fly control for horses

Fly Control for Horses: How to Have an Insect-Free Summer

Nothing says summertime like the feeling of the sun on your back, a gentle breeze in your face, and not a cloud in the sky while you ride your horse. And then… flies. Every spring these miniature tormentors come out of hiding to ruin our time at the barn. Not only are flies annoying for both horses and riders, but they can actually spread diseases and parasites. 

Fly control for horses is essential to keep you and your horse happy this summer. Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done. Flies can be difficult to control. And you’ll most likely need different types of horse fly repellent depending on whether you’re riding, grooming, or putting your horse out to pasture. 

Whether you’re looking for advice on choosing the best horse fly spray or are curious about better stable management practices to help control the fly population on your farm, we’ve got answers. Click the headings below to jump to a specific section, or start reading. 


  1. 5 Stable Management Practices to Control Flies
  2. Fly Protection in the Paddock
  3. 5 Ways to Control Flies on Your Next Trail Ride
  4. Choose the Best Fly Spray for You
  5. Fly Spray Alternatives


5 Stable Management Practices to Control Flies

When most equestrians think of fly control for horses, their first instinct may be to reach for their favorite brand of horse fly spray, or other variations of horse fly repellent. What many don’t think about is how to get to the root of the problem. 

Some farms have more issues with flies than others. Why? Because of a combination of factors, including their local environment and stable management practices. While you can’t change whether your barn is near a pond or other stagnant water source, you can improve your barn’s fly problem by following these useful stable management tips. 

Tip #1: Keep Grass Short

stable management practices for fly control for horses

There are many benefits to mowing your pastures and keeping the grass short, such as promoting even grazing and reducing the risk of dew poisoning. One big benefit that isn’t often discussed is mowing as a method of fly control for horses. 

Tall grasses offer protected,  shady spots for insects to rest and hide from birds. Blood-sucking insects, like ticks, also use tall grass to more easily reach their prey. As your horse walks through tall grass, a  tick could easily jump from the grass to your horse and latch on. 

Mow your pastures regularly and try to keep the grass height to between  2 and 4 inches to promote pasture health and cut down on your farm’s insect population. 

Tip #2: Remove Sources of Stagnant Water

That old trough out back that’s holding water from last week’s rainstorm? Yup, time to dump it out. Stagnant water is an excellent breeding environment for mosquitos, gnats, and midges. If you’re unable to completely empty sources of stagnant water, dump it on a regular basis. The more often, the better. 

Unfortunately, our horses’ water buckets are an excellent source of stagnant water, particularly if your horse doesn’t empty their bucket everyday. Since we can’t leave those buckets empty, take some extra time to scrub each bucket and refill it with clean water everyday. Not only will your horse appreciate the clean water, it will also make it less appealing to mosquitoes.

Tip #3: Move that Manure

manure management for fly control for horses

Dealing with manure is a pain for horse owners everywhere. Between mucking out your horse’s stall everyday and figuring out how to get rid of it, manure is a messy subject– both literally and figuratively. Manure storage is a difficult topic for farm owners who may not have many good options. 

Keeping a manure pile too close to the barn or pastures can greatly contribute to your fly population. The decomposing organic waste is not only a breeding ground for horse flies, it also serves as an excellent source of nutrition for the flying pests. By storing your farm’s manure far away from the barn, you’re encouraging flies to move away and leave your horses alone. 

Tip #4: Muck Stalls Often

A dirty stall is like a miniature manure pile. The fresh manure and urine-soaked shavings offer great sources of food for flies. They may even lay their eggs in your horse’s stall! Make cleaning stalls a minimum of once a day a priority. A clean, dry stall holds nothing of interest for flies. But if a dirty stall sits for too long, you’re only attracting more flies into your horse’s space. 

If you have a lot of mosquitoes or midges in your barn, you can also hang a barn-safe fan on the front of your horse’s stall. The extra airflow will make it difficult for these flying insects to get around. Plus, your horse will appreciate the extra breeze and ventilation on hot summer days. 

Tip #5: Treat Your Barn Like Your House

beautiful brown stable against blue sky that practices excellent fly control for horses

Would you ever leave a container of food, uncovered, on your kitchen counter for a long period of time? What about your garbage can, would you leave all of your smelly trash out in the open and uncovered? For most people, the answer to these questions is definitely no. A smelly trash can and unrefrigerated food will stink up your house, is unpleasant to look at, and can be unhygienic– especially the food!

Treat your barn like your house. Flies love nothing more than to make themselves at home in your trash can or grain bin. By tightly covering any trash cans or sources of food in the barn, you’re removing horse fly attractants and protecting your horse’s health. You don’t want to feed grain that could contain fly eggs!

Fly Protection in the Paddock

fly control for horses in the paddock

Equestrians can feel helpless when they have to watch their horse stomping at flies out in the paddock, with no way to help them. Excessive stomping can cause sore hooves and even damage the hoof wall. If your horse is sensitive to biting insects, they can also come in from the pasture covered in itchy hives. 

While horse fly spray is a great place to start, it isn’t always enough to fully protect your horse from flies. When this happens, it’s time to invest in some fly protection clothing for your horse. Fly protection gear creates an impenetrable barrