Well it's finally starting to feel as though spring has actually arrived! But with the warmer weather come flying insects – attracted unfortunately, to our horses and our farms.
Biting flies and mosquitoes not only annoy horses and cause discomfort, they can spread disease and infection, as well as provoke allergic responses in some individuals. During the peak season, some form of insect control is therefore essential to protect your horse's health and wellbeing.
Fortunately, the use of chemical insecticides doesn't have to be the answer. Here are some natural fly control strategies you can use this season that are safe, effective, and ultimately healthier for you and your horse.
1. Eliminate insect breeding and feeding grounds
This is an essential first step in minimizing the fly problem at any horse farm. Stable flies lay eggs in horse manure so stalls and paddocks should be kept as clean as possible, with the manure pile located away from where horses are kept. For larger pastures where complete manure removal may not be practical, areas where horses stand frequently should be cleaned regularly, such as shelters, shaded areas and around the water trough. In the feed room, ensure grain is kept in sealed containers and the floor swept regularly.
To address mosquito breeding grounds, remove unnecessary sources of standing water (such as old tires, or other containers that collect rain water), maintain good drainage and make sure eavestroughs are cleared of debris.
2. Use a natural fly spray
Natural fly sprays take advantage of the natural pest-repelling compounds that plants produce to protect themselves from insects. By avoiding the use of noxious chemicals, horses are protected from unintended forms of exposure that may occur when they rub their face on a foreleg or engage in mutual grooming with a pasture-mate.
Herbs for Horses OUTDOOR SPRAY is a plant-based formula that utilizes the bug repelling and anti-fungal/anti-bacterial properties of Neem, Citronella, Peppermint, Eucalyptus, and Tea-Tree oil. Unlike water-based fly sprays that are quickly dissipated by solar and body heat, Herbs for Horses Outdoor Spray is oil-based for longer lasting protection. For the best results, brush the loose dirt and dust off your horse's coat before applying.
3. Bring out the equine fly gear
Fine mesh body sheets, boots and fly masks can provide another level of protection. Flies are attracted to the moisture in horse's eyes and can spread bacterial eye infections between horses.† Fly masks have the additional benefit of protecting the eyes from UV rays. Fly-sheets often include a neck piece and coverage under the belly, and may be a valuable addition for the sensitive horse, or during a particularly troublesome mosquito or fly season. Boots can help reduce the incessant stomping that can wreak havoc on brittle hooves during a dry spell.
4. Adjust turn-out times
Where turn out is flexible, peak insect times can be avoided. Flies are most active during the heat of the day, while mosquitoes are at their worst at dusk and into the night when it's mild. The times at which being indoors will provide the most relief for your horse will depend on your region, seasonal weather and which insects are the most problematic.
5. Use mounted stable fans indoors
Fans not only help keep your horse cool during the hottest days of summer, but can provide some relief from the bugs too. Fans should be placed high enough off the ground so they do not contribute to blowing dust. Fans positioned at stable entranceways with the air current directed downward and outward can also help to keep flies out of the barn.
Ultimately, protecting your horse from pesky flying insects is best achieved through a multi-faceted aproach. While it may not be possible to eliminate flies and mosquitoes altogether, the astute horse owner can certainly help keep them at bay for a healthier and happier horse.