Summer is a great time to own a horse and spend time riding - except when you're swarmed with flies. In addition to just being annoying, flies can also spread disease, including Pigeon Fever and Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA). Here are some ways to help keep the fly population away from your horse and barn.
FOR YOUR HORSE
- Fly masks - there are many different styles. The key is finding one that fits your horse. Be sure that it's large enough so that your horse's eye isn't rubbing against the mesh. Get the ones with ears to help keep flies out of your horse's ears.
Or consider using a fly bonnet - the ones that are crocheted with fringed ends help keep flies out of your horse's eyes and ears while riding.
2. Fly sheet - again, many different styles, including some that cover the neck and belly as well as the rest of his body. A sheet can also protect your horse's coat from sunburn.
3. Fly protection legs - the horse's sensitive legs are a popular place for flies to land. When fly spray isn't enough, try fly boots or wraps to add an extra layer of fly protection.
4. Fly spray - repellents provide a basic layer of fly protection for your horse. There are many different types made of a variety of ingredients. The two most common ones in commercial fly sprays are Pyrethrins (made from a type of chrysanthemum flower) and Permethrin (synthetically produced). Both are relatively non-toxic to mammals (including humans) and both break down fairly easily.
Still, if you are not a fan of processed products, there are many options for homemade or "natural" fly sprays. Most contain citronella and/or apple cider vinegar.
FOR YOUR BARN
5. Manure pickup - many flies breed in manure. Get rid of their breeding medium, i.e. pick up manure regularly in stalls, paddocks and turn-out areas, to help reduce the fly population.
6. Feed-through fly control - products like SimpliFly are ingested by the horse, then passed through in their manure. The product prevents house & stable fly egg development.
7. Fans - fans in your horse's stall or in the barn helps keep air circulating, making it harder for flies to land on your horse.
8. Fly spray - you can get an automatic fly spray dispenser for just your horse's stall. They dispense a spray at regular intervals to keep flies away. For a large number of stalls, you might consider a fly suppression system that dispenses an insecticide in a fine mist at specific intervals through special spray nozzles.
9. Birds - while sometimes considered pests themselves, birds are actually a great asset in fly control by feeding on bugs after catching them in midair .
10. Predators - tiny non-stinging wasps both lay eggs in the fly pupa as well as feed on fly larvae while it is in the manure around your farm. By eating the larvae fly predators break the fly life cycle. In addition, the eggs the predators laid hatch and naturally increase their predator population on your farm.
For best results, build an integrated pest control system to beat flies both in your barn and on your horse.
Photos from HorseTackReview.com and Classic Equine Equipment