Equestrian Blog

News and thoughts from around the equestrian community

Protect your horse from flies

Its time to prepare for summer and the flies that come with it! We all love to tack up our horses and head out for a relaxing hack when the sun starts to shine after a long, cold winter but it seems flies and midges also love to follow us and our horses wherever we go. The flying insects at best can be a nuisance but at their worst they can result in utter misery for your horse. Don't despair though, there are lots of ways you can repel these pests and make your horse more comfortable and happy throughout the summer months. There are lots of products available on the market to help alleviate the irritation from insects and repel them from landing on your horse's skin. Fly sprays and repellent wipes are a good start to helping reduce the amount your horse suffers from flies. There are also physical barriers, in the form of rugs, masks and nets which actually stop the fly from landing on your horse's skin. A fly sheet will help to protect your horse, there is a large range of styles available and they range in price depending on coverage and the level of protection your horse needs. Basic fly rugs are often made from a nylon mesh and fit in the same way a summer sheet would, these offer general protection from flies by creating a barrier between your horse's skin and the flies. The soft mesh will allow your horse to stay cool in the summer and won't hold water if there is any rain. More specialised fly rugs are also available which often give more coverage and some even have insect repellent treatments impregnated into the material to help further repel unwanted flies. Deciding what kind of rug you buy depends on your budget and your horse's needs. Bear in mind that these types of rugs are all a mesh type fabric so they do tear more easily than a turnout rug, although the mesh material does make them easy to repair yourself.
Some horses suffer more than most through the summer, sometimes developing sweet itch, which is an allergic reaction to the saliva in the bite of a species of midge called Culicoides. Horses who suffer from this condition can significantly harm themselves as they scratch to try to alleviate the irritation caused by the bite. Although there is no absolute cure to this condition, there are several treatments which can offer the horse some relief. 52521-01airflow-buzz1
  1. Try to limit the horse's exposure to the midge, stabling one hour each side of sunrise and sunset, as this is the time when flies are most active.
  2. Kill the flies that are attacking the horse using insecticides that contain pyrethrins or pyrethroids.
  3. Prevent the horse from itching; specially designed sweet itch rugs stop the fly landing on the horse's skin. This will mean the horse won't scratch as much as the irritation will be less.
Following these preventative measures should help to relieve your horse's symptoms, whether it be sweet itch or just flies in general. Some supplements, garlic, for example, are known for their fly repellent qualities but these don't always help all horses. Try to keep muck heaps to a minimum and situate well away from any areas that your horses spend much time. A clean yard and horse will always mean that there are less flies in the area so regularly bath your horse and disinfect as much of your stable as possible.

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