When the flies start buzzing, landing and biting, our horses are uncomfortable and we can get downright aggravated. But here are money-saving and common-sense approaches that you can take to deter these relentless pests both in and around your barn. This should also save a few dollars too!
Tip # 1 – Follow Directions on the Fly Spray Bottle/Can/Dispenser
There are many brands of fly sprays to choose from on the market. But one rule applies to all products – follow the directions. As simple as that sounds, many times we skip over this basic but essential step. Take a few minutes to read the directions which will ultimately make the fly spray last longer and save you money and time.
- Research different fly spray products or get a few recommendations. When you settle on a product, make sure it has a quality sprayer. Leaky sprayers waste your money.
- Invest in a recyclable sprayer unit if the product’s sprayer is flimsy or insufficient.
- Mix the product according to the instructions. Products go through extensive testing regarding usage for a reason. Again, follow the directions.
- Spend time desensitizing your horse to the spraying. If your horse is afraid or evades the spray, a lot of the product could end up on the barn floor or in the bedding. A little patience with your horse goes a long way and will, again, save you money and aggravation.
- Apply a sufficient amount. Why apply too much or too little and waste your time and money?
- Apply to a clean horse. This is an important point. Make sure your horse is clean and dry or slightly damp. Never apply the fly spray product to a soaking wet horse or a sweaty horse.
- Spray the entire horse. It’s similar to applying sunscreen on humans – don’t miss any spots!
- Clean the sprayer nozzle with hot water regularly. This is a step that’s easily overlooked but it will keep the sprayer in good working order and avoids wasting the product.
- Store the fly spray out of sunlight in a clean, dry elevated place. Do not store it on the ground.
Tip #2 – Use Fly Control Horse Clothing
Fly sheets, boots, masks and bonnets are options designed to help alleviate flies from pestering your horse during the spring and summer. They also help with relief from the harmful effects of the sun’s UV rays.
- Fly Sheets — Cover your horse with an extremely lightweight sheet. There are many options on the market. Use a fly sheet with strap extensions that covers your horse’s body or the type that covers from the ears and neck to the tail and includes a tail extension.
- Fly boots – Sturdy mesh fly boots that fasten securely in place seem to last long on even the most active of horses. These are a cost-effective and great investment for several reasons. Fly boots help deter the flies and lessen the impact of your horse’s constant stomping to get rid of these pests. Incessant stomping and pacing can cause serious hoof and joint problems in addition to stress and anxiety.
- Fly masks – Invest in a fly mask gives plenty of clearance for your horse’s eyes and eyelashes. Older or cheaper models sometimes are too snug over your horse’s eyeballs and lashes, causing more unnecessary distress or, at worst, infection.
- Ear bonnets or brow bands with tassels – Use these to incorporate your horse’s natural and constant moving and munching to keep flies at bay.
Tip #3 – Take Organic Approaches
Some organic and tried and true approaches are a great addition to your investments in fly deterrent products and fly control horse clothing. Some of these are obvious, but here are some easy but important reminders.
- Keep your stalls and barn clean, especially by picking up manure more often. Although this is one of our least pleasant tasks as horse owners, it is a no-brainer for keeping flies at bay. And, don’t forget to regularly pick up manure from your pastures.
- Invest in quality heavy-duty fans (not cheap box fans) and industrial grade ceiling fans to circulate the air. Higher quality fans generally ensure better performance for long hours of use. They may be built better to endure exposure to dirt and the weather. Keep your fans clean. This allows them to work more efficiently and will lengthen their life. A strong blowing fan is more powerful than a weak species of fly!
- Design your run-in sheds to be as deep as you can manage. Bugs generally like the sunshine. Consider hanging burlap or slender panels of pliable plastic so that these gently brush your horse as she enters.
- Invest in parasitoids. These are tiny non-stinging wasps that raid fly populations. These wasps deposit eggs in fly pupae. When the wasps emerge, they eat the pupae. No pupae equals no flies!
- Cultivate and encourage the wildlife around you. Known predators of the fly population may surprise you! Birds, bats, fish, dragonflies (who knew?) and frogs, just to name a few.
- Do your research and keep open to suggestions. Sometimes the smallest changes make the biggest impact.
Equus Magazine – Various Issues 2017 – 2022