Tips To Keep Flies Off Horses

In the world of equine care, keeping flies off horses is a crucial aspect of ensuring their health and well-being. Flies can not only be a nuisance to horses but also pose significant risks to their health. Understanding what attracts flies to horses and how to effectively keep them at bay is essential for every horse owner and caretaker.

In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the reasons why it’s important to keep flies off horses, what attracts flies to them, and practical tips for keeping these pesky insects away. We will also explore natural methods for fly control, the risks flies pose to horses, and strategies for preventing fly infestations during riding or training. By the end of this article, you will have a thorough understanding of the importance of fly control for horses and the best practices for achieving it. So, let’s jump right in and explore the world of fly management for our equine companions.

Why is it Important to Keep Flies Off Horses?

Why is it Important to Keep Flies Off Horses? - Tips To Keep Flies Off Horses

Credits: Horselife.Org – Mason Flores

It is crucial to keep flies off horses as these pests can cause significant discomfort and health issues for the animals, especially during the peak of the fly season.

Flies not only irritate horses, but they can also transmit diseases and cause excessive stress. The constant buzzing and biting lead to irritation, making horses restless and agitated. Flies can carry and spread diseases such as equine infectious anemia, anthrax, and encephalomyelitis, posing serious health risks to the horses. Protecting the horses from fly infestations is essential to maintain their well-being and minimize the risk of fly-borne diseases.

What Attracts Flies to Horses?

Several factors attract flies to horses, including the presence of manure, sweat, and open wounds, particularly during the peak of the fly season.

Manure is a primary attractant for flies due to its odor and the nutrients it provides for fly larvae. Horses produce a significant amount of sweat, especially during hot weather or physical activity, which acts as a magnet for flies. Open wounds exude bodily fluids that are highly appealing to flies, drawing them to the horse.

Horses often exhibit behaviors that further attract flies, such as tail-swishing and leg-stomping to fend off the pests. The combination of these factors creates an environment that is particularly inviting for flies, affecting the horse’s comfort and well-being.


Flies are attracted to horses due to the presence of manure in and around the barn, providing an ideal breeding ground for fly larvae and perpetuating the fly population.

When manure accumulates, it becomes a prime attractant for flies, as it offers an abundant food source and a suitable environment for egg-laying. Flies lay their eggs in moist, decaying organic matter, and manure provides the perfect substrate for their reproduction. The eggs hatch into maggots within a short period, and these maggots then develop into adult flies.

Proper manure management is crucial for controlling the fly population, as regular removal and disposal of manure disrupt the fly breeding cycle and reduce the attraction of flies to the area.


The presence of sweat on horses can attract flies, especially during the hot and humid fly season, as the moisture provides an appealing landing and feeding spot for the pests.

Horse sweat contains chemical compounds such as lactic acid and ammonia, which are known to be highly attractive to flies. These compounds create a distinct odor that acts as a powerful attractant for various fly species. Environmental factors also play a significant role, as warm temperatures and high humidity increase the volatilization of these compounds, intensifying their appeal to flies. The cleanliness of the horse’s environment and proper grooming and bathing practices can help reduce the presence of sweat and deter fly attraction, minimizing the nuisance for both the horse and its handlers.

Open Wounds

Open wounds on horses are prime targets for flies, as these pests are drawn to the exposed areas for feeding and reproduction, posing a risk of infection and aggravation to the horse’s condition.

This vulnerability arises from the fact that flies thrive on the moisture and nutrients present in the exudate of wounds, providing an ideal environment for their eggs to develop. Not only do these flies cause irritation to the horse, but they can also transmit diseases, further compromising the animal’s well-being.

Proper wound care is crucial in minimizing fly attraction, as it helps in keeping the wound clean and dry, reducing the appeal for flies. Regularly cleaning and dressing wounds, while implementing measures to deter flies, such as using fly repellents and protective coverings, plays a vital role in preventing fly attacks and ensuring the horse’s comfort and health.

How to Keep Flies Off Horses?

How to Keep Flies Off Horses? - Tips To Keep Flies Off Horses

Credits: Horselife.Org – Eugene Young

Effective fly control for horses involves the use of various methods such as fly repellent sprays, protective masks and sheets, fly traps, and proper manure management within the horse barn.

