Over the years, we have explored many methods of tick-bite prevention. Tick bites can cause itchy or painful sores at best, and Lyme disease or anaplasmosis at worst. We have gathered all of our favorite methods to share with you to help keep your horses healthy and happy.
In no particular order, here are our favorite tips and tricks:
Finding the ticks
This is the most labor-intensive method, and it requires some patience. However, it gives you an opportunity to find all of your horse’s itchy spots, which they always enjoy!
We most commonly find ticks in the following places on our horses: in the tail, along/under the jaw, on the chest, in the armpits, in the groin area, and in the mane.
We’ve found that the tail is the most common place to find ticks even when the their population is low. Be sure to check from the very tip of the tail bone all the way to the base. Most of our horses develop a sort of yellow crust around where a tick is biting them— feeling and looking for this crust can help you find a tick, especially if your horse has a thick tail. It can also tell you that a tick may have been attached if your horse doesn’t seem like themselves and you’re wondering about tick-borne diseases.
When the tick population is higher, they will seek food sources on other parts of the horse, so it’s important to thoroughly look over your horse.
Light-colored polo wraps (tick repellent optional)
When you’re taking your horse out on the trail, consider putting some light-colored polo wraps on your horse. When you get back from your ride, check the wraps for ticks as you take them off. Don’t forget to check your horse’s legs too, for the sneaky tick that might have made it under the wraps!
If desired, you can also treat your polo wraps with tick repellent. Any wipe-on or spray-on solution containing pyrethrins will be most effective (we have used Farnham’s WIPE or Pyranha Wipe-n-Spray). If you prefer to use a plant-based formula, gerianol and peppermint are good alternatives (we have used Smartpak’s Outsmart and Pyranha Zero-Bite). Each of these products can also be used directly on the legs, if you want to skip the polo wraps.
Another tick-spotting tactic after a trail ride is to hose down your horse’s legs. After a few moments, the ticks get moving and make themselves easier to spot.
A more general tip to make your tick-prevention easier is to grab a piece of duct tape and stick the ticks to it as you find them on your horse.
Preventing the ticks:
Applying the previously-mentioned insect repellents (or others— look for the key ingredients pyrethrins or geraniol!) before turning your horse out or going on a trail ride can help prevent ticks from latching on to your horse. The most important places to apply these insect repellents are the lower legs and the end of your horse’s tail.
Trimming your horse’s tail a bit shorter during tick season can help it from brushing the grass (depending on how tall your grass is), which can decrease the likelihood of picking up ticks. If your horse has long feathers on their fetlock, you might consider trimming those too.
We hope you find these tips useful as we head into the fall tick season!