Help horses fight off midges and flies

Tips and advice on how to manage the summer pests by understanding the breeding environment and using preventative measures. 
Warm, barmy days are always welcomed by us; however the downside is the arrival of flies and midges. These aerial irritants become very annoying to us but even more so to the horses, therefore all possible actions to reduce the problem as much as you can must be applied.

The female flies and midges choose to lay eggs in damp dark habitats therefore long grass, patches of weeds and nettles are all favoured breeding grounds, as is obviously the muck heap, so keep areas tidy.
Standing water and streams are also an attraction to them, which cannot always be avoided, however drains and ditches can be cleared to improve the water flow so not allowing water to become stagnant.

Stable hygiene is also vitally important as fly eggs also breed in dung and damp smelly bedding. Muck out thoroughly and clean the floors regularly, there are many products on the market to help with this process.
Midges are very annoying to us and the horse and although they are very weak fliers they are very troublesome being the main cause of sweet itch and other skin rashes. They tend to fly in swarms at dawn and dusk mainly, which is why stabling during these times is often recommended if at all possible. Windy pastures and chalk based pastures are less susceptible to the midge and the installation of ceiling fans in stabled areas are also hugely beneficial. 
The Horse Flyhorsefly 

These are the most common larger insect we identify with, hovering on dung and stubbornly sucking on our horse's body.  They can be up to 2.5 cms big, normally feeding alone, unlike the swarms of midges. They dislike dark areas such as shelters, barns and stables which is why a horse being pestered by one will often be seen to gallop for cover, in order to lose the flies.

Not only are the visible bumps on the horse's body evidence of the blood suckers, but damage can be done to the horse by stamping at them and galloping around to try and escape the bites. Horse fringes, rugs and fly masks do help, however the most natural protection is other horses, swishing tails over each other. 
Other flies that are a pest include the house fly, the deer fly and the bot fly. All these irritate and haunt the horse throughout dry sunny periods. 

Advice to help manage the problem
  • Put up fly papers in the stables high enough for the horse not to touch or get their tail tangled in. 
  • Worm your horse regularly as per the manufacturer's programme.
  • Consider veils, fringes, nose nets, neck covers and anti-midge/fly turnout rugs.
  • Maintain high standards of hygiene and regularly disinfect the area.
    Practice daily poo-picking of the pasture.
  • Regularly change and monitor water supplies.
 When summer arrives try to make it as enjoyable for your horse as you can by carrying out these simple steps to at least help to alleviate the nuisances of the fly. Your guide to other summer horse health problems Read more