When considering fly repellent sprays, it’s important to choose those specifically formulated for use on horses, as some products may contain ingredients that can be harmful to them.

Protective masks and sheets play a crucial role in shielding horses from pesky flies, reducing their exposure and potential irritation.

Fly traps, strategically placed around the barn area, can help minimize the fly population by capturing them before they become a nuisance to the horses.

Proper manure management, such as regular removal and disposal, interrupts the fly breeding cycle, significantly reducing their numbers.

Fly Repellent Sprays

Fly repellent sprays are essential for keeping flies off horses, providing a protective barrier against these pests and minimizing the risk of irritation and disease transmission.

There are different types of fly repellent sprays, including water-based, oil-based, and natural formulations, each with its advantages. Typically, these sprays contain active ingredients such as pyrethroids or essential oils known for their fly-repelling properties. When applying the repellent, it’s crucial to cover the entire body of the horse, focusing on areas where flies tend to congregate, such as around the head, ears, and lower legs. Reapplication may be necessary, especially after sweating or prolonged exposure to water.

Fly Masks and Sheets

Fly masks and sheets offer physical protection to horses, shielding them from fly bites and reducing the overall fly population in the barn environment.

These protective gear not only provide relief to the horses from irritating flies but also prevent potential infections and diseases caused by fly bites.

Fly masks are designed to cover the horse’s eyes, ears, and sometimes the nose, offering both UV protection and minimizing distractions for the horse.

On the other hand, fly sheets offer full-body coverage, shielding the horse from flies and UV rays, and some even provide protection from dust and debris.

By incorporating these protective measures, horse owners can significantly improve their horses’ comfort and overall well-being.

Fly Traps

Fly traps are effective tools for reducing the fly population around horse barns, capturing and controlling these pests to create a fly-free and horse-friendly environment.

There are various types of fly traps that can be used in horse barns, such as sticky traps, baited traps, and electric traps. Each type targets different species of flies and can be strategically placed in different areas based on the layout of the barn and the specific fly problem. It is important to carefully place fly traps in key locations, such as near manure piles, entryways, and feeding areas, to maximize their effectiveness in fly control. By using these environmentally friendly methods, the fly population can be managed without the use of harmful chemicals.

Manure Management

Proper manure management is integral to fly control around horse barns, as it disrupts the breeding cycle and reduces the fly population, creating a more fly-friendly environment for the horses.

The significance of effective manure management in mitigating fly infestation cannot be overstated. By implementing proper disposal methods, such as removing manure from stalls regularly and storing it away from the barn, horse owners can significantly reduce the presence of fly breeding grounds. Composting manure offers a sustainable solution, as it not only reduces fly attraction but also produces nutrient-rich soil for agricultural use. Incorporating biological control methods, like introducing fly predators, and utilizing fly traps can further minimize fly populations, promoting a healthier and more comfortable environment for horses and their caretakers.

What Natural Methods Can Be Used to Keep Flies Off Horses?

Natural methods for fly control on horses encompass the use of essential oils, garlic, and other organic solutions to deter flies and minimize their presence around the animals.

Essential oils such as citronella, peppermint, and eucalyptus are popular choices for fly repellents. These oils can be diluted and applied to the horse’s coat or in a diffuser to create a fly-free environment. Incorporating garlic-based supplements into the horse’s diet can help make their blood less appealing to flies. Other organic approaches include using fly masks and fly sheets to physically block the insects from bothering the horses, as well as maintaining a clean environment to eliminate breeding grounds for flies.

Essential Oils

Essential oils such as Aloe, Pyrethrin, Lavender, Peppermint, Lemon, and Geranium can serve as natural fly repellents for horses, providing an aromatic barrier against pests without harsh chemicals.

These essential oils are revered for their natural properties that effectively deter flies. Aloe has soothing and moisturizing qualities, while Pyrethrin, derived from chrysanthemum flowers, is a potent insect repellent. Lavender’s calming scent can keep flies at bay, and Peppermint and Lemon deter insects with their refreshing aromas. Meanwhile, Geranium offers a floral and citrusy fragrance that can repel flies effectively.

