No matter what breed of horse you own or what kind of riding you do, it is important to look after the health of your animals. One of the most important parts of that health care is keeping common parasites at bay. Horses are prone to a number of parasites, including intestinal worms, flies and ticks. A regular schedule of paste worming or feed additives can keep worms at bay, but horse owners need to take other steps to reduce the potential for tick-borne illnesses like Lyme disease.
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Remove Brush from Around the Pasture
Over time, even the most well-tended pasture can become overgrown, and that additional brush can serve as a breeding ground for ticks, including the ticks that carry Lyme disease. Horse owners should walk the perimeter of their pastures at least once a month and remove any overgrown brush. It is important to remove brush from the outside of the fence line, as well, since that brush also can harbour ticks.
Horse owners often have other pets as well, and it is important for those other pets to be treated for fleas and ticks. Feral cats in particular are often drawn to barns and horses, so it is important for horse owners to trap those cats and treat them for fleas and ticks. Parasites like ticks will happily move from cats and dogs to horses and people, so the best prevention is to treat every animal in the home, barn and surrounding area.
Be Careful Where You Ride
Riding down a wooded trail can be a lot of fun for both horses and people, but riders should avoid heavily wooded areas when taking their daily rides. Sticking to wide and well managed trails and avoiding running through uncleared brush is one of the best ways to keep unwanted passengers like ticks at bay.
Use a Good Repellent
Fly repellent is an absolute must for summer riding, and many commercial fly repellents also provide protection against ticks. When choosing a fly repellent for your horse, look for one that has been proven effective against ticks as well. Spraying your horse daily and applying an extra dose before each ride will greatly reduce the likelihood that an infected tick will bite your horse.
The Post-Ride Check
No matter how careful you are or how well-groomed the trail, there is always a possibility that your horse will pick up an extra passenger along the way. As you untack your horse, check the saddle, saddle blankets and other tack for ticks. Use a pair of tweezers to remove any ticks you find, and place it in a secure container for disposal. After the horse has been untacked carefully brush its entire body, checking for ticks as you go. This post-ride grooming is also a good way to spot any cuts or abrasions you might have missed.
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