Being a horse mom is a very rewarding yet sometimes difficult job that certainly isn’t without road bumps. Especially in Egypt where nothing goes as planned or expected.
A few days ago the grooms notified me that Mister Salmin had ticks. I entered the box and they showed me what they had found in his mane…indeed there were some very tiny baby ticks that apparently had just hatched. Instantly my mind wandered off, ticks? What do I know about ticks? Yes they are common in Europe and I remember well that we used to take care when riding outside in the forest. Common knowledge is that ticks carry diseases that are pretty serious such as Lyme and Babesiosis. The groom shouting to me that ticks can fly and an epidemic will bring down the stable brings me back to reality. I agreed, time to contact our vet and ask for advise.
In Egypt many problems and diseases in horses get treated with human medicine because the availability of veterinary medicine is rather poor. Things like de-worming and a few other common things like general antibiotics are available but many times I noticed our vets struggle to find human medicines that have similar effect and then calculate the dosage based on body weight. I respect our vets very much for their endless effort to save and treat our horses with what is available.
This time too, there is no solution that is meant to remove ticks of horses available. Logically you can’t just treat a horse with stuff you’d spray on your dog so the vet assured me he would look into it and get back to me. I spent that night searching the net to enhance my knowledge about ticks. Raising horses in Egypt is not a different experience because of the difference in climate or the (non) availability of tack, medicine and other supplies. It is different because it is a chain of lessons. That night I learned everything about ticks.
Ticks can carry a number of diseases, mostly after they have fed from the first out of three “hosts” they use in their life. Ticks CANNOT fly or jump, they use a different strategy to find a host to feed from called “questing”. They hold on to a leave or branch of plants, usually trees or high variants of grass, then sense odors of possible hosts and when the animal (in this case poor Mister Salmin) touches the leaves or passes under the tree the tick would just let go of its place and hold onto its host. The tick will then search for a place that has rather thin skin making it easier to cut into, such as in ears (probably you have all seen dogs with ticks in their ears). When the tick has fed itself it needs to find the next host, either by dropping itself from the first host and climb up a suitable place and quest again or by using the moment that its host touches another possible host. A female can choose to leave some eggs behind before leaving her host and in the hot climate the eggs hatch somewhere between 19 and 29 days, creating a bunch of small ticks that had planned to feed on him. Mister Salmin probably caught one of those unwanted passengers, as his window is under a tree, and when he leaves his box daily to be turned out he passes under the tree.
Back to the case, first thing to do with ticks is of course to remove them, so next day I equipped myself with gloves, tweezers, alcohol to drown the ticks in and some courage because I really don’t like bugs. All ready for the “dirty” job I entered the stable where a terrible stench greeted me. The grooms had gone behind my back and washed him and other horses in a chemical made for cattle (which can harm horses because cows are more resistant to organophosphates than horses). To make the drama complete they figured that I would pay them for this..”because they had done such a good job”. For those people that have not spent a little or a lot of time in Egypt I have to note that grooms are most of the time not blessed with an education and still tend to believe that they know so much better than horse owners or even vets. Next to being unknowing they can also have phantom knowledge such as I mentioned above ” ticks can fly and there will be an epidemic”. Mister Salmin is a colt and sadly is turned out alone so an epidemic is a bit overrated, and since they had seemingly killed most of the ticks on him they decided Salmin was now cured and I didn’t have to call my vet anymore. Unfortunately for them, I am a stubborn horse mom.
The vet was just as disappointed when I showed him the chemicals. He examined Mister Salmin and found ticks in his ears! The lesson about ticks continued when he explained to me that in male horses we have to check the penis because that is an area where ticks can get really comfy, thin soft skin and it is a place where the horse can’t easily remove the tick. Thankfully there were no ticks there and after being given a mild sedation Mister Salmin had the tick family in his ears removed and his penis all cleaned just in case .We will be keeping an eye on him and make sure there are no unwanted passengers left. I am grateful that our vet has the same vision as I have, no chemicals if not needed and preferably no treatment with medicines not made for horses. Sadly it is difficult to control grooms as they do whatever they believe is wise, and most of the time that would be based on phantom knowledge. Many horses in Egypt die an early death because of wrong use of medicines by unqualified grooms. Being a very stubborn horse mom does not only include taking care of the horses to the best that I possibly can but also trying to substitute the phantom knowledge of grooms for real knowledge…in case they do take me serious one day.