When using essential oils for fly control, it’s crucial to choose high-quality, pure oils to ensure their efficacy and safety. Diluting these oils with a carrier oil, such as coconut or olive oil, is advisable to prevent any skin irritation on the horses. It’s important to note that direct application of essential oils on a horse’s skin should be done with caution and under the guidance of a veterinarian or equine professional.


Garlic-based supplements and products, such as Grand Premium Plus and Dry Land Distemper, can be utilized as natural fly control measures for horses, leveraging the aversion of flies to the pungent aroma.

These solutions offer a gentle yet effective way to deter flies without exposing the horses to harsh chemicals. The Garlic in these products contains sulfur compounds that are known to repel insects, providing a natural shield against flies. They can be incorporated into the horse’s diet as supplements or applied topically as sprays, adding a layer of protection against flies during turnout or riding.

The potential benefits of using garlic-based fly repellents extend beyond just fly control, as garlic is also believed to support respiratory health and overall wellness in horses.

Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple Cider Vinegar is a natural remedy that can be incorporated into horse feed to create an internal environment that deters flies, supporting natural fly control from within the animals.

Its use as a fly deterrent for horses is attributed to its strong odor and taste, which might make the horse less appealing to flies. Apple cider vinegar is believed to alter the pH balance within the horse’s digestive system, potentially reducing the attractiveness of the manure to flies.

When considering its inclusion in horse feed, it’s essential to carefully measure the quantity to avoid causing digestive upset in horses. Moderation is key, and consulting a veterinarian or equine nutritionist is advisable to determine the appropriate dosage for each individual animal.

It’s important to select organic, raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar to ensure that it retains its beneficial properties. Diluting it in the horse’s drinking water or adding it to their feed are common methods of administration.

What Are the Risks of Flies on Horses?

Flies pose risks to horses, including skin irritation and allergies from bites, as well as the potential transmission of diseases, making effective fly control crucial for the animals’ well-being.

Flies can cause skin irritations for horses as their bites can lead to painful sores and lesions, especially in sensitive areas like the ears, nose, and legs. Constant pestering by flies can cause immense stress for horses, affecting their overall well-being and performance. The presence of flies increases the likelihood of horses contracting diseases like equine infectious anemia and Potomac horse fever, which can have severe health implications.

Skin Irritation and Allergies

Flies can cause skin irritation and allergic reactions in horses through their bites, leading to discomfort and potential dermatological issues that necessitate effective fly control measures.

When flies bite horses, they can leave itchy, painful wounds on the skin, making the animals restless and uncomfortable. Some horses can develop allergic responses to fly bites, causing skin inflammation and even ulceration. These reactions can greatly compromise the horse’s overall health, affecting their ability to perform and adding additional stress to their daily routine.

Understanding the impacts of fly bites on horse skin underscores the importance of implementing proactive fly control strategies to mitigate potential skin irritations and allergic reactions.

Risk of Disease Transmission

Flies present a risk of disease transmission among horses due to their interaction with various environments and animals, necessitating stringent fly control to minimize the spread of illnesses.

Flies can act as carriers for a range of infectious agents, including bacteria, viruses, and parasites, thereby posing a significant threat to equine health. The common risks associated with fly-borne diseases in horses include the potential for outbreaks of infections such as Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA), West Nile Virus (WNV), and Equine Encephalitis. These diseases can cause serious health issues, reduce performance, and even lead to fatalities in severe cases. Effective fly control measures are vital to minimize the risk of disease transmission within horse populations, emphasizing the importance of implementing preventive strategies such as:

  • eliminating breeding sites for flies,
  • using fly repellents and traps,
  • maintaining clean stables and pastures,

and even considering vaccination for diseases where available. By implementing comprehensive fly control protocols, horse owners and managers can mitigate the potential impact of fly-borne infections, ensuring the well-being of their equine companions.

How to Prevent Flies on Horses During Riding or Training?

Preventing flies on horses during riding or training activities involves strategic measures such as avoiding peak fly activity, using effective fly repellent products, and maintaining horse hygiene to minimize fly attraction.

