Your mare stands relaxed in the field, dozing in the summer sun and occasionally swishing her tail at flies. Your gelding, on the other hand, stomps, shakes and sometimes even works himself into a lather trying to evade insects. Why some horses are more bothered by insects than others isn’t clear, but you’ll want to provide extra protection for these sensitive sorts.
• Fly sprays work well, but some are more effective than others on specific populations of insects. Try a few brands and formulations to find the one that seems most effective in your situation. Also, be sure to apply the spray according to the label directions and on a relatively clean horse; spraying clods of mud that will fall off won’t do your horse much good.
• Ointments, such as Vaseline or those that contain fly repellents, create a thicker barrier against insects on sensitive skin.These may be helpful around the eyes, inside the ears or in the udder/sheath area.
• Fly sheets and wraps provide excellent physical barriers against insects. If they fit well, they tend to stay in place. Keep in mind, however, that even a thin layer of fabric can make a horse hotter in the steamy summer months. And you need to check a horse wearing summer sheets as often as you do one wearing a winter blanket---take it off and look the horse over daily.
• Barn fans can deter mosquitoes and other weak fliers. Horses quickly learn where to stand to make the most of this “no-fly zone.” You can mount a simple box fan to the front of a stall with bungee cords or install an agriculture-grade fan made specifically for livestock. In each case, closely monitor the condition of the cord and motor throughout the summer to prevent a fire.
This article first appeared in EQUUS issue #453, June 2015.