush when they see and smell the “black goo.” But with sulcus thrush (thrush inside the crack) you can’t see or smell the goo – so you literally don’t know it’s in there. Often, though, what you do know is that your horse is mysteriously going “off” several times a year. It “comes and goes.” Perhaps you start treating muscles, hocks, and stifles, but the horse is still just… off!
In the case of sulcus thrush, the horse is Off because his heel is infected and he is walking with a toe-first landing. He can’t land on his heel. If he is a barrel horse or jumper, (or any sport horse), he absolutely can not perform at his best because he can’t properly plant his foot in the sand.
The result of toe-first landing???
That barrel horse will take wide crow-hopping turns, ruining your time. The racing thoroughbred must shorten his stride to avoid the pain (not good in a race!). The worst scenario is for jumpers and eventers. Every time that horse takes a jump he will take extreme impact on an improperly angled foot. That is guaranteed to cause soft tissue damage in his legs and back. At our Sport Horse Rehabilitation Centre we’ve seen dozens of incredible Jumpers lose their career due to this.
Click Here to read a True Story on how thrush can easily destroy a career.
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The Good News: There is a solution. We can help regrow the heel back to its healthy (closed) state with NO THRUSH / NT DRY Powder.
Before we start the “Product Talk,” let’s discuss exactly what occurs inside the Heel Crack
WHY ARE HEEL CRACKS THE PRIME CAUSE OF RECURRING THRUSH?
Simple answer… Because when we horse owners no longer see the black goo we stop treating. We think we have beaten back the thrush and we move on to other things. But the truth is, that was a temporary fix because tomorrow a whole new host of bacteria will find its way back in there. There is no way around it. Then, when moisture is introduced via rain, urine, or even water bucket slop-over, thrush has everything it needs to restart the infection process.
WARNING: If you have been using a liquid thrush product, whether you buy it or make it yourself (ie: Bleach, peroxide, alcohol, or vineger) be sure to research the ingredients. If it is caustic, do not use it on sulcus thrush. The term “Caustic” means that the PH level is excessively high or low. If it is caustic it will, of course, kill bacteria – however, it also damages live tissue. EX: Bleach, even a 10% solution, absolutely destroys open tissue.
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HOW DO WE REGROW THE HEEL CRACK?
Photos provided USDF Gold Medal Winner, Kiersten Main. 30 day total NT use.
Now we are going to discuss how to use NO THRUSH ® Powder ( “NT DRY” in Canada) to solve this problem and get from point A – to – Z.
STEP 1. (This will work in all weather conditions, so don’t wait, thinking that a powder won’t do it’s job. It will. )
- Clean the foot with your pick. If the footing is damp, use a rag to wipe off any excess moisture.
- MOST IMPORTANT: Puff plenty of powder into the heel crack. Don’t be shy. Use your hoof pick to wiggle and manipulate the powder all the way inside. Your horse might be sore from the infection. If so, be as aggressive as he will let you. Over the course of a few days, the lameness will lessen as the product dries up the sulcus tissue and you can get more firm with your application. NOTE: We need enough inside the heel to Absorb, Draw and Dry the infected area.
- Puff the powder into the clefts, around the shoe, and then brush it in with your hoof brush. Make sure every bit of sole, frog and heel are scrubbed with powder. Be vigilant with the nooks and crannies and skin tags.
In normal circumstances, it will take 3-7 days to eliminate the bacteria breeding ground. (No more black goo or smell inside the crack.) See the photos below to review a terrible case of Sulcus thrush. (NOTE: You will know when this is complete when the heels become very firm (instead of spongy) and the horse begins walking in a proper “heel-landing” gait, instead of toe-landing.)
DAY 1: On this horse, all this thrush is internal. This is the worst because you can’t actually see the black goo. The actual frog and sole look fine. The thrush lurks below!
DAY 1: Dusting with NO THRUSH Powder. Note how the powder is wicking up the moisture inside the sulcus? It works that fast.
DAY 4: This is great progress. The crack is closing and the heel tissue is reconnecting properly. Also, his heels are much, much firmer. He is no longer lame. NOW ON TO STEP 2!
No! We are not finished. We have eliminated the breeding ground, allowing things to firm up. BUT now we need to get the heel fully closed up and “sealed.” If you stop now, a new troupe of bacteria will jump right back inside the crack.
Fortunately, step two is simple. Just keep dusting. Brush the powder into the frog and clefts and get the powder into the sulcus crack. Dust 3-4 times a week until the crack heals over. With a typical case, this should take 30-60 days, depending on how deep the crack was. One note on this… If you have been previously using a caustic thrush product, it will have damaged the internal tissue. This means that it will likely take a bit longer to get from A-to-Z because it takes time for that tissue to recover and become viable again. Just be a bit patient. After working with thousands of thrush cases I have never seen a sulcus crack that did not properly regrow. NO THRUSH® [ NT Dry] will also allow the clefts regrow. A horse prone to thrush will almost always have collateral grooves that are too deep around the frog. Be sure to always dust the clefts as well as the heels. NT will allow cleft regrowth. [Quick note. Notice I made the statement about that NT will “allow” the clefts to grow. NT Dry does not Make tissue grow, it Allows it to grow.
