Ticks! How to spot the buggers…

Spring has sprung and that means that the ticks are not far behind. You engorged_tickremember ticks: those nasty, blood-sucking arachnids that can feed on your horse for days. And while they’re feasting, they can cause irritation, allergic reactions and in some cases, transmit Lyme disease.

There are three types of ticks that you should be on the watch for on your horses:

Wood Ticks – these are black, typically with a silver pattern on its back, just behind the head. At their smallest, these wood ticks can be about the size of a key on your cell phone and when engorged on your horse’s blood, they can become the size of a small grape. Yuck!

Dog Ticks – these more more oblong in shape, about half the size of wood ticks and brown instead of black.

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Deer Ticks – these are the smallest ticks and in their larval and nymph stages of life, they are almost invisible to the naked eye! In fact, as you can see from the picture, the mature adult is about the size of a poppy seed. Deer ticks are the ones that transmit Lyme disease (wouldn’t you know it would be the tick that’s hardest to spot!)

To give you an advantage in being able to find them on your horse, you should know that:

  • the deer tick prefers to feast along a horse’s tailbone and the crest of his mane
  • ticks cause horses to rub in an effort to scratch where the tick is irritating their skin
  • ticks will usually cause a welt at the attachment site, sometimes, the welt can be over an inch in diameter

Remember to always use tweezers when attempting to remove a tick and grab near its head. If you only grab the body and pull, the head could become dislodged from the tick’s body and stay attached to your horse’s skin.

You may have heard some wive’s tales about using baby oil or petroleum jelly to remove a tick. While this will in fact work (the lack of oxygen will cause the tick to leave the attachment site), the tick may also regurgitate blood back into your horse which increases the risk of your horse contracting Lyme’s disease.

Once you’ve removed the tick, kill it! The best method of ensuring its death is to place it in a jar of rubbing alcohol. Now, be sure to wash the attachment site with a mild antiseptic and then wash your hands.

Be One With Your Horse!

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Don’t Forget to Check the Trailer!

While some of you have been riding through the cold weather, others of you are just now thinking about venturingtrailer out. As much as your horse needs some preconditioning before hitting the trails hard, your trailer needs some quick conditioning.

Take a good look at your trailer both inside and out. While resting over the winter, rust may have developed as well as weak spots or burned out bulbs. Spend the time to hook up your trailer to your truck and ensure that all of the connections are working and that the lights function. And, you can make this inspection go a lot faster if you get a good friend to check your lights while you’re in the cab.

Another item to look into is your tire pressure and if you have a larger rig, it may be worth the investment to have your local repair shop to take a closer, official look. You just may save yourself some headaches in the upcoming season.

Be one with your horse!

Trail Etiquette

Rules, regulations, etiquette, etc…

No matter what it is that you’re doing, there are rules, regulations and/or etiquette that you have to or should follow and are meant to keep you safe. Trail riding is no exception and trail etiquette is really a combination of common sense and courtesy. I’m sure that most of you follow these rules of the trail, but you may know someone new to trail riding that may need a reminder. And if I’ve left any out, please leave your suggestions in the comments.

Here are some trail rules/etiquette that every trail rider should keep in mind:

Galloping:
1. Never gallop away from a group of riders as it can upset the other horses. If you need to move away from your group quickly, let the other riders know and begin by trotting away, then gallop. Everyone will appreciate your courtesy.

2. Even if you are riding on a well-known trail, do not gallop around a blind corner. You never know what’s going to be on the other side and your horse could get easily spooked or hurt.

Personal Space:
3. If you know that your horse kicks, tie a red ribbon prominently in his tail to warn others to keep their distance from your horse and keep everyone safe.

4. Give the horse in front of you a little space. If you aren’t able to ride side by side (perhaps you’re on a narrow trail), keep at least two horse lengths distance between you and the lead horse. If the lead horse gets spooked, you don’t want your horse to get bumped in a blinding spin move.

Property and Multi-Use Trails:
5. When riding on properties that have gates, here are a few things to remember:

If you come across an open gate, leave it open.
If you come across a closed gate and either you or someone else opens it, make sure that you close it.
If you are riding with others and are the first to get to a gate, open it and hold it open for the other riders and then close it behind you.
6. Even though etiquette dictates that hikers and cyclists should yield to horses, it doesn’t mean that they will. Don’t insist on the right of way, keep the safety of your horse in mind at all times. If the other party is not yielding when they should, hold yourself back and yield to them. In the end, everyone will be safer and you get to go home with a gold star on your helmet!

In the end, the safety of you and your horse is up to you…so is the total enjoyment of the ride. So, keep a great frame of mind, be courteous, smile and enjoy your ride!

If I’ve missed something that you think should be added, please add it in the comments!