Ticks are not only unsightly, they can transmit diseases including ehrlichiosis, Lyme disease and piroplasmosis. Severe infestations can cause skin irritations and even anemia.
Ticks spend most of their life on the ground in areas with some shade and humidity and congregate along trails, in overgrown areas and in margins of wood openings. Direct sunlight and low humidity are their enemies. Keeping brush cut back and clipping pastures will make areas inhospitable for ticks and less attractive to deer and other mammals that may bring ticks into an area.
Repellents and insecticides containing permethrin or cypermethrin will provide several hours of protection for horses. These insecticides are very irritating to ticks, so they tend to drop off before attaching to the horse. Products based on natural ingredients, such as botanical oils, may give some protection for short periods of time.
Thoroughly check horses for ticks (especially on the lower legs and mane). Relatively large American dog ticks are easy to find, but small ticks can be easily overlooked. A final insecticide/repellant application before turning out the horse will help to dislodge any missed ticks.
Ticks wander on animals for some time before they settle and begin to feed. Barbed mouthparts, along with cement secreted by the tick, allow it to be firmly attached to the skin. Removing a tick requires a firm, but steady pull. After donning latex or nitrile gloves, grasp the tick very closely to the skin and apply steady traction. While patience is required, this method is the one most likely to remove the entire tick from the skin.
Once attached, ticks cannot just decide to “let go,” even if encouraged with a hot match tip, fingernail polish, or other home remedy. There is no substitute for pulling.