Having a thin-skinned thoroughbred brings with it a whole different battle against bugs. My horse Finn has a mini meltdown if one even buzzes around him. It has its challenges to say the least.
As the Horse Hippie, a woman who loves our planet and doesn’t want to add more chemicals to it, I need to use only natural ingredients on my horse and in my barn. After a few trials and errors, I have found a system that works for me/him and one that doesn’t harm the planet. I've included links to the products on Amazon to help.
Your system is really a strategy, one designed to control flies and it begins with barn management. Most of it is common sense but a quick reminder never hurts. Start with manure management. Make sure to remove manure from the paddocks and stalls as regularly as possible. This activity is highly effective in breaking up the fly’s breeding cycle.
Another solid practice is providing your horses with access to open, breezy spaces that can help keep flies at bay. If you don’t have this option try using fans (solar ones are available!) to keep the air flowing through your paddocks. I use this fan in my chicken coop and it's great! It would work in a paddock area as well.
Address any standing and dripping water issues is important as they can offer a ripe fly breeding habitat. Check faucets, pipes and waterers for leaks, and when you repair them, fill in the puddles and try to drain low lying areas.
Using battery operated automatic fly sprayers with non-toxic ingredients will reduce the flies in your run-ins and stables. I love the Country Vet system. It's affordable, reliable and the spray uses Pyrethrins, which are botanical insecticides- so it's safe!
Starting a feed through insect control program is another way to reduce those biting pests. I like Manna Pro Nature's Force Bug Clear. Bug Clear contains all natural ingredients, it’s a blend of garlic, thiamin, niacin, turmeric and grape seed extract. Most feed throughs are made of synthetic pesticides so Bug Clear is my choice.
Another great way to control flies in the barn and run-in shed is fly traps. We used to have to use fly strips- yuck! and they were soooo sticky and gross when full of flies! Now there are convenient, sealed, fly traps. Let them fill with flies, then toss them. I use these by Bugbane. I like the price and they work!
Now that the barn and stable area are addressed, let’s look at what we can use ON our horse.
Starting with the face, a properly fitted horse fly mask is highly effective in keeping pesty flies out of their eyes and preventing infections and injuries from rubbing. My guy likes one with the ears too as his gets super itchy. Cashel makes the perfect mask in my opinion. You get what you pay for so, even though these are on the higher end of the price scale, they are my favorite. They have tons of options too!
When I ride I use a fly repellant ointment around his eyes. I like Swat for this. It uses Pyrethrins which are botanical insecticides that come from the pyrethrum flower, Chrysanthemum cinerariaefolium. Plus, it really works!! I put a ring around his eyes so that he looks like a warrior! And he needs to be to battle the flies.
On his body I want something that is natural, protects from all biting insects, and offers a sunscreen too. That’s why I use Espree. It contains gentle aloe and botanical oils of citronella, cedarwood, and peppermint to repel pests and biting flies without irritating his skin. PLUS! It contains a sunscreen so his coat is protected.
When the bugs are super bad I’ll use a fly sheet for turn out. I figure if I’m using one, it might as well cover ALL of him so I use one with a belly band, and a neck cover. Quality instead of economy is the way to go here. I’ve tried many different ones over the years and landed on this one by Ovation. It’s made of breathable 300D CoolWick Softmesh fabric, has the attached neck cover, AND offers over 70% UV protection!
The last product I'd suggest for your arsenal is these fly boots by Shoofly. They come in a pack of four and are worth every penny! Don't be fooled by cheaper knock-off brands. I like the bright orange ones in case they get lost in the pasture, although I have to admit that has never happened! Which is a testament to how well they stay on! They are breathable, allowing air flow. They reduce stomping which helps with the feet. Finally, they don't wash off in the rain like fly spray will.
Tackling flies is a real challenge- especially if you don’t want to use chemicals on your horse. I hope this review of my fly control system helped. Leave me any suggestions you might have in the comments and please share this with your riding buddies!
Good Vibes and Good Rides,
The Horse Hippie