How to Win the Fight Against Flies

As the temperature rises, so does the song of the swarms! Flies, gnats, ticks, and other insects are not only a nuisance to horses, but can also spread disease, complicate wound healing, and contribute to loose and lost shoes via round the clock stomping. In order to fight the flies, we have to approach the issue from all angles. I find these three tactics effective in keeping my horses free from bothersome bugs!

Repel Them

Our first line of defense is to camouflage our horses from the flies. Common scents that repel these bugs include Citronella, Apple Cider Vinegar, Lavender, Clove, Thyme, Cinnamon, and Citrus. Most of the time fly sprays will be scented to deter flies from landing on our horses. I find Citronella, found in Pyranah Wipe N Spray, to be highly effective.

Block Them

Being able to create a physical barrier between our horses and the flies can be a saving grace. Fly masks may be the single greatest invention to exist in pastures today. A well fitted fly mask will cover a horse’s eyes and ears to protect against bites. A good quality mask should breathe, be easy to see through, stay out of the horse’s eyes, and protect the horse from UV rays. My favorite fly mask is Noble Outfitter’s Guardsman Fly Mask. I find it effective and my horses find it cool and comfortable. Sun sheets and mesh leg wraps are also effective in blocking fly landings, and they can be useful for relentless stompers and horses who break out in hives.

Sick ’em

When all else fails, I believe that it is our responsibility as horse owners to protect our horses from the relevant risks involved with insect bites. An effective fly control program has to work against every capacity that the bug attempts to bite a horse. If repellent deems unsuccessful, than hopefully the fly wants a spot on the horse where a mask covers, but sometimes it aims at a maskless spot. At this point, insecticides make the difference for the horse.

The most effective and long lasting insecticide, permethrin, is prevalent in Ultrashield fly spray . With insecticides, a fly may land on the horse, but it will quickly become dysfunctional and die off. This method can prevent bites and lower the fly population in an area.

***Fly Spray Notables***

~ Oil does not evaporate quickly like water does, ergo, oil based fly repellents tend to last longer!

~ Fly masks should not rub a horse’s eyes and the points of his face. This may seem obvious, but most fly masks flop and have bulging areas around the eyes. Without a skeleton that holds the mask out of the way, masks have a tendency to cause horses some discomfort. 

~ Permethrin is available to purchase as a solo ingredient, as is citronella scent. If the cost of quality fly spray is too steep, it is feasible to make your own effective spray! 


Published by

Madison Maavere

Hello, I am a young professional in the equine industry with a passion for improving horses' physical health and emotional wellness. I grew up riding horses in north Georgia and by the time I was 10, I decided I wanted to ride professionally. This dream grew into the mountain that I climbed every day, striving to reach the top. Until I was 16, I did not have my own horses, so I began diving whole-heartedly into any barn that would allow me to work off rides, training, and showing. While this path may not have gotten me the most blues in the show ring, it opened my eyes and my heart to the vastness of the horse world and how perception based it can be. When I was 16, my family moved out on 6 acres so I could have my horses at home (IE, so my family could see me on a daily basis), and for this, I am truly grateful. Running my own farm, albeit small, was liberating and humbling, and it revealed to me that my passion was not so much for riding sport, but for the love of the horse. Fast forward 6 years, and I am well into my final year as an undergraduate Equine Science/Management major at the University of Kentucky. I have been so fortunate in the opportunities I've received here and the relationships I've been able to build. The cutting edge research, quality horsemanship, and innovative businesses located around Lexington, KY have given me a strong sense of reality, and inspired me to really look at where I can make an impact in today's horse world. What I've realized is that while I like equestrian sports, I love the horse. Moreover, I love to help the horse. I want it to be happy and relaxed, to be sound and comfortable, to eat well and be healthy. I want the horse to have every defense against pathalogical disease, and I want it to have skill sets that people value so it can live a long, loved life. In this love, I feel called to advocate for the horse. I want to learn everything I can about how to improve horses' sustainable wellness, and I want to share what I learn so that horsemen of all experience, backgrounds, and goals can feel inspired and enabled to improve their horses' lives. It is my true desire to initiate and spread a dynamic in which horses are not for the industry, but the industry is for the horses.

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