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.
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.
HOW DO WE REGROW THE HEEL CRACK?
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.)
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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