Controlling Flies Around Horses


When summer comes around, unfortunately it means that flies on horses becomes an irritating problem. Other than being irritating, horse flies can cause several nasty harms for your horse. Horse flies feed on blood and often inflict a nasty bite, when they are around, your horse may become agitated trying to kick the fly on his legs or belly or will swat it away with his tail.

Problems Flies Cause For Horses

Flies will gather in the corner of a horse's eye causing irritation causing tearing and squinting and will drink the fluid. Flies carry bacteria and will cause an infection, they will in time cause the development of keratitis or conjunctivitis. If a horse has an open wound, the fly may lay eggs in this wound that will in time hatch out into maggots. This is a condition known as myiasis or fly strike. If you see any signs of this, you should contact your vet immediately. Some horses suffer badly with sweet itch. This is caused by an allergic reaction to the protein in the saliva of biting insects, causing the immune system to attack its own cells and lead to the reaction. In the UK, the insects that cause sweet itch are midges; horses are usually affected between March and November when insects are more active.

Ways to Prevent and Control Flies on Horses

  • Stable yard – There are two main areas on a stable yard that are suitable for fly breeding; these are the muck heap and any stagnant water. Attention to these areas in time can decrease the population of flies in any yard. Ideally muck heaps should be covered over with black plastic, this will allow the muck heap to ferment underneath, increasing the temperature and destroying any fly eggs underneath. As these flies that gather make a living off animal faeces and rubbish, they carry nasty bacteria that can cause infections for you and your horse. Flies also gather in any stagnant water, to prevent this from happening ditches should be drained and water should not be allowed to gather anywhere, this may be in old buckets or containers lying around.
  • Managing your horse - Midges and horse flies are most dominant at dawn and dusk; therefore it is a good idea to keep your horses in the stable at these times if it is possible. Horse flies are also most present in wooded, shady areas; it is advised to avoid hacking through any wooded areas as such, especially on warm days. If your horse does gather any eggs, use a specially designed comb to remove the eggs. Also make sure you are worming your horse at the right time of the year.

  • Protective wear for your horse - To prevent any access of flies, a fly rug is vital, especially if your horse suffers from sensitive skins, reacts to the saliva produced and is prone to sweet itch. Also, a fly mask that covers the horse's ears and eyes is an excellent deterrent preventing the flies from feeding in these areas.

  • Fly repellents - There are many spray, creams and gels on the market that contain a variety of active ingredients, from traditional natural solutions to powerful synthetic substances. It is known that some of the most popular natural remedies, including extracts of lavender, rosemary, tea tree and eucalyptus do have repellent qualities. Also adding garlic to a horse's diet has been recommended as a natural repellent. Fly repellents are only effective for a limited period of time and will need to be reapplied during the day to keep prevention levels high, especially if it rains as fly repellents are not waterproof, therefore, in wet conditions your horse will not be protected. Click here to read our blog about why you should feed your horse garlic.

Products to Help Control Flies Around Horses

  • NAF OFF Extra Fly Repellent Spray 750ml - NAF OFF Extra Effect is a natural, powerful and effective fly repellent. Containing Garlic Oil and Australian Tea Tree Oil, this solution is a highly effective and long lasting deterrent for flies, midges and other flying pests.
  • NAF OFF Citronella Fly Repellent Spray 750ml - NAF OFF Citronella Spray is a completely safe and effective solution which provides all-round protection from such flying pests as midges, mosquitoes and flies. It is a concentrated solution which provides long-lasting summer protection for horse's coats.

  • NAF OFF Deet Power Fly Repellent Spray 750ml - NAF OFF Deet Power is a super concentrated anti-fly and anti-insect repellent spray designed for year-round protection from a wide range of pests. Particularly effective during the summer months, NAF OFF Deet Power provides lasting equine relief from these menaces, enabling your horse to relax and de-stress after eventing and travel.

  • Lincoln Garlic Powder 500g/2kg - 100% pure garlic. Packed with natural sulphur, vitamins, minerals & trace elements. Benefits include support for dusty conditions, summer itching & flies.

  • Battles Summer Fly Cream 400g £12.99  A soothing antibacterial fly repellent cream to aid in the management when fly strike and maggots are a problem. Suitable for maggot fly on sheep and cuts and grazes on horses.

Using Fly Rugs & Masks

  • Skin allergies - The saliva produces from biting flies and gnats can cause allergic reactions which are very unpleasant for your horse. Sweet itch is often caused by an allergic reaction. Fly rugs and masks are made from soft, fine mesh material that keeps out even the smallest of insects.
  • External parasites - Some types of flies will nest and lay eggs directly in open wounds. The eggs will later hatch in maggots and feed on the injured tissue, if left untreated it can be deadly. By using a fly rug or mask it will keep flies away from the affected area.
  • Harmful UV rays - Horses need protection from ultraviolet rays. Fly rugs and fly masks act as sun cream. These help decrease coat bleaching in dark horses and protects from sunburn and skin cancers in light-coloured horses and those with areas of pink skin.

  • Photosensitivity - Photosensitivity is a sun-related skin injury triggered by chemical imbalances in the horse's body. These imbalances may be caused by certain plants, drugs or liver disease. It affects both pigmented and unpigmented areas. Therefore you need to protect any white areas on your horse's face, a fly mask is suitable for this, providing up to 60% UV block.

  • Effectiveness - Fly repellents are only effective for a period of time until they need to be reapplied, especially if your horse becomes wet as the repellents aren't waterproof. By using a fly rug and mask it means that you do not need to reapply any repellent as the rug and mask will be effective for the period of time required

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