Hands On Grooming for Tick Season

By Terry Golson

It’s still so cold that Tonka is turned out in a sheet or blanket.


But it’s been warming up to above 40° F in the afternoons. That’s a good thing/bad thing. The trails are clear of ice!


But the ticks have woken up. The other day, scratching the underside of Tonka’s jaw, (which he loves, happy face!)


I felt a scab. I knew what was under it. A tick.


Tonka’s body’s reaction to a tick bite is dramatic. He swells up near the site. His skin gets gunky in an effort to repel the tick. This is a good thing/bad thing. It’s bad in that he gets itchy and will rub himself raw. It’s good in that I know where the ticks are and can remove them.

Yesterday, after Tonka came in from the paddock at dinnertime, I noticed a huge swelling on his side. He’s shedding. It’s hard to see anything, but that lump was obvious.


I ran my hand over it and found a tiny tick.


If I can find and remove the ticks before they’re attached for too long, I can lessen the chance that they’ll impart diseases to Tonka. The best way to find those ticks is to run my hands over every inch of my 1,200 pound horse. With experience, I know where those ticks like to hide. Behind his elbows, inside of his hind legs, and under that chin. But they can be anywhere.

So, now it’s the start of hands on grooming season.


I’ve found ticks on the dock of his tail, so it will get a careful look and comb, all the way to the skin, daily. Tonka thinks that this is wonderful. He loves a gentle tail scritch.

All of this grooming is a good thing/bad thing. It takes time. But it’s time that connects me more with my horse, and that centers me. I don’t need meditation. I have grooming my horse to check for ticks.

Tonka also thinks that’s it’s time well-spent.

Are you done already?

It’s going to be an especially bad year for ticks. What do you do to protect your horse from them and the diseases that they cause? Do you use the vaccine? Have a spray that works? Please share your experience (and hopefully successes) in the comments!

10 thoughts on “Hands On Grooming for Tick Season

  • Lyndsey Lewis

    One suggestion made to me was to spray the tail and the legs with Cowboy Magic. That way, the ticks have a harder time getting a purchase.

    The other preventative that is worth doing is putting on leg wraps and spraying the wraps. I actually soak my leg wraps in a fly spray (natural) and then wring them out and wear gloves to put the on.

    The damn ticks can get on higher from brushing against bushes so I also have been choosing my trails that are more open and I stick to the middle of the trail. I also park my trailer in an area that is as clear as I can find when I go to trail heads.

    I also…:-)…do the vaccine for Lyme. My mare had both chronic Lyme and the co-infection anaplasmosis. She is fine now but it took her out for a season.

    The other thing of note is that the ticks are worse where there are lots of deer. My property now is fenced so there are no deer and I never get ticks at home. Just when I go out on the trails.

    A good timely blog thanks Terry! I hope others speak up about what has worked for them.

    • Terry Golson Post author

      I also put sprayed boots on when trail riding. But it can be hard to avoid tall grass. Hens and guinea fowl will reduce the ticks on your property. Time for you to get started on that project!

  • Kim Walnes

    I make sure to trim Gideon’s tail, fetlocks, and even his coronet bands if the hair is long and might touch the ground/dead leaves and provide a path upward for the ticks. I have also found the best repellent is any of the slippery sprays/lotions that leave a horse shiny. With Gideon Cowboy Magic works the best. I apply it liberally to the bottom of Gid’s tail, and since he no longer wears boots of any kind, to his lower legs.

  • Joan

    I’ve used EquiSpot with success. Works for two weeks. Also used Frontline Spray for dogs. Lasts one month. Was told by a vet’s wife that Vectra (also for dogs) works better than Frontline. Haven’t tried it yet. Just saw a suggestion to use a lint roller on your horsecafter a ride.

  • Michelle McMillen

    I could count on one hand the ticks I’ve seen here in NW Oregon – for which I am VERY thankful! That may change with the climate, so it is a good reminder to be vigilant.

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