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Horse Flies – Keep Them Under Control and Off Your Horses

Flies are a great annoyance but they also present a danger to your horse. Whether you are dealing with face flies or the much more serious stable flies, horse flies and even deer flies, it will pay to have a pest management plan to combat them.

The main danger is a potential serious eye infection that could easily occur if the flies around your horses aren’t controlled.

Probably the first step in any kind of elimination program is to inhibit the breeding of flies. You will need to control the moisture in your stable as well as the manure. This translates into daily stable duty chores involving the removal of manure as well as uneaten feed. The manure should be spread very thinly to have it dry out quickly which will further destroy the habitat for fly larvae.

Field Shelters
Flies tend to be more active near hedges and under trees. This is why you will often find your horses standing in the middle of a field, even in hot weather. The flies will be a lot less active in the sun and heat. The horses will happily stand in the midday heat, but then you have the danger of sunburn and coat bleaching.

By erecting a field shelter, your horses will be able to get out of the heat and away from the flies. Make sure that you do not site your field shelter too close to hedges as the flies will be more active here. Aim to keep the shelter around 3.0m away from hedges and not under any trees.

Mobile Field Shelters are probably the best to use as if you discover the place you initially put the shelter becomes over run with flies, you can simply tow it to another part of the paddock until you discover the best location, with the least amount of flies.

Managing The Fly’s Breeding Habits
Since some flies – mostly houseflies – lay their eggs in your horse’s stool, you may add feed-through products which will effectively impair the flies’ favourite breeding ground by sterilizing it, thus killing off any hatching larvae in the manure.

The feed-through itself is non-toxic to the horse, but it will have a distinctive effect on the flies. It is imperative that every horse in your barn or pasture will eat this substance, since otherwise the flies will simply zero in on the untreated animals.

Other kinds of flies will prefer other living environments. For example, stable flies prefer to breed in manure that is combined with straw, but also in wet straw, grass clippings, moist soil, and even grain. Since these kinds of flies are hard to control.

Finally if all else fails in your attempt to control the fly population then you may need to use insecticides. I personally do not like to see this option used as I wonder about the long term effects on the horses.
The goal of the entire fly management program is to have as few flies left to kill as possible. You will need to be cautious around your horses and it is imperative that you read the manufacturer’s label thoroughly and follow the directions closely. Once again, there is a wide variety of insecticides available; there are topical sprays, foggers, and also misters. Some come in the form of strips laced with insecticide but they may not be safe to use in enclosed areas.

Fly bait will work on the insects that do not feed on blood – as is the case with stable flies – thus it will only work on house flies. Another important method of fly management is proper weed and vegetation control. Whatever insecticide you may decide to use, make absolutely certain that it is labeled for the use around horses, and that it is safe to use on bedding, inside stables, inside enclosed areas, or wherever you will plan to use it.

A final mode of control program involves repellents that are applied directly to your horse. These may take the forms of shampoos, lotions, and other kinds of applications that will bring the repellant in contact with the horse. Effectiveness of the repellent depends in large part on its staying power; the latter depends on its base substances.

For example, oil based products may stay on longer than water based repellents, and so you need to be aware how often you need to re-apply the particular substance purchased. Mechanical repellants include clip-on repellent strips that are attached to the bridle, fly masks, and also fly shakers.

With the hot, dry summer we are experiencing this year, fly’s seem to be more prevalent. By following these guidelines, your horses will be more comfortable and will avoid the common ailments associated with fly’s.

Good luck, and do please let me know how you are coping with flies and if you have any tips on how to control flies, please do leave a comment for our other horsey readers.

The Stable Doctor
Advice is given without legal responsibility

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