If your horse is out on pasture, or ridden through long grass and bushes, chances are they’ll be exposed to ticks. More than just a nuisance, ticks can spread disease, cause skin irritations, and in rare cases sometimes even paralysis. While store-bought insecticides have their place in highly infested areas during spring and summer, for daily use I prefer a simpler (and less expensive) approach. Geranium Oil for horses is my favorite solution for natural tick prevention.
What is Geranium Oil?
Geranium Oil (also known as Rose Geranium Oil) is extracted through steam distillation of stems and leaves of the geranium plant. It’s nontoxic, nonirritating and usually non-sensitizing. The therapeutic properties include being an antidepressant, antiseptic, and it also happens to be an excellent insect repellent. A 2013 study in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry found that rose geranium oil repels ticks with up to 90 percent effectiveness. As an added bonus, it’s soothing on bug bites, and can help speed the healing process. With a fragrance that’s both fruity and earthy, it’s a great alternative to DEET based deterrents.
Important: There are two types of Geranium Oil, and for the maximum benefits you should choose a high quality essential oil with the botanical name “Pelargonium capitatum x radens”. I recommend this brand that’s available on Amazon (for under $10!).
I rarely use essential oils undiluted on skin (for horses or humans) but I do like to apply it directly to everything else! You can add a few drops on your horse’s fly sheet, fly mask, turnout boots, halter, fly bonnet or any other tack to give them added protection. For best results you should reapply daily, or when the scent dissipates.
For all-over coverage I make an easy homemade tick spray using Geranium Oil, Witch Hazel and Distilled Water. It’s a great way to apply it to your horse’s legs, ears, throatlatch, chest, mane and tail (all the areas that ticks love to bite!). I also use it for myself, my kids and my dog as well. The full recipe can be found in my eBook, Starter’s Guide to DIY Horse Care, along with more tips for pest control and 17 DIY recipes (get the ebook here)
Checking your Horse for Ticks
Despite your best efforts to deter ticks, you still may find them on your horse. It’s important to do a daily check by running your hand along tick-prone areas to check for any bumps. If you find one, don’t panic! I always keep a tick key on hand, which makes removal very easy and safe, but tweezers can work as well. It is recommended that you place the tick in rubbing alcohol to kill it, and mark the date on a calendar to keep your vet informed if any health problems show up.
Bonus Tip: Geranium Oil is thought to be helpful for balancing moods, emotions, and promoting calmness in horses, so it’s perfect to use before you head out on the trail!