Thrush is not “curable.” Once a horse has thrush, he is susceptible. When we look around our barn, it’s obvious: Some horses get it, some don’t. So once we have eliminated the active thrush and repaired the heel crack, it is good practice to continue using NO THRUSH® on a regular basis (We recommend once-per-week. and a bit more often in wet conditions to keep the frog and heel firm). The powder will keep your horse’s feet healthy and firm, and thrush-free. We have 70+ horses and dust every horse every Friday, no matter what. Friday is known as “Dust Day.”
ESSENTIAL HEEL CRACK PRO TIPS. For some excellent Pro-Tips and even more education, jump over to this post. If you plan to go after your horse’s heel cracks, you will want to read this so you know exactly what to expect.
SOME FINAL WORDS:
Once we come to recognize the patterns of thrush and frog disease and understand how the heel crack plays a crucial role, we will catch the warning signs far in advance. We will readily notice gait changes and temperament changes. In short, we will become proactive instead of reactive. This proactive attitude will save time and money. A year’s worth of NT maintenance is far less expensive than one call to the vet.
Thanks for stopping by. I hope this was helpful. If you are struggling with this problem and have questions, Call us. I’m pretty sure we can help. With over 70 horses at our Four Oaks Farm Sport Horse Rehabilitation and Reconditioning Centre, I’m pretty sure we have seen it all.
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This is worth a few moments of any horseperson’s time.
We received an email today from a good customer we had spoken to in the past. She provided pics The quick backstory is that Mrs. C is from B.C. Canada and late in January, she bought NO THRUSH Powder (AKA: NT DRY in Canada) to use on 4 horses with significant sulcus thrush.
Her email today said that she had great success on all the horses, except had trouble with one foot. It wouldn’t seem to firm up the way the others did. Then a few days ago she was cleaning feet and suddenly her pick dropped down into and created the hole in the sulcus that you see in the photos. It was bleeding and messy. She determined it was not a blown abscess, and asked for advice on what we thought this was and if she could use her NO THRUSH Powder to treat it.
This letter below will take you through the entire process with a Plan A as well as backup plan A.2 (if necessary.)
CLARITY NOTE: The before/after photo in the pics is not Mrs. C’s horse. This is the photo that I sent to her and which I mention in my response below.
“The short answer is:
Yes, you can use NT Dry for this issue. The fact that you can’t get this heel/frog firmed up using NT over these 4 months means that there is definitely an infection inside/underneath the tissue.
I looked back at our emails from January and reviewed the pics from back then. Those pics showed a typical thrush-created split between the heel bulbs. Now the horse has no heel crack. It appears that what has happened is that one of those old heel cracks closed up and encased a pocket of thrush…. FYI; When I’m doing customer demonstrations I show folks how to be quite aggressive when getting NT powder into the sulcus crack. I will wiggle my hoofpick side-to-side and really manipulate the tissue. The idea is to allow the tissue to regrow from the bottom, but not let it prematurely close from the top. This overgrowth is not normally a problem, but it happens. I’m sorry that I didn’t mention this protocol to you when we last spoke.
I’m guessing the thrush pocket has been active for a while, which is why the sulcus is now detaching from the frog (the area you circled in yellow.) Now it has finally made it to the surface and “suddenly” appeared.
So, to the point… If this was my horse, this is what I’d do for Equine Sulcus Thrush:
- Do a good clean of the foot. Since you already did an Epson salt soak, and you feel that it doesn’t appear to be an abscess, I wouldn’t do more soaking or washing. This will just give the bacteria the moisture it needs to thrive.
- Use your NT powder and puff it into the hole/opening of the wound, and really work it into the cracks around the detaching sulcus area. (Be sure to also use it in the clefts around the frog). and then Scrub it in with a stiff hoof brush.
- Add a little more powder on top and then do the same duct tape process you were doing. I like to add some cotton batting between the foot and tape to ensure the powder pops around in there all day long. If possible, change this every day for several days.
- The goal is to “Draw out”, “Dry up” and “Firm Up” as quickly as possible.
- In the ideal world, this process will draw out all the bacteria that was exposed when that hole opened up, and full regrowth will occur (20-50 days) to become the dimple we are looking for.
The potential concern would be that the bacteria pocket has expanded throughout the interior parts of the frog. So…. if in a few weeks you don’t feel that the frog/heel is firming up as it did with all your other horses, we may have to go to plan A./2
Heel crack test for thrush.
In that case, here is what I would do to be proactive…….
- After several days of doing the NT / Duct tape, when the frog has firmed up a bit, I’d get my farrier in and start slowly trimming away the detached sulcus. That tissue is trying very hard to become necrotic and his body will ultimately shed it. You will just be helping it along.
- NOTE: I have attached a before/after pic so you can see what I mean about trimming away the necrotic tissue. In the “After” picture, the sulcus looks dished out and has become a “dimple.”
