A horsefly bite is a problem for every horse owner, especially throughout the summer months. As if the regular house fly was not irritating enough, the horse fly is just as annoying and much more painful. So who are these angry creatures and how can we stop them from hurting our horses?
What is a horse fly?
The horse fly is one of the most common flying insects that are likely to attack your horse. They can be between 5mm-25mm in body length, appearing as black or grey in colour. The reason that they are such an issue to horse owners all comes down to the female. The female horse fly feeds on blood so is equipped with sharp mouthparts. These blades tear into tissues and blood vessels, causing blood to flow to the wounds. They can then suck up the blood using their sponge-like mouths. This can be very painful to both horse and owner alike, also opening the way for infection and screwworm attacks. In some cases, bites can also spread diseases such as Equine Infectious Anemia.
Why are horse flies biting my horse?
The female horsefly needs blood in order to yield fertile fly eggs. Horses are often in areas where horse flies are prevalent, such as woodland or near to areas of water. This means they become easy targets. Horseflies rarely venture into darker areas so stabling your horse could offer them protection. They tend to emerge in June and July, as they are most active in warmer climates, so watch out for sunny days!
What does a horsefly bite look like?
Horsefly bites are typically a combination of painful pimples and small lumps surrounding a central ulcer/sore. When checking your horse you should ensure to inspect their underside, legs, neck and withers as these are areas most susceptible to biting.
How can I treat horsefly bites?
Horsefly bite treatment should begin with applying an icepack and bathing the wound in salt water. A mild horse shampoo can then be utilized to help remove bacteria and reduce inflammation. A suitable shampoo would be Groom Away Citronella Body Wash. This offers an organic natural remedy that will cleanse, balance and nourish your horse. Similarly, Carr & Day & Martin Gallop Medicated Shampoo gives a high specification formula containing antibacterial agents and natural oils. These will soothe and calm irritated, sore, damaged and sensitive skin. It is then advised to apply an anti-itch preparation. This could be colloidal oatmeal, calamine lotion or a zinc oxide cream such as Carr & Day & Martin Wound Cream. These steps should aid your horse in comfort and recovery. Then all that is left to do is to prevent the horse from rubbing the wound, as this will slow recovery and increase risk of infection.
How can I prevent it from happening again?
In terms of horseflies, prevention is much less painful than a cure! When helping to make your horses invincible, there are plenty of steps to place into action. A word of warning when combatting flies is that homemade fly repellents are unlikely to hold up to the horsefly. They are simply not strong enough to discourage them!
Firstly, you should protect the horse itself. This can be done through animal-friendly insecticides. We suggest that you use wipes rather than a spray when coating your horse. This gives a more even coverage and it is easier to ensure you have not missed anywhere. Fly Away Max Strength Wet Wipes have the strongest ever natural formula and outperform chemical alternatives. Alongside the medicinal protection, we suggest that you form a barrier between your horse and the insects. This can be through the use of fly turnout rugs, neck covers and fly masks. The next step is to combat the area in which your horse lives. Spray stables with insecticides, specifically ones including permethrin or cypermethrin. These are known to work effectively against horse flies. We suggest Fly Away Fly Free Zone as it stays in place for up to 14 days, making it very effective, long-lasting and economical. You can also place fans within the stables to blow the flies away, while also keeping your horse nice and cool on warmer days!
What happens if I get bitten?
Not only can these flies hurt your horse, but they can also bite you too! If this happens, make sure to not scratch the wound despite the itchiness. This will make it worse and put you at risk of infection. Firstly, clean it with warm water. Do not put any other product on it as the aim is to keep the wound as clean as possible. The next step is to ice it, this will reduce inflammation and numb the pain. In the case of horsefly bites, there is also a risk of allergy, so if you feel dizzy, weak, are wheezing or have swollen skin, contact a doctor immediately.
With all these steps in place, you can stay bite-free all summer long!