Dealing With Tick Problems around Horses.

One of the downsides of horse ownership is their tendency to attract bugs of every type! Mites, lice and worms are among the more common parasites which can affect even the most loved and well cared for horse. But, did you know that horses are susceptible to tick infestations as well? From Spring through early Fall, ticks, such as the lone star tick and the American dog tick, can cause trouble for your horse. In Southern California, ticks can be an issue during the “winter months” as well. Not only can tick bites be painful and risk infection, but ticks can carry disease. As an owner, it is important to try and reduce the risk of your horse coming into contact with ticks.

Trying to protect your horse from ticks can prove to be a challenge, so, study this article may be key in developing an effective tick fighting strategy.

Where are ticks found?

Common Tick
Ugly, disgusting, teeny tiny ticks can cause serious harm to your horse

Ticks are small arachnids which live in the ground, thriving on humidity and darkness. They feed off blood from their hosts and will remain in the ground digesting their last meal while developing, or awaiting a new host. Their ideal habitat is the thick, bushy overgrowth where they are protected from direct sunlight and can easily hop onto a deer, dog or horse as they pass through the long grass. If your horse grazes amidst overgrown areas of grass when at pasture, or your ride along tree lines and areas of dense grass, there is a risk that he or she could come into contact with ticks.

If the horse comes into contact with a tick, the tick will normally bite at the base of the tail or along the mane. The strong jaw of the tick affixes tightly to the skin of the horse, they then gorge on blood with their body swelling to several times its original size. Should you find a tick on your horse’s body, do not just pull it off. If you do not extract the head during the process, it can remain attached to the horse’s skin, potentially causing swelling or infection. The best way to remove a tick is to have a specialist hook handy, such as the O Tom Tick Hook. However, if you do not have access to the hook,

  • Use a pair of slanted tweezers - carefully grasp the tick close to the skin and pull gently at an angle – Do not use your fingers
  • If a horse is severely infested with ticks, it is recommended that you immediately contact your veterinarian regarding tick removal. The risk of anaemia is high and as such, should be dealt with professionally.
  • Do not use hot matches to burn the tick or try to suffocate with alcohol, it is most likely this will just damage the horse.

How to Prevent Ticks from Preying on Your Horse.

Pasture management is the best way to prevent your horse from coming into contact with ticks. There are some simple techniques which can help diminish and/or eliminate the foliage ticks favor from your horse’s surroundings. By properly clearing your horse’s habitat, you’ll not only discourage ticks but the wildlife that carry them.

  • Mow, chop back and remove brush.
  • If areas cannot be cleared, use temporary fencing (such as electric portable fences) to keep horses out of the area where ticks tend to linger.
  • In severe cases, you may need to apply a chemical spray to pasture margins along wooded or overgrowth areas to knock back tick numbers. Make sure you follow grazing restrictions and keep horses out of treated areas as indicated by the product’s label.
  • Use wipe-on or spray-on anti-tick products when out riding. Check your horse’s legs and underbellies after each ride. Ticks tend to crawl upward, seeking places to attach themselves where the horse’s coat is thin. Pay particular attention to the horse’s chest and upper legs.


Ticks are not easy to avoid but, with sensible planning and precautions, you can keep your horse relatively free from these troublesome pests throughout the summer. Given the potential consequences of tick related diseases, it’s in your horse’s best interest.

* Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons