How to Deter Horse & March Flies

Horses will require some protection against flies in spring and summer.
Horses will require some protection against flies in spring and summer. (Image: Images)

Horse flies (known as March flies in Australia) are biting insects of the family Tabanidae. They breed near stables and manure heaps and attack humans and other animals. These flies feed on blood and their bite causes pain, swelling, itching and, sometimes, allergic reactions such as hives and wheezing. They have a lifespan of only one or two months, and are at their most active in the warmer weather. Horse flies can be very persistent, but can be deterred insect repellents and environmental controls.

Things You'll Need

  • Equine fly repellent
  • Human fly repellent
  • Fly rug
  • Fly mask
  • Long sleeved clothing
  • Pitchfork

Spray your horse all over with equine fly repellent, taking care not to get too close to its ears or eyes. Pay particular attention to sensitive areas such as neck and belly. Apply human fly repellent to exposed areas of your own skin.

Fit your horse with a fly rug. These lightweight, protective rugs are made from sturdy mesh that horse flies can not penetrate. Choose a rug that covers the belly and neck areas. Add a fly mask to protect the horse's ears and eyes.

Control the environment. Flies breed in piles of manure and compost heaps. Remove droppings from the field on a daily basis and arrange for manure heaps to be taken away regularly. Once a week, turn the heaps with a pitchfork to destroy fly eggs. Wear long-sleeved shirts.

Check your horse regularly for signs of fly bites. Lumps in certain areas can catch on tack and become infected. Treat any infected bites with an antiseptic cream. Apply fly repellent twice a day.

Tips & Warnings

  • The most effective sprays against March flies are those containing DEET. Alternatively, you can make your own. Effective ingredients are garlic, vinegar, citronella oil, lavender oil and tea tree oil.
  • Feed supplements are also available that contain anti-fly ingredients. These are diffused through the horse's skin after consumption. If you cannot visit your horse every day, this offers some protection against horse flies.

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