Timing plays a crucial role in controlling fly nuisance during equine activities. It’s essential to schedule rides or training sessions during times of the day when fly activity is relatively low, typically in the early morning or late afternoon. Consistently applying fly repellents before each session can provide a protective barrier against flies. Keeping the horse’s environment clean also helps minimize fly breeding grounds and the potential for infestation. Regularly removing manure, keeping water troughs clean, and mending any standing water sources are vital for fly prevention.

Avoid Riding During Peak Fly Activity

It is advisable to schedule horse riding activities outside of peak fly activity periods to minimize the risk of annoyance and distractions caused by persistent fly presence.

When planning your horse riding adventure, consider that flies are most active during certain times of the day. These pesky insects can not only be bothersome but also disrupt the peaceful and enjoyable experience of riding. To ensure a more pleasant riding excursion, aim to schedule your ride during times when fly activity is reduced, such as earlier in the morning or later in the evening.

Implementing effective fly management strategies can significantly enhance the overall riding experience by minimizing fly disturbances and keeping your equine companion comfortable.

Use Fly Repellent Products

Applying effective fly repellent products on horses before riding or training sessions can create a protective barrier against fly harassment, ensuring a more comfortable and focused experience for both the horse and rider.

One popular option for fly repellent products is the spray application. This method involves spraying the product directly onto the horse’s coat, focusing on areas where flies tend to gather, such as the legs, mane, and tail. Some repellents offer long-lasting protection, while others may require more frequent reapplication.

There are also fly repellent wipes available, which provide a convenient and targeted approach for application, especially for sensitive areas like the face and ears.

When selecting a fly repellent product, it’s essential to consider the ingredients and their efficacy, as well as any potential allergic reactions in the horse. Natural ingredients like citronella, eucalyptus, or tea tree oil are often preferred for their gentle yet effective properties. Incorporating fly masks and sheets can complement the use of repellent products, offering extended protection and coverage to keep flies at bay.

Keep Horses Clean and Dry

Maintaining the cleanliness and dryness of horses is essential for minimizing fly attraction and ensuring a more comfortable and hygienic environment during riding or training sessions.

Regular grooming plays a vital role in preventing flies from bothering horses. Brushing the coat removes dirt, sweat, and oils that attract flies, making grooming an effective strategy for improving horse hygiene.

After bathing or washing a horse, thorough drying is crucial to prevent moisture retention, as dampness can also attract flies. Clean stables and pastures are equally important, as they provide a healthy environment and reduce fly populations. Maintaining horse hygiene should be a priority for all horse owners to control fly infestations and protect the well-being of the animals.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I keep flies off my horse’s face and body?

There are a few tips you can try to keep flies off your horse. One option is to use fly spray regularly, especially on the face and legs. You can also try using fly masks and fly sheets to cover your horse’s body. Additionally, keeping your horse’s living area clean and free of manure can help reduce the number of flies in the area.

What types of fly spray are safe for my horse?

When choosing a fly spray for your horse, it’s important to look for ones that are specifically made for use on horses. Avoid using sprays that contain harsh chemicals or ingredients that may irritate your horse’s skin. Natural and organic fly sprays are a great option for horses with sensitive skin.

How can I prevent flies from laying eggs on my horse?

Flies will often lay their eggs on horses, which can lead to further infestation. To prevent this, make sure to regularly remove manure from your horse’s living area. You can also use fly traps or predators, such as fly-eating wasps, to control the fly population.

Are there any natural remedies for keeping flies off horses?

Yes, there are several natural remedies you can try to keep flies off your horse. Some horse owners have had success with using essential oils, such as citronella or eucalyptus, as a natural fly repellent. You can also plant herbs, like basil or lavender, around your horse’s living area to help repel flies.

Can I use fly sheets and fly masks on my horse all day?

While fly sheets and fly masks can be beneficial in keeping flies off your horse, it’s important to give your horse breaks from wearing them. Make sure to take them off for a few hours each day to allow your horse’s skin to breathe. Also, check the fit of the fly sheet and mask regularly to ensure they are not causing discomfort or rubbing.

What should I do if my horse is allergic to fly bites?

If your horse has a severe allergic reaction to fly bites, known as sweet itch, it’s important to consult with your veterinarian for the best course of treatment. They may prescribe certain medications or suggest special fly control measures to help alleviate your horse’s allergic reaction.

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