Flies carry equine diseases and cause great discomfort to horses. During the spring and summer months they can make your horse’s life miserable. They buzz, bite, suck blood and feed on secretions around the eyes, ears and mouth. This means every horse owner faces a battle with these bugs at some point throughout the year. Protecting your horse from flies is essential.
With ailments ranging from Sweet Itch to Equine Infectious Anemia, flying insects are a danger to your horse’s health. As well as health risks, there are other issues that can result in severe discomfort. When it’s hot outside, your horse will want to remain as inactive as possible to keep their temperature down. However the constant pestering by flies is likely to agitate them. This causes them to move and stomp in response to the irritation. This in turn increases their body temperature and leaves them feeling hot and uncomfortable.
We’ve put together this guide to battling the bugs this summer, to help you to keep your horse as cool, calm and comfortable as possible.
Protecting your horse from flies -Summer Sheets & Fly Rugs
These rugs give your horse the body coverage they need during the summer months. They come in varying levels of protection, catering to even the most sensitive of horses.
Fly rugs are made from a fine durable mesh designed to prevent even tiny midges from being able to land on. The mesh is soft, flexible and highly breathable, ensuring they remain as cool and comfortable as possible.
Fly rugs also provide great sun protection, often designed in white or silver to reflect the sun’s rays. This keeps your horse’s temperature down and prevents sun damage to their coat and skin.
There are a number of factors to consider when purchasing a fly rug. Deciding what level of protection your horse needs is a great place to start. With options available for almost every horse’s requirements, you’re bound to find the perfect solution.
Which fly rug?
For horses that are highly senstive to flies, the Rambo Hoody Fly Rug is a great option. This rug is specifically designed for horses that suffer from Sweet Itch. It has been constructed in a durable, very closely woven, 1000 Denier polyester to prevent irritation from even the tiniest flies. It’s integrated neck/hood, supersized tail flap and full wrap belly wrap provide total coverage. All the while the silky neck, shoulder and mane lining soothe irritated skin and prevent rubbing. This rug also provides fantastic UV protection, making it equally useful for lighter coloured horses who risk burning.
Get your Rambo Hoody Fly Rug here >
For slightly more flexible protection, without sacrificing on effectiveness or coverage, we suggest the Amigo Bug Buster Vamoose Fly Rug. Treated with Vamoose, a powerful anti-insect technology that repels flies, this rug is perfect. The extra depth of the rug allows it to wrap fully around the horse’s belly for great coverage. The deep cut front and rear leg arches promote full freedom of movement. It has a detachable hood and is compatible with the Horseware liner system, meaning it can be used with a waterproof fly rug liner. This gives adaptable levels of protection. The soft knitted polyester fabric is absorbent and strong. It also has great sun reflecting properties for a better defense against UV rays.
Get your Amigo Bug Buster Vamoose Fly Rug here >
Sadly we can’t predict the weather throughout the summer months. So sometimes you might need a fly rug with a bit of extra protection. The Weatherbeeta ComFiTec 600D/Mesh Fly Rug acts as a turnout and fly rug in one. It has a waterproof 600 Denier ripstop upper panel for those unexpected showers. The mesh lower sections allow for maximum airflow and protect against biting flies. It has an extended neck, an elasticated and adjustable belly wrap, and a full wrap tail wrap for great all-round coverage. It is cut with traditional side gussets for freedom of movement.
Get your Weatherbeeta ComFiTec 600D/Mesh Fly Rug here >
Some fly rugs are packed full of additional features. However sometimes you just need some basic protection to keep them happy and fly free on a hot day. The Masta Basic Fly Rug is excellent value, providing effective head to tail coverage from biting flies and midges. This lightweight, soft polyester mesh rug has an integrated neck and tail flap. It fastens with twin front closures, touch tape closures on the neck, and cross surcingles.
Get your Masta Basic Fly Rug here >
A summer sheet is an alternative to a traditional fly rug, acting as a defense against both flies and sun. It also gives them more effective protection against dust and dirt. This is the perfect option for keeping your horse clean and tidy while travelling to shows. They are usually made of a lightweight and breathable polyester or cotton to keep the sun off their back and prevent overheating.
These versatile sheets work efficiently in both the field and the stables. There’s no need to worry about changing from one rug to another when moving your horse in and out.
Which summer sheet?
Here are a couple of our favourites…
The Weatherbeeta Summer Sheet Combo Lite is a cool and breathable 190g polycotton summer sheet. It has a combo neck and full wrap tail flap for full coverage. It has a wither relief pad and traditional side gusset for comfort and freedom of movement. The lined shoulders, mane and tail prevent uncomfortable rubbing. This great rug is perfect for keeping the dirt and bugs at bay whilst saving their skin from the heat of the sun. This rug also comes in a classic cut with a standard neck for horses that need more basic body protection.
Get your Weatherbeeta Summer Sheet Combo Lite here >
The Kool Coat Airstream Combo is ideal for use in summer to keep your horse cool and flies away. The lightweight 270g polycotton upper section across the horse’s back and neck keeps them safe from the effects of harmful UV rays. The mesh side panels allow for maximum airflow keeping them nice and cool.
Get your Kool Coat Airstream Combo here >
Fly masks are designed to be used in combination with a fly rug. They protect the most vulnerable bits of your horse from pesky bugs and insects. These parts are the eyes, jaw, ears and muzzle. These sensitive areas can be highly susceptible to becoming sore and irritated if not protected correctly.
Flies cause great discomfort by feeding on secretions from the eyes, nose, and mouth. This can carry diseases including equine infectious anemia, anthrax, contagious conjunctivitis and eyeworms.
