Flies can not only be irritating and spoil your horse's down-time in the field, but can also cause reactions and infections that can require veterinary attention. To protect your horse from insects including horse flies, midges and house flies, you can cover them in protective wear including fly boots, masks and rugs, and apply insect repellent in the form of fly sprays or topical creams and gels. Shop your essential fly protection products at Houghton Country today.
Just as we get into the summer months and start to look forward to enjoying summer days out with our four legged friends, horse flies, house flies and midges wake up and it feels as if they come to spoil our fun. These insects can not only be a nuisance, but can cause reactions in your horse that need veterinary attention, prevent them from being able to be ridden, and cause extreme discomfort. Flies hate windy and exposed conditions, so keeping your horse on top of a hill is ideal for protecting them from flies, but of course this is not possible for every horse owner. If your horse is turned out near trees or water, it is more likely that lots of flies will be sharing their grazing, and they are likely to especially benefit from good protective measures against insects.
All of us here at Houghton Country have between us tried lots of protective measures to keep our horses comfortable when the flies are rife, and we stock a broad range of sprays, creams and gels to deter insects, as well as protective wear such as fly rugs, boots, masks and nose nets.
My horse is itchy after being bitten by midges - what can I do?
If you often see your horse scrubbing on fence posts, gates or their stable, it may be that they are suffering from a condition called sweet itch. Sweet itch is an allergy to midge bites, meaning that when a midge bites your horse, the horse will become very itchy. Sweet itch can result in very sore, even bleeding, patches, usually at the mane and dock of the tail, but also the face, and sometimes all over the horse’s body. Fly protection will help to deter midges, and a sweet itch rug designed specifically to protect against midges will help. Itching can be soothed with anti-itch shampoos and topical ointments, before applying insect repellent. It is advised that you speak to your vet if you own a sweet itch sufferer. You may find our Sweet Itch Guide helpful if this sounds like your horse.
Which fly spray is best for my horse?
Different horse owners will swear by different sprays, so finding your favourite can sometimes be a case of trial and error. DEET is an ingredient found in many fly sprays that is effective in deterring insects and preventing fly bites. Citronella is another ingredient that flies hate, and one commonly used in insect repellents for both humans and horses. Fly sprays should help deter insects including flies and midges but is unlikely to give your horse complete protection. A fly rug alongside fly spray is likely to give the horse the most protection possible. There are also ointments available that can be applied with a cloth if your horse is sensitive to sprays, and these are effective if you are looking for increased protection at thin-skinned areas like the sheath or udders, underneath the belly, and the face.
Does my horse need a fly rug?
The effect of fly repellents does wear off, whereas a fly rug will keep the horse protected all day. A fly rug will help protect the horse from insects by providing a barrier that insects cannot easily break through. The tighter the mesh of the fly rug the more difficult it is for insects to penetrate, hence the face sweet itch rugs are woven so tightly to prevent midges, which are very small, from making contact with the horse. A fly rug is advisable even for horses that are not especially sensitive to fly bites, as flies can be very irritating. Fly rugs are primarily intended for use during turnout, but ride on fly rugs are available if you find your horse is bothered by flies whilst ridden. The most effective fly protection is good protective wear such as a fly rug, mask and boots, with fly repellent sprayed on top and additionally applied to areas that the protective wear does not cover.
Does my horse need a fly mask?
Some horses will develop watery, sore eyes when exposed to flies, and these horses will benefit from being turned out with a fly mask. Other horses are not as sensitive, but it is still advisable to protect their eyes and face with a fly mask, as eye infections caused by flies can be serious. Designs with and without ears and/or a nose are available. A nose covering is especially beneficial to horses that have a pink nose that is susceptible to sunburn or a horse with a pollen sensitivity, while ears ensure no annoying insects can buzz around the horse’s ears. Nose nets and fly veils can be used on horses to protect their muzzle and ears while being ridden. Many horses lose their fly masks easily in the field, and if your horse has developed a trick to get theirs off, it may be worth putting a fieldsafe headcollar on over the top to help to secure it.
Do nose nets work for headshaking horses?
Horses can headshake for numerous reasons, and it can be difficult to establish the cause of the horse’s headshaking. Many horses headshake due to sensitivity to dust, insects and pollen, and a nose net can provide some relief from all of these triggers. Moreover, if the horse has a pink muzzle that is prone to sunburn, a nose net gives some cover to the muzzle. A nose net will not alleviate every horse’s headshaking, as headshaking can be caused by many more reasons than pollen or insect sensitivity, but these are common causes of headshaking and if your horse is a headshaker a nose net is certainly worth a try. Many owners anecdotally report a huge improvement in their horse’s headshaking when wearing a nose net.
Insects including horse flies, midges and house flies may seem nothing more than irritating, but can cause extreme itching leading to sores and bruises, reactions that require veterinary attention, as well as distress. If your horse is out in the summer months it is well worth taking any measures you can to keep your horse comfortable, and you will quickly find the right lotions and potions, coupled with protective wear, that are effective for your horse. We always advise patch testing any new spray, cream or ointment on your horse before using it on them, as some horses can react adversely to some ingredients.
If you are interested in finding out more about how to effectively protect your horse from flies, you may find our How to Protect your Horse from Flies guide helpful.