Manage Tick Habitat To Limit Equine Exposure

In Kentucky, ticks are generally active from spring through fall; the most concerning ticks for equine owners in the Bluegrass are the American dog tick and the lone star tick. Lone star tick bites can be very irritating to horses and the bite wounds may become infected. Additionally, ticks can carry diseases to which horses are susceptible.

Ticks can’t survive in dry air or sunlight, so they tend to live in areas with long grass or next to woods, where there is both increased humidity and shelter for animals that act as hosts. The ticks attach to small mammals to move about; horses that have access to woods or scrub areas are likely to pick up ticks that are hitching a ride.

The best way to minimize a horse’s tick exposure is to manage the lands on which they graze. Mowing down grass, eliminating brushy areas or using temporary fencing to keep horses out of areas that can’t be cleared can all help minimize contact with ticks. These cleared areas will also discourage wildlife to congregate and limit the reintroduce of ticks to the area.

In severely infested areas, an insecticide spray can be used along pasture edges and in woody areas to reduce tick numbers. Sprays that contain permethrin or cypermethrin should be used on horses that are exposed to areas that have ticks. Application of these sprays should pay particular attention to the horse’s bellies and legs.

Horses should be regularly checked for ticks, including after a ride if the horse has had contact with longer grass. Horse owns can use their fingertips to check for ticks on a horse, paying particular attention to the chest and to where their legs tie into their body. If a tick is found, use tweezers to remove it in one steady, straight pull and treat the bite with antiseptic ointment.

Read more at the University of Kentucky’s Equine Science Review.

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