Winter green up coupled with warm weather is all it takes to heat up the tick population. I’ve both experienced and heard others comment many times throughout the years, “The ticks are really bad this year!”
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One beautiful day I enjoyed a ride on the Pismo Preserve with several riders. We were warned ahead of time that we would most likely find ticks on our horses and ourselves. Sure enough, as we paused for a break at the picnic tables we picked ticks off our horses and ourselves. You can’t get around the fact that ticks need a “food truck” and our horses, dogs and even ourselves fit that bill.
Dealing with Ticks on Horses and Humans
Upon our return to the trailers we did a thorough brushing of our horse’s legs and had one tremendous tick smashing event. We then checked ourselves and each other for visible ticks. As we drove home I reached up to the base of my neck and pulled off a tick. It was setting up shop at the hairline of my scalp my hair, but I thwarted its efforts.
Dealing with Ticks on Dogs
Since our family home is on acreage covered with native grasses and shrubs, our family dog is also a tick magnet. Being a Jack Russell, her coat is mostly white, but she does have a few black patches with a brown and black mask. It’s easy to see the ticks on her white fur, but I have also found that ticks like to gravitate to dark fur areas. I pulled five crawlers off her in one session and found one engorged tick on her side in a black hair patch.
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Game Plan for Eradicating Ticks for Horses, Pets and Humans
This got me thinking about how to help my fellow riders enjoy being outside with their horses and dogs where ticks are waiting for the next food truck. You can enjoy being outside with a game plan for eradicating the suckers from your horses, pets and yourselves.
Play One: Prepare for Tick Exposure
If you know you are going out where the likelihood of brushing against grasses or shrubs housing ticks waiting eagerly for your arrival is high, there are a few things you can do to prepare:
- Wear light-colored clothes. The tiny dark brown and black crawling ticks are easily spotted on light-colored clothing.
- Treat clothing with a tick repellent spray such as Sawyer Premium Insect Repellent to ward off the crawlers.
- Treat your horse with tick repellent before you ride off through the grass or shrubs. Absorbine Ultrashield Fly and Insect Repellent repels flies, mosquitoes and ticks for up to 7 days.
Play Two: Remove the Tick Crawlers
Remove ticks before they attach. Once a tick lands on a host they begin to migrate up to the head area. On horses, ticks seem to navigate to the base of the tail and the crest of the mane. Time is of the essence, removing the tick while it is still crawling it a huge factor in preventing it from attaching. A handy tool for this use is a sticky lint roller. Simply roll the sticky tape over the horse’s lower legs, over a dog’s body and over your clothes. The tape picks up the crawlers for you. Remove the used tape and throw those creepy crawlers away!
On horses, pay special attention to the coronet band (where the hoof and hairline come together) and all the hair below the knee or hock. Rub the short leg hair (unless your horse has feathers) the opposite way to bring the blood-sucking crawlers to the surface where they can be easily rolled onto the sticky lint roller.
You can also use a large flea and tick comb on your horse’s lower legs or run it through a dog’s coat. The comb would be very effective on a horse with leg feathers; simply run the comb through the feathers to pick out the crawlers.
Play Three: Pluck off Attached Ticks
Mammals and reptiles are food hosts (blood) for different stages of a tick’s life cycle. So these critters need to attach and suck blood to maintain life. The longer they stay attached the more engorged they become. It can take several days to become fully engorged before dropping off into the next life-cycle stage. If you find one attached, engorged or not, you should remove it.
Removing an embedded tick isn’t all that difficult if you know how to do it. You can use a special tool, or splinter forceps, tweezers or fingers.
Easy Tick Removal in Three Steps:
- Firmly grasp the tick as closely to the human or animal’s skin as possible.
- Once positioned with tool or fingers quickly pull the tick out with an upward flick of the wrist. Don’t worry too much if the tick’s mouth parts are left in the flesh, this should not cause any serious problems. For best results after removing the insect, apply an antiseptic to the site.
- Smash removed ticks with a rock, boot heel or stick (not your fingers due to the possibility of bacteria spreading) or drop them into rubbing alcohol. Wash your hands after handling the tick(s).
Don’t let your fear of getting ticks keep you from enjoying the beautiful area we live it either via horseback riding, hiking or walking your dog. Now you have a game plan for dealing with ticks looking for the next food truck coming their way.
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Hi Sharon, I was surprised that you didn’t mention Frontline for dogs. I have applied it exactly every 30 days on my dogs and none has ever had a tick in the 24 years they have been on my ranches or trail riding with me whereas I and my horses battle the ticks exactly as you suggest. Nothing worse than hauling precious cargo down a country road after a ride while battling a tick crawling into your scalp!!!
May I suggest your next article deal with poison oak.
My beautiful Gypsy Vanner/TWH cross, Toby, died shockingly unexpectanrly on Labor Day 2019. I am still grieving his loss and at age 80 he was my last horse. Thus, I am no longer out on the trails. A miserable change in my lifestyle. But I enjoy reading your columns. They keep my riding memories alive.
Hi Liz, Good suggestion for tick control on dogs. I’m so sorry for the loss of your special horse. May you keep riding through the stories in SLO Horse News.