Someone asked me the question this morning about a non chemical remedy for lice in horses – and O. M. Goodness it just makes you itch thinking about it doesn’t it?
If you have ever had a horse with lice – it’s the stuff of nightmares – ugh! And so much work to make sure the little beggars are REALLY gone – permanently. Much easier to prevent them!
There are five different ways listed here to get rid them – four that work and one that doesn’t. 🙂
Good old fashioned yellow sulphur powder works to get rid of the beasties. Take the top off a bath talc container, empty the contents and fill with sulphur powder that you have put through a sieve to get out all the lumps. You want the powder all over the horse (not as easy as it sounds) – but specially focus on under and through the mane, under and all through the forelock, along the topline or the back of the horse and very thoroughly through and around and under the tail – making sure that the powder get to the roots of the hair.
Wear a simple mask from the chemist – you don’t want that stuff in your lungs.
I personally like neem oil. You can buy organic, pure undiluted neem oil off e-bay for about $40 a litre and between dogs flea control and horses I am still using the bottle that I bought 5 years ago.
Neem oil important note: Since I wrote this article, my rooster has started firing blanks. The chickens’ eggs, although fertilized are not hatching any babies and I am wondering if the Neem oil is the cause. So for those of you with breeding stock, I wouldn’t take the risk of using Neem oil at all.
Since writing THAT warning, Amanda came in to the comments section, reporting that a guy who makes Neem oil said to wear gloves if you wanted to get pregnant, because it was a natural contraceptive. Hmmm…. a natural contraceptive – permanent or temporary I wonder? Ah well at my age I don’t need to worry, but anyone younger than me wear gloves to make sure. I think my rooster is still firing blanks… And there are instructions for using Diatomaceous Earth below as well.
When I hear the word “lice” I immediately go into overkill. So my dilution rates reflect that overkill. I have used about a teaspoon to 500ml WARM water (neem oil cools into a soft solid oil and clogs up the nozzle if you use cold water.)
Spray the whole horse with the neem oil in water, paying special attention to wetting the underneath of the mane and forelock, through the mane and forelock making sure the roots of the hair is wet as well as the length – also along the top of the back and very thoroughly all around the tail area. If it’s washing weather, you can put 2 teaspoons of neem oil into a bucket of warm water and wash the horse.
I have also used neem oil by mixing it with coconut oil – 1 teaspoon of neem oil to a small jar of coconut oil – warm both oils up by standing the jar in hot water, shaking to mix and allowing to cool back into the solid oil that coconut oil is in the colder weather. I have used that for a follow up for rubbing into the manes and tails and forelocks with some horses who were “thingy” about the sound and feel of the spray.
Do you like my wonderful English there – “thingy” ?
Neem oil changes the hormones of the insect so that they cannot breed – then when they die that’s the end of them. For god’s sake don’t ever use the stuff in your garden – you will eliminate the bees and other critically beneficial insects along with the ones you want to get rid of! And THAT would completely stuff up your garden!
Diatomaceous earth is an effective remedy for lice in horses and fleas in dogs. You sprinkle that through their coat – again paying special attention under the mane and forelock and along the back and rubbing it in everywhere else that you can get the stuff to stay there. And again wearing a mask from the chemist and keep the powder flying around the area to a minimum – diatomaceous earth is ground up silica and I don’t want my lungs or the lungs of my animals filled up with the stuff either.
I could use a lot of fancy words, but diatomaceous earth kills the insect by drying out the outside bits of their body.
Make sure that you get the fine food grade diatomaceous earth. Don’t let anyone sell you the coarse stuff – it doesn’t work. Someone who should have known better sold me the coarse gritty stuff for the dogs’ fleas and it is apparently an absolute no-no and it doesn’t work either.
The life cycle of a louse is about 2 weeks, so making sure that neem oil and diatomaceous earth are still in the horse’s coat and rugs and brushes etc is a good deal – or re-apply if there is no powder left in the coat.
Diatomaceous earth is great stuff to use for the environmental clean-up that is an incredibly important part of making sure that you don’t have to do this whole lice clean up over and over again.
So the dreaded clean up:
EVERY horse – even if they show no signs of lice – EVERY horse who could have touched noses or brushed tails even across the fence gets treated. There is nothing more demoralising than having to go through all of this again…
EVERY saddle blanket
EVERY bit of gear
All of these things treat with neem oil OR dust with diatomaceous earth or both – paying special attention the seams of the rugs and deep into the bristles of the brush or even soak them in a bucket of diluted neem oil for the day. Diluted Neem oil sprayed inside rugs (also diatomaceous earth into the lining seams of the rugs) and brushes soaked in it and saddle blankets sprayed and then even follow up with a dusting of diatomaceous earth as well.
Then we need to dust all the places where the horses rub around the farm – diatomaceous earth because the neem oil fades away in efficacy in sunlight – otherwise the horses will just have them back again next month after they scratch on that post…
And there is a chemical lice killer that comes in single doses for horses – very nasty stuff – but you still have to do all the other treatments of gear and surroundings anyway – so you may as well go more natural in the first place.
Where the horse has rubbed themselves raw – I use the neem and coconut oil combination. You could also choose to use something like paw paw cream on where they have rubbed themselves raw. Any lice or eggs under the paw paw would be gone anyway – smothered to death.
I have heard that people also have success with essential oils like lavender and tea tree oil – but I haven’t used those for this purpose personally because they say that about fleas on dogs too and I never had much success with tea tree oil and fleas!
And if a horse is debilitated by lice, i.e thin and lost weight, then look at boosting their immune system – look at mineral deficiencies in your area, add some fresh garlic to their feed for a couple of weeks and maybe browsing a variety of native grasses to self medicate and they are often found out on the nature strip…
And since everything happens for a reason – you may have been drawn to this website to get the FREE LESSONS The 9 Keys to Happiness with Your Horse. You could use getting rid of the lice to get an even deeper connection with each other and have lots of positive things come out of such a yucky problem! You’ll find the link to the 9 Keys right at the top of our Training Programs page here.