Insect-borne Illness: A Twofold Threat

Swat! Flick! Slap! (Ouch!) If this sounds like your roping session or trail ride, you’re not alone. This time of year, horses and riders alike brave all manner of flying or crawling insects with serious biting, stinging and harassing capabilities.

The irritation is enough to turn even the most pleasant outing into a mad dash for the barn. However, the diseases these bugs can transmit are another issue worth considering. And here’s the thing: Did you know that both horse AND rider can be infected?

Shared Risk

The insect-borne diseases for which horses are at risk include West Nile Virus and Eastern, Western and Venezuelan Equine Encephalitis. In addition, equines are subject to a whole host of fly-transmitted parasites, both external and internal. Insects are also implicated in the spread of, Vesicular Stomatitis, Pigeon Fever and more.

The outlook for riders isn’t much rosier. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of human illnesses triggered by mosquito, tick and flea bites in the United States has risen dramatically in recent years. West Nile Virus can sicken humans as well as horses and is the most common virus spread by mosquitoes in the continental United States. Less commonly, people stung by infected mosquitoes can also contract Eastern Equine Encephalitis (yes, the same virus that can affect your horse), Zika, Dengue, Chikungunya or St. Louis Encephalitis, among other illnesses. Tickborne diseases, including Lyme Disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, are another increasing concern.

So you see, there’s more to worry about when saddling up this summer than you might realize.

Two-in-One Protection

You already know the drill when it comes to protecting your horse. Vaccinate, practice good barn hygiene/manure management, consider feed-through fly control and eliminate standing water, which can serve as an insect breeding ground.

For an extra layer of protection, there’s an impressive array of repellents and insecticides from which to choose. To get the most bang for your buck, look for spot-on, sweatproof sprays or other products designed to remain effective for eight to 12 hours.

What about your horse’s equally vulnerable rider? Covering up from head to toe is one option, but not a comfortable one in hot weather.

“Well,” you might say, “I can just spray myself with my own bug spray and call it good.” That’s assuming you keep a bottle of personal pest repellent in the barn and that it’s made with a safe, EPA-registered active ingredient. Then there’s the matter of longevity: Is your coverage going to stay effective throughout your ride? If not, be prepared to bring a bottle of your spray (and maybe your horse’s, as well) to reapply as needed—not much fun when you’re trying to focus on your roping.

Fortunately, there’s another, more convenient alternative: Purchase a double-duty product that protects you both against disease-transmitting insects for at least 8 hours. As noted previously, make sure the active ingredient in the insecticide or repellent you choose is indeed EPA registered. Ideally, the formula should also be non-staining, skin-friendly and easy to apply evenly. If it’s safe for use on children, that’s another plus.

Then one quick spritz on you and your horse, and you’re done! What’s not to love, right?

So when visiting your tack shop or feed store, consider an insect spray that goes the extra mile and can save you both time and trouble. 

Related Articles
Lan Fuhrer turning a steer for Clayton Backhaus at the 2024 CNFR.
Short Round Set in Casper: 2024 CNFR Results and More
Tyler Worley riding a sorrel horse and swinging a rope
Don't Worry, Be Happy
Inner Strength with Tyler Worley
Sartain spins the short-round steer at Reno in 2008 for Richard.
Big Break
Rhen Richard’s Rookie-Year Reno Win
Tyler Tryan heading a steer for Denton Dunning to win second at the 2024 Sisters Rodeo in Sisters, Oregon.
mic drop
Tyler Tryan Skyrockets to No. 2 in 2024 Resistol Rookie of the Year Standings
Preston Burgess heading a steer for Cody Cowden at the 2024 Redding Rodeo
The Short Score: California's Preston Burgess