- Continue the NT process. Really, really get the powder into all those little cracks in the sulcus tissue. (At some point when everything is very firm you can stop the duct tape wrapping.. But stay steady with the dusting.
- You or your trimmer keep paring down the sulcus whenever you can. At some point, you will hit the pocket of ingrown infection and can dust it directly with NT.
- Keep dusting until the hole/wound becomes a dimple and is completely covered with hide.
- After that, I suggest keeping up a preventative NT dusting a few times a week, since we know this horse is prone to thrush and infection.
Long-winded there! Hope this helps, Mrs. C. Call any time I can help.”
Thrush is a much bigger deal than most people think. If your horse is getting visible thrush 3-4 times a year, your horse has a heel crack. It’s warm and moist in there and thrush bacteria will seek it out. EVEN IN SUMMER. The bacteria will always go there, and then all it takes is a little moisture to activate it. And remember – Thrush is an “infection.”
Here is a (non-salesy) video to learn everything you need to know about thrush.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZxFRqFwF9ew&t
Now for the brief sale pitch…. Try non-caustic No Thrush, the First Ever Dry powder to get you out of the thrush-cycle for good.
I guarantee the story below will make you Barrel Racers, Ropers, Jumpers and Eventers take a closer look at your horse’s feet. We are once again in the midst of thrush season. This is not a sales pitch, it’s a true story. It can make a difference to so many of you. The attached video is included to give you the visuals.
Long story short – if your horse has a heel crack, there is a problem.
Thrush is a MUCH bigger deal than most think.
** Early this Spring I was manning a No Thrush booth at a big barrel Race. I was chatting with a pretty young woman about how and why heel cracks are such a problem. She was clearly a big hitter in the racing world, as all the little girls nearby were goggling and pointing in rapt attention. The woman and I finished up our chat and she said she would take a look at her horse’s feet when she headed back to the barn.
A few hours go by and she stops back by the booth. “Wow,” she said, “I checked my horse’s feet and both hinds have big cracks between the heels [the sulcus area between the bulbs]. Honestly,” she added, “I’ve never noticed them before. I just thought the cracks were normal. A lot of my horses have them.”
I asked her to show me.
At the barn we picked up the front feet. They both looked great. No cracks, no problems. I asked her to push on the bottom of the heel bulbs and they were nice and firm.
We picked up the back feet and there they were. Narrow but deep cracks in between the heel bulbs. There was no visible thrush whatsoever – none of the black goo in the clefts that most people associate with thrush. In fact, she didn’t see any of the black goo so thrush was the furthest thing from her mind.
I asked her to push on the bulbs. They were soft, almost squishy. Finally, I slipped the hoof pick inside the crack and it came out black and smelly and gross.
The young woman put her hands over her mouth and her eyes went wide. In a horrified monotone she said, “I am the best horse mom on this planet. How could I have not seen this?”
She then turned even whiter, a realization hitting her, “This horse is my rock star. He’s my main horse. But for the last six weeks we have been horrible! We are nowhere near the money. Are you saying THRUSH could be the problem?”
I nodded, “Think about it. Your horse has infected heels. That means they are soft and sore. When you start your run, you are expecting him to plant that sore, infected heel into the sand and make a hard turn. He won’t do it. He can’t. Instead he will only plant his toe, which is not good enough to hold the torque of the turn. His feet will slip out of the sand. I’m guessing he is taking his turns too wide?” I asked. She gritted her teeth, blew out a frustrated sigh, nodding.
We dusted her horse’s feet twice that day, twice the next day, and once on the morning of the 3rd race. She and the horse came in third – in the money for the first time in ages.
Obviously No Thrush powder didn’t “regrow” the heel crack in 3 days. But it did absorb and eliminate the damp thrush breeding ground that had infected his heels (without damaging the live tissue because it is not caustic.) Ultimately, the heels firmed up and he was able to plant his feet properly into the sand.
Important Note. No Thrush powder is going to get rid of the sulcus thrush fairly quickly. BUT please don’t stop there. That heel crack is made by thrush. It should not exist. If you just stop treating as soon as things are firm, bacteria will head right back in there, keeping you forever in the “Thrush Cycle.” So keep dusting until that crack regrows. Take a look at the video or the photos at the No Thrush website. It is supposed to be a “Dimple” not a “Crack.” This regrowth will typically take 20-50 days, depending on the severity of the crack.
Once you get back to the dimple, you will want to dust once a week for prevention. Thrush is not curable. A thrushy horse will always be susceptible.
Another note: If you have been using caustic store-bought products, or things like bleach or peroxide to combat thrush, these products will kill live tissue as well as the bacteria. Please, please do not use these inside an open sulcus crack – and Definitely do not “soak” with anything caustic. If you do it can take many months for the deep tissue to recover and begin to grow back into the proper dimple.
Here is an example: You would not willingly put your cut hand in a bucket of 10% bleach water every day. It will sting like mad, it will damage the tissue at the edge of your cut, and the result will be a jagged, ugly scar that looks like nubby proud flesh. Not good.