Temperatures are warming, pastures are greening, and the flying, creeping, and crawling pests are making their yearly appearance. Some are large and obviously bothersome. Others, however, are pretty elusive.

One that horse owners need to be particularly mindful about is the tick. Ticks are masters of "hide and seek."

What does this mean to you, as a horse owner?

Everyone wants their horses to be healthy. Ticks are carriers of Lyme disease, for which there is no currently licensed equine vaccine available. Pay careful attention to your horses and monitor them for ticks. Lyme disease can also occur in humans, so be sure to check yourself after spending time outdoors.

Where do ticks hide?

Ticks are pretty ubiquitous once the weather warms, but particularly populate wooded and grassy areas. While they like to attach in areas of the body with folded skin, or other "cover," they will take just about any opportunity to hitch a ride for a blood meal. You should develop a system to regularly check your horse for ticks.

Grooming time is a logical time to do this. First, be sure to groom your entire horse. If there is a raised or bumpy area, look more closely to make sure that it is not a tick. As you groom, pay special attention to the horse's ears and face. Check inside the ears and under the horse's jaw.

Any crevices on the body are potential places for ticks. The forelock, mane, and tail are areas where ticks tend to congregate. Also be sure to examine the loose skin around the front legs and in the fetlocks. Look carefully under the horse's belly, in the groin area, and especially under the tailhead and around the anus.

How do I remove the tick?

It is best to use tweezers to grasp the tick at its mouthpart, where it attaches to the horse. Firmly remove the tick, but be sure to avoid rupturing it as you remove it. Once the tick is removed, place it in a closed container for further observation or flush it down a toilet.

Can I prevent ticks from biting and attaching to my horse?

There are tick repellent products available. While they might decrease the number ticks on your horse, it is still a good idea to continue to check your horse thoroughly for ticks, even if using one of these products.

Enjoy the warm, sunny days with your horse, but be sure to keep the "tick check" in mind when grooming.

Article courtesy of Maryland Cooperative Extension.

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