Fly masks, like fly rugs, are also constructed in a soft and durable mesh fabric. The soft edging offers a close and comfortable fit. Getting the right size fly mask is essential for the comfort and protection. A correctly fitted fly mask should provide effective sun and insect protection. However it will still allow your horse full, unobstructed vision, and the ability to graze freely and easily.
They come in a variety of styles, allowing you to tailor the level of protection to your horse’s specific needs;
Full Head – Covers the entire area from nose to ears for horses that are easily irritated by flies and need full face coverage.
Partial Head – Covers the ears, eyes and top of the face, providing effective everyday protection from flies and sun.
Partial Head Without Ears – The same as the above but without ear coverage for horses that prefer not to have their ears touched or confined.
Which fly mask?
If your horse is particularly sensitive we recommend the Rambo Fly Mask Plus Vamoose. This fly mask has a highly durable textile body with soft polyester ear material. The comfortable fleece edging has been treated with Vamoose, an effective and powerful anti-insect technology. It features a removable nose cover and a reinforced band to keep the material away from the horse’s eyes. Providing full coverage, this mask is particularly useful for horses with lighter coloured noses prone to sunburn.
Get your Rambo Fly Mask Plus Vamoose here >
Alternatively, a great all-rounder is the Weatherbeeta ComFiTec Airflow Mask. Constructed in a soft and durable polyester mesh, it provides full ear protection. It fastens with an adjustable touch tape closure for the ultimate fit. This mask is also edged with soft binding material for the comfort of your horse. It is designed to match the Weatherbeeta ComFiTec Airflow Fly Rug for a smart, all-over defense.
Get your Weatherbeeta ComFiTec Airflow Mask here >
If your horse prefers not to have their ears covered, the Mark Todd Fly Mask Without Ears is the perfect solution. This ultra soft mesh mask still gives great coverage of all the other vulnerable areas. It’s fleece lined binding gives extra comfort. This mask is lightly elasticated behind the ears/top of the head. It fastens with adjustable touch tape closures under the chin, for a secure and comfortable fit.
Get your Mark Todd Fly Mask Without Ears here >
Finally, the Roma No Headcollar Fly Fringe gives your horse a bit of extra defense against those pesky flies. It also removes the need for them to wear a headcollar whilst out in the field. It comes in an array of beautiful colours too!
Get your Roma No Headcollar Fly Fringe here >
Fly repellents come in many forms, including fly sprays, gels, roll-ons and wipes. These work well at repelling bugs such as gnats, flies, midges, mosquitoes and ticks. These sprays will often include active ingredients such as organic pyrethrin. This is derived from chrysanthemum plants or oils, as well as other essences that repel insects, including peppermint, cedar or citronella. Other sprays and roll-ons can also include synthetically created permethrin, which is a strong deterrent to bugs.
When buying any fly repellent it’s important to know it’s ingredients. Many substances can act as an irritant to horses. Whether your repellent contains something like DEET or citronella is a personal choice. We stock a range of natural insect repellents that are HSE approved and guaranteed to be safe.
Carr & Day & Martin Equimist 360 Natural Insect Repellent –
This water-based formula contains citriodiol, an effective natural repellent produced from Eucalyptus citriodora oil. It provides a safe, long-lasting solution. With Equimist 360 technology, this spray can be used effectively at any angle, even with the dispenser upside down. It is ideal for hard to reach areas such as the belly and undercarriage, resulting in a perfect finish every time.
Get your Carr & Day & Martin Equimist 360 Natural Insect Repellent here >
NAF Off Extra Effect Gel –
Perfect for horses who don’t take well to sprays. This naturally effective water-based gel formula will keep flies at bay, and is easily applied to the horse’s coat by hand or with a sponge.
Get your NAF Off Extra Effect Gel here >
Fly Away Citronella Free Wipes –
This 50 pack of single use wipes has been formulated using a strong natural herbal solution. It is suitable for all horses, even those sensitive to citronella. The wipes leave no trace after application and improve coat condition and shine. These wipes contain no citronella or DEET.
Get your Fly Away Citronella Free Wipes here >
Fly Away Defleqt Roll On –
HSE approved for safety and effectiveness, this roll on repellent is a powerful natural formula containing citronella oil, that can be applied all over the coat, avoiding contact with the eyes and ears. Daily use of this roll on has a building effect on the horse’s coat, to aid the prevention of flying insects.
Get your Fly Away Defleqt Roll On here >
These repellents are all designed to prevent the insects from landing on your horse, but they will not kill the bugs. For this you need a fly spray that contains an insecticide. These are not to be used on your horse’s skin under any circumstances as they too act as an irritant. Always be sure to check the label before applying.
Our first choice for an insecticide based spray is Horseware’s Fly Away Fly Free Zone. Regular spraying of horseboxes, stables and rugs will leave a residue that kills flying and crawling bugs on contact. Approved by DEFRA, the effects of this spray last up to 30 days and assist in providing BIO SECURE protection by helping to reduce the spread of infectious diseases transmitted by flies and midges.
Get your Fly Away Fly Free Zone here >
There are also a number of homemade fly repellent recipes you can try. Try mixing some eucalyptus oil in with water and applying it to your horse using a cloth. Or mixing four parts water to one part lavender oil, which will work wonders! However, avoid applying either of these solutions to any area above the horse’s eyes. This is bcause perspiration could cause it to run into their eyes resulting in irritation.
For more fly defense products, why not check out our full collection of Fly Rugs & Summer Sheets or Fly Repellents?
Want to know more about fly bites and how to deal with them? Check out our guide to the prevention and treatment of fly bites here >