Temperatures are warming, pastures are greening, and the flying, creeping, and crawling pests are making their yearly appearance. One pest that horse owners need to be particularly mindful about is the tick. Ticks are masters of "hide and seek."
We all care a lot about our Arabian horses and we make sure to vaccinate and worm them regularly. Checking for ticks should be a common practice for every horse owner, especially once warmer weather moves in and if you live or keep your horse near wooded and grassy areas.
What's up with ticks?
Ticks are known to be carriers of bacteria that cause Lyme disease. Lyme disease affects animals and people differently. The most common symptoms that indicate your horse might be infected with Lyme disease are lameness and behavioral changes. The lameness is usually found in larger joints (not the foot) and can shift from one leg to another. You might also detect signs of stiffness in your horse's limbs. Behavioral changes can be more difficult to detect. They might show an unwillingness to work and some owners have even noticed an increase in irritability in their horses and a change in attitude. Don't rely too heavily on seeing your horse develop a temperature to know they are infected. Some horses never spike a temperature with Lyme disease. With treatment, the symptoms usually return to normal relatively quickly.
The adult tick, which is present in the fall and early spring, is the stage most likely to feed on horses. The adult tick is usually big enough to be found while simply grooming your horse. Ticks are sneaky, but usually hide around the head, throatlatch area, belly, and under the tail, but be sure to also look inside your horse's ears, forelock and mane. Develop your own system for checking for ticks while you do your daily grooming and if you find a raised bumpy area, make sure to take a closer look.
Eeek! I found a tick! Now what?
The best way to remove a tick is by grabbing it with a pair of tweezers gently at its mouthparts, where it is attached to your horse. Carefully and slowly pull gently backwards to remove the tick. Be sure to avoid rupturing the tick as you remove it. Once the tick is removed you can either place it in a closed container if your parents want to get it tested or you should dispose of them in the toilet. Either way, prompt removal is your best bet at minimizing the risks for Lyme disease in your horses.
What can we do?
Although there is no vaccine currently for tick prevention, there are a few repellant products out there to help minimize them. Make sure to apply any repellant you find for tick prevention in the areas most common where they like to hide. Don't let the repellants lure you into a false sense of security; make sure to continue to keep a look out for the really sneaky ones! The secret is that ticks need to attach and feed for 12-24 hours before they start transmitting the bacteria into your horse. Catching them early is key!
Consult your veterinarian for more advice on disease control or if you suspect your horse is showing symptoms of Lyme disease.
Spring is here and summer is just around the corner! You and your horse have either been cooped up all winter indoors or unable to ride at all due to the six foot snow drift that never seems to want to melt! But now the birds are chirping, the grass is turning green and flowers are blooming everywhere! You and your horse are itching to get out and stretch your legs!
There is nothing like going to the barn on a warm, sunny spring day and saddling up for a trail ride just to celebrate the fact that spring is here again! This year while you are out on the trails and you're soaking up the sun and aroma of fresh spring flowers, make sure you have also prepared yourself for all the necessary trail safety. We're not just talking about watching for poisonous snakes and unsure footing. Believe it or not, women and youth on horse back can be easy targets for mugging and kidnapping. Even on your big ol' horse!
Here are a few safety measures to consider especially if you are riding alone on a trail.
Always let a parent, friend, trainer or neighbor know where you are going, how long you plan to be out, and who is going with you or if you will be by yourself.
When strangers approach, listen to the hair on the back of your neck! Turn and leave. You are faster on your horse than on the ground.
YOUR HORSE WILL NOT RUN THEM OVER! We spend a lot of time training our horses to respect our personal space. Never assume your horse will take charge and knock over a stranger to save the day. It is most likely that your horse will actually hesitate and stop for people on the trail.
Turning and running is always a better plan than charging your horse past a threatening person. Trying to charge past someone actually makes you an easier target for them to grab the bridal as you try to go by and gain control over you.
If someone approaches you and grabs your leg, don't make your leg stiff to fight them off or try to kick them away; doing so actually makes you lose your balance. Once you lose your balance, you are an easy target to pull from the saddle. Your best defense is to stay centered in the saddle, keep your leg relaxed at your horse's side and turn your horse away from the stranger using your horse's hind quarters to knock the stranger away. Continue to pivot quickly until the stranger is knocked away and then get out of there fast!
If you are at your trailer or on foot and someone approaches you, use your horse's hind end as a shield. Keep your horse's hind end pointed at the stranger and always keep your horse between you and the stranger. If they are approaching you in a threatening manner, start backing your horse into the person. No one likes that end of a horse especially if they are unfamiliar with horses. Your horse will sense the stress level in your body and voice. Sooner or later if you continue to back your horse into them in a high stressed way, your horse will kick at them feeling threatened. Whatever you do, don't stop using your horse as a shield until the person retreats and leaves. Even if they back away, don't try to mount your horse. This will only offer a window of opportunity for you to let your guard down.
It's always a good idea to keep a cell phone in a saddlebag or pocket on silent while riding. Help can be just a phone call away!
Take into consideration these tips on your next outing on horseback. Share them with your friends. They just might save the day!