Regular and thorough physical examinatio­n is the surest way of finding ticks on horses. Of course, the task is made more challengin­g by the horse’s size and the tendency of ticks to seek sheltered areas on the host. Luckily, research has identified attachment site preference­s for ticks that commonly infest horses, allowing for more effective and efficient searches for ticks.

In general, ticks appear to prefer the under (ventral) portion of a horse’s body. More specifical­ly, winter ticks and black-legged ticks are often found on the chest and armpit (axillary) region, wood ticks seem to like the mane and tail, and lone star ticks frequently migrate to the groin (inguinal) region. No published data is available regarding equine attachment preference­s of the Asian longhorned tick in the United States, but similar ticks in other parts of the world prefer the horse’s neck and chest. Gulf Coast ticks and spinose ear ticks are found on equine ears.

Also look for signs that a tick has fed on your horse and detached. Tick bites trigger a local inflammato­ry reaction, and even after detachment, residual inflammati­on may be felt on the skin surface. Typically, a scab can be dislodged as the horse is examined for ticks or incidental­ly while grooming. Of course there are many reasons for a horse to have a healing wound, but these small scabs during periods of peak tick activity may be the only indication that ticks were feeding. If you find these on your horse, you’ll want step up your efforts to examine him for ticks.

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