Every horse person I know has their favorite fly control method for his or her farm. Here are a few options that have worked exceptionally well for myself and a few other folks that were gracious enough to dole out some input on the subject.
Available by the bottle, gallon, or tub in spray or goop form, there is a fly spray to fit every need and budget in the horsey world! Personally, I like a concentrate (like Repel X concentrate) where you can dilute the mixture to your satisfaction. If the flies seem unperturbed by my recent concoction, no big deal, add an extra splash of concentrate in! Using this method, one has to be very careful they don’t make it too strong as it can actually irritate and burn sensitive skin. You can also create your own fly spray with Avon Skin So Soft and vinegar. The smell isn’t great but it does the trick and is super cheap! If I am buying a commercial brand, I also look for sprays that are sweat resistant. I’ve had good luck with Endure and Ultra Shield Sport. Sure you have to reapply after a tough workout or lesson but if I can’t make it out for a day or two, I don’t worry about my horse being eaten alive.
From masks, to boots, to entire ensembles, you can wrap your pony head to toe to prevent nasty bites from those pesky flies! They come in all shapes, sizes, and price points and really only get expensive when you have an exuberant turnout friend that thinks your horse’s wardrobe is a toy. Fly masks can double has UV protection for precious pink noses and light colored eyes and have helped my guy with other allergens that he is sensitive to in the spring and summer. Fly sheets are wonderful not only to fend of pests on your sensitive beast but also to prevent sun bleaching/fading if you plan to show and want your pony to look his/her best as they trot into the ring! Word of advice: sign up for SmartPak’s email list as they have free embroidery promotions several times per year! I always order my fly masks from them if I can help it and have my horse’s name added to the product so it is easy to identify.
My semi-retired pony Pippin is sensitive to allergens (both pollen and bugs seem to trigger reactions) in the spring and summer. No amount of fly spray or fly mask combination helped my poor little man and he would come in with eyeballs swollen as big as baseballs some days. Assured it was just seasonal allergies from the vet, I started researching some feed-through options to try to stop the bugs from getting to him in the first place! Pippin prefers a pelleted version so on the suggestion from a friend, I tried SmartPak’s SmartBug-Off product. While my pony is not a picky eater, this pellet seems extremely palatable and has a distinct and potent smell to it. I start him on the pellets in early March and he stays on them through October. Prevention is key if you have a sensitive pony on your hands. Some people use the individual products in many of the pelleted versions and just add a dash and a splash to their horse’s feed. Usually this consists of garlic powder, apple cider vinegar, brewer’s yeast, and/or diatomaceous earth. I’m all about keeping things easy so I’ll stick with the pellets!
Check out any of your favorite horsey websites and you will have tons of options for feed-through supplements at every price point! The cheapest and easiest way to start is adding a dash of garlic to your horse’s feed and then build up from there if you feel they need something stronger!
It feels like there is an infinite number of fly traps on the market so try a few out and see what works best for you! You can go with the cheap sticky tape which works like a charm but needs to be changed out frequently and is unsightly. For hanging fly traps, I prefer the ones with water or liquid in them. Flies crawl into the bag and can’t find their way out, ultimately meeting their demise. Cut them down and throw the bag out, easy!
My absolutely favorite fly trap is the Horse Pal Horse Fly Trap. It utilizes flies natural abilities to be absolutely incompetent and attracts them into the body of the trap where they fly up into the jar and get stuck. The flies are attracted to the big black ball and once they get under the hood of the trap they fly straight up. There is a mesh “cone” at the top that prevents the flies from getting out. Unscrew the jar and empty as needed! There are TONS of building plans on the internet so if you are crafty, you can probably make one relatively cheap.
NATURAL PEST CONTROL METHODS
The absolute BEST way to control flies is pasture and manure management. Once per week, my landlord and I drive around the pasture and pick up the poop piles and dump it WAYYYY out in the manure pile on the other side of the property AWAY from the horses. They have chickens that pick through the pile daily and keep the larvae from even making it to adulthood. You can also drag your fields to break up the poop piles and it helps to fertilize the field — it’s win win!
If you board, ask about the fly management before you sign the contract. If the manure pile is right outside the barn, ask how often it gets spread. Many small and private farmers (my dad being one of them) love to come pick up free manure to fertilize their gardens in the spring! Throw an ad up on Craigslist for free horse manure (especially if it has been sitting all winter) and see if you can help a farmer out!
If you haven’t tried Fly Predators you are missing out! They are an awesome idea conceived by Spaulding Labs where you stop the fly population growth at the beginning, by killing the eggs and larvae before they can fly away and pester our four-legged friends. They send you a bag with tiny insects in it that hatch and eat the fly eggs. Sure, adding bugs to your fly problem might seem silly but let me tell you, Fly Predators WORK. Google it and check it out, you won’t be sorry!
If you are savvy with Essential Oils you can create tons of sprays and potions to help your horse with fly control! These are great if you have a horse sensitive to commercial products as essential oils occur naturally and often do not irritate the skin if applied and diluted correctly. Bonus: they smell AWESOME. Again, Google is your best friend here to look up recipes.
If all else fails, let your horse be dirty! #Maredrama wants nothing more than to be any other color than white. I noticed every time I washed the white beast to shining perfection she would be more prone to sunburn and would come in with tons of fly and tick bites all over her. When I let her be a scumbag, the sunburn was to a minimum and the fly bites decreased dramatically. I promise, horses are not rolling in the dirtiest spot in the field to make you angry, it is natural instinct to keep those pesky flies away!
One of my fellow bloggers reminded me to check the land ordinances or land management if you live close to state owned or state funded parks. Some of them have restrictions on the types of chemical products you can use and might not be open to introducing fly predators, as they might not be natural to the area.
What are your favorite methods of fly control? I am struggling with ticks this year… does anyone have any favorite products to keep them away?