Here comes the sun... and the fly season!
Choosing the right kind of fly protection for your horse is essential but tricky. With so many products to choose from and so many things to take into consideration, it can be a real effort to try and find the right solution for your horse.
From spring through to late summer, there is no escaping the flies and we owe it to the domesticated horse, with its tidy mane and tail and restricted ability to roam to fly-free areas, to try and keep them at bay.
Not only are flies irritating, they pose a threat to health too and if measures aren't taken to offer some relief, horses can become miserable and unwell.
There are several kinds of flies that bite and irritate horses - stable flies, horse flies, black flies and midges to name a few.
Stable flies are not dissimilar to house flies. They are mainly an outdoor pest, have a voracious appetite for blood and and are a constant irritation to horses and livestock. Stable flies can travel a reasonable distance, which makes them ideal carriers of disease from one farm or yard to the next. Stable flies feed on blood from almost any warm-blooded animal, including horses, livestock, pets and people and they tend to feed during the early morning and late afternoon. The legs and belly are the preferred feeding site for stable flies, so if your horse is doing a lot of stomping, there is most likely a stable fly problem. Stable fly bites appear as small bumps and are sore and irritating, causing itching and rubbing.
Try and keep stable flies at bay by keeping stables and outbuildings clean and clear of droppings and dirty, wet bedding . Offer your horse as much protection as possible by investing in a fly sheet, mask or veil here and effective fly repellents. Try to keep your horse as clean as you can. Wash off sweat after riding, keep water buckets clean and filled with fresh water and always wash out feed buckets after use.
Horse flies are large and tough with a powerful, painful bite, slicing through the skin of an animal or human, leaving a sore lump with an ulcerous centre. Horse flies are aggressive and persistent. After a horse fly has fed, the resulting wound can continue to bleed, acting as a source of food for other irritating flies and insects. Such a painful bite can make a horse restless, difficult to handle and often distressed in attempt to rid itself of the pests.
Horse flies are extremely difficult to deter and repel and are active during the hottest part of the day, mainly throughout the mid-summer months. Many commonly-used fly products will kill horse flies, but as they do not tend to linger around a food source for long, larger doses and more frequent applications of insecticides are required to be effective. Homemade repellents are not strong enough due to the robust nature of the horse fly.
Bringing your horse inside into a cool, dark stable during the hottest hours should help protect against horse flies as they do not like dark areas. Again, providing a protective barrier such as a sheet, hood and mask is recommended. Keep stabling and equipment clean and pick up droppings indoors and outside regularly.
Black flies are small, biting flies, often found in large populations on grazing close to sources of running water. Black flies tend to feed around the face, ears and neck and their sharp bite leaves a small, painful lump with a tiny scab. Black flies are the cause of serious animal health problems and their bites cause distress and discomfort, making horses and other animals difficult to handle as a result. Black flies feed outside during the day but are particularly active early in the morning or at dusk. Bites can cause extreme reactions, including anaphylactic shock, sometimes resulting in death.
Daytime stabling, along with ear and head protection in the form of a fly mask with ear covers or Vaseline in the ears can offer much needed protection, in addition to a well-fitting fly sheet and the use of oil-based repellents.
Rolan modelling the Masta Avante Fly Mesh rug
Midges are hugely annoying and distressing for horses. The bites and subsequent feeding of these tiny flies can lead to significant blood loss and extreme irritation. Midges thrive in the calm atmosphere of dusk and dawn in damp conditions and are the cause of sweet-itch, a reaction to their saliva which causes severe rubbing, itching and discomfort and necessitates a particular form of treatment and protection.
Relief from midges can be provided by the regular use of fly repellent, be it wipes, sprays or lotions.
Still confused by the huge range of fly repellent and sweet-itch products on offer? Here are a few R&R recommendations….
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