Lately the word on the street has been thrush. It’s all over everywhere- listserves, message boards, product advertisements and billboards. Ok, maybe not on bill boards but for horse owners who obsess over natural horse care, it is a big deal. Mostly I really just go with the flow about these sorts of things.

You can’t really change too much of the environment, which is a large part of the problem, so I tend to look for solutions to help without breaking the bank, having to do treatments three times a day or bug my horses so badly they start hiding from me when they hear my truck. 

We have had an interesting winter in that the normal period of deep freeze was substantially short. As in, like, a week. We usually go months and months with rock-hard frozen ground, which causes its own set of problems. Instead, this year, we got the pleasure of tediously slogging through a foot of wet, stinky, sticky mud. Mud is gross. I hate it.

I took to hosing off my ponies feet everyday just to make sure there were feet under that disgusting layer of grossness. I sneered when my snowbird and southwestern friends called to complain about the "freezing," i.e., 60 degree days, and the "horrible rain." They forget to remember that not only where we dealing with REAL freezing temps, but lots of rain, snow, wind and all things winter. Otherwise known as torture to me. Ask anyone, I *really* need my vitamin D!

If it wasn’t for the Rambo, Khopy would have been covered head to toe with the yucky stuff!

About a month ago when I started legging up my endurance horse, I noticed that she was obviously tender in the central sulcus when I tried to clean her foot out prior to putting on her Gloves. I knew thrush had to be the culprit for that soreness, as her sulcus was super deep and her frogs were deteriorating from the wet mushy slop she called home. 

Now thrush is somewhat of a catch-all term for the infection and/or necrosis of the frog and surrounding tissues. It can be caused by bacteria, fungal or yeast. It is especially problematic for the barefoot hoof and its horses performance. Thrush can be obvious with slimy black goo and a strong smell, or it can be stealth-like and less noticeable.

Even though my mare didn’t have the smell and yucky stuff, she was obviously tender. There are a hodge-podge of treatments, both homemade and commercial, that can be used to help with the condition. I thought through the treatments I have heard of, but didn’t feel comfortable using bleach, Lysol, Iodine, Formaldehyde (EEEK!!!), or any of the super spendy footsoaks. I also didn’t want to risk killing any live tissue. Considering I didn’t know if this particular case was caused by bacteria, yeast or fungus, I decided to enlist the help of a special little essential oil that I wouldn’t freak out about if I got it on my hands, my jeans or in my mouth. What can I say? I tend to talk a lot! 

Tea Tree Oil is known to be antiseptic, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and kills Candida (yeast). Seemed like a pretty good resume to me! I started thinking about the perfect application tool. Considering it can be a little pricey, I definately didn’t want to go about wasting a bunch of the stuff. That afternoon I went through my arsenal (my good husband’s vet truck) and found the perfect tool!!! A teeny-tiny 1cc or 1ml syringe, sans needle. These are commonly used as insulin syringes, or for tuburculin tests in horses. Score!! These little gems are easily available in the pharmacy, but if you have a good working relationship with your vet you should be able to schmooze a few off him the next time he comes around. 

I first cleaned Replika’s feet thoroughly, focusing on the deep and tender central sulcus. 

I next drew up 0.3cc of tea tree. Since the tip of the syringe is super skinny, I could stick it pretty far into the crack. The oil spreads evenly into the cracks, crevices and throughout the frog. Using only .3cc of the oil in each foot gives me at least thirty applications from my coveted bottle. 

I did this everyday for a week, afterward letting her stand at the trailer on the mats or going for a handwalk down the gravel road. Within a few days, I noticed the crack becoming more shallow! She was not tender to my poking and prodding within the week. I think it worked, at the least it definitely helped! I will be adding this to my regular barefoot trimming routine and prior to using glue on boots. I hope this helps others as much as it seems to have helped us!! 

Amanda Washington


  1. I think your idea is great! I am going to try it. I use the pure dynamite TT Oil and it’s worked for even sarcoids (with blue-kote) successfully!

    Will let you know how it works! You are a genius!

  2. What a great idea! I am so not a fan of the aforementioned drying agents, but I do have tea tree oil. You are wonderful Miss Amanda!!!

  3. I will definitely use tea tree next time I suspect thrush in my horses. You’re a legend, well done! The natural solutions are definitely the best.