It’s almost that time again in Northeast Ohio – with the warming temperatures and shedding horses come the flies, gnats, mosquitoes and ticks. Nothing puts a damper on your good mood like swatting tiny gnats out of your face while grooming your horse. Or getting tail whipped in the eye by your trusty steed while saddling up. Luckily, there are ways to make the burden of bugs a lesser problem in the summer!
I’ll start with one of my favorites, and, one of the most important to start earlier in the season if you are utilizing feed thru benefits. There are two basic kinds of feed through supplements – one kind is meant to prevent flies from the inside out and the other kind helps break the cycle of fly populations. The goal of garlic based feed through supplements like Hilton Herbs Bye Bye Fly Garlic Granules and Equilite Herbals Fly Away Garlic is to deter flies from ever landing on your horse. This option may work better in boarding situations when not all horses are fed feed through fly prevention supplements.
The more complex feed through supplements like Farnam Simplifly with Larvastop and Solitude IGR don’t repel adult flies. They actually work by your horse consuming the product, which ends up in the manure and subsequently prevents the future larvae from ever reaching adulthood. This type of feed through takes the cooperation of an entire barn to truly work effectively. Every horse needs to be fed this to stop the fly population around the barn.
With both types of feed through supplements, it’s recommended to start feeding them in early spring, through summer and into fall.
The next type of bug prevention should be started early in the Spring as well since it will essentially create a barrier for your barn. I used the Spartan Mosquito Eradictor for the first time last year and was blown away by the results. I placed the canisters away from my barn early in the year and was able to prevent a large influx of mosquitoes around my barn and pasture. By keeping up with the directions, I was able to keep my property relatively mosquito-free all year. This year at Big Dee’s, we are introducing the Terry Bradshaw 4 Ring Protection Mosquito Free Zone, which works incredibly fast to make a space mosquito free.
Other tried and true methods include the sticky tape, fly bags and timed-spray control systems. I like hanging a few sticky tapes near my barn doorway to catch gnats and the straggler flies, and use a fly bag near the pasture gates (be prepared to change these often – they work VERY well, but get heavy and gross quickly).
Masks, Leg Wraps and Sheets
One of the best investments for bug prevention is a nice fly mask. They range in materials, with or without ears, with or without extended noses or fringe and so many color and pattern options! My go-to is the Cashel mask with ears. It has darts to keep the material off of their eyes, while having a forelock hole and double secure velcro – not to mention fun new patterns every year! I use fly veils when riding in my english tack, but have found the Cashel Quiet Ride to be essential while riding in my western tack.
Leg wraps are another great tool if you have horses with sensitive skin, or in my case a grey gelding that gets bitten pretty badly if he goes out without anything. Fly sheets and scrims are fabulous for turnout and as an accessory for shows and trail rides. Fly sheets are breathable, lightweight and help keep biting insects from a large part of the body. Scrims are useful at shows to keep the bugs from pestering too badly while waiting for your classes.
When it comes to fly sprays, there are so many options. It can be a little overwhelming, but having knowledge on general terms can make the decisions easier. First, there are water and oil-based fly sprays. Each have their pros and cons. Water-based doesn’t attract dust like oil, but it also isn’t as sweat resistant and easily rinses off in rain. Oil-based can last a longer in the elements but can feel a little “heavier” and attract dust. I like having both options in the barn – for an oil based spray I like Pyranha Wipe N Spray and for water based I use Absorbine Ultrashield Ex.
An alternative to chemical-based are the all natural fly sprays. These tend to be environmentally friendly and non-toxic, and serve as a great option for those who want to go green. These products use natural oils like citronella and eucalyptus but need to be applied more regularly. For trail riding, I’ll use a natural-based like Equiderma Neem and Aloe so I can re-apply (lightly) as needed.
Another thing to consider is whether the fly spray is “ready-to-use” or a concentrate. Ready-to-use you can simply apply straight from the bottle, but concentrate needs to be diluted in a separate spray bottle. It’s best to test any product before using it on the entire body. Some horses are sensitive to different ingredients, and it’s better to find out in a small part of skin. Always read the labels carefully and apply as advised – too much can saturate and cause discomfort for the horse, while too little will be ineffective against the biting insects.
Spot Treatments and Balms
The final piece to the bug prevention puzzle are spot-treatment and topical options for the delicate areas of your horse. Roll-on is a popular choice because you can easily focus on areas of the face, like ears and muzzle. My personal favorite are Mug Balm and Belly Balm. I’ll use the Mug Balm on the white markings on my horse’s faces and the Belly Balm on their sheaths to protect from nasty bites. SWAT ointment is another option to protect delicate and difficult areas. Spot treatments like Equi-Spot are great alternative for horses who live in the pasture 24/7. By following the guidelines on each application point, you could help prevent ticks, flies and mosquitoes. The same advice applies for spot treatments, roll-ons and balms – test a small area first before applying like normal.
There are so many tips, tricks and trusted brands when it comes to finding the perfect bug prevention plan for your situation. Here at Big Dee’s, we can help because we have used so many of these products! Feel free to reach out to our team at 1-800-321-2142, through our chat feature on our website (www.bigdweb.com) or through social media!
Written by Marketing Associate, Cassie