How can I win the battle of the ticks?
First, let me get this off my chest - I HATE TICKS. They give me the willies, make me shudder and cringe, and if I see on I will suddenly get all itchy and feel the need to shake while saying "ick ick ick ick!!" (Not so professional, but it's the gut reaction.) We all know that ticks are hard to see and can transmit really gross diseases, but how can we help our horses be not hospitable hosts?
ICKY. ICKY. ICKY.
We must use a mutli tiered approach here, attacking the environment, their other hosts, and our horses. Here are the basics - ticks like shade, humidity, overgrown areas, mice, woods, and taller grasses. So, we can do a lot for our barnyard area and trails if we keep the pastures, paddocks, grassy areas, trails, woody borders and taller plants trimmed and mowed. We can't do a lot about the humidity (what a party trick that would be!) and we are likely out of luck with the woods, but rodent control (read more info here) is within our grasp to manage. Only trail ride where the trail is wide and low, every blade or twig or branch you pass and brush could have a hungry tick on it.
You can also consider keeping chickens, rumor has it that they like to dine on these buggers. And, I hear the eggs are great, too!
This tick is about the size of a tiny drop of water.
We can also manage our horses. I suggest keeping legs clipped, makes those icky ticks easier to see on the legs at least, and it makes application of a repellent easier and more evenly coated. The consensus among tick experts is that the pesticides permethrin and cypermethrin are the only ones to use. Natual botanicals, while greener, don't work as well.
My Veterinarian gave me some a spray bottle of Frontline, like the kind for dogs and cats. I apply monthly, and while I still find ticks, they are dead. Luckily they die before filling up and getting fat.
When given the choice between a mowed path and tickville, stay on the mowed path.
While riding, apply your choice of repellent and if you use boots or wraps, why not apply to the bottom edge of the boots/wraps, also? Follow up your ride with grooming and inspection, paying close attention to mane, tail, under the tail and ears. Itching is usually a dead give-away of a tick! If you find one that's attached, use gloves and tweezers to grasp very close to the skin and pull (not jerk) out. The experts agree, the old tricks of matches and vaseline don't work, pull it out and kill it via drowning. And try not to barf when you are doing it!!
This handy tool, which I found at a big box pet store, is a great tick removal tool. No need to touch the tick itself, just slide it in between your horse and the tick, then twist.
What's your trick for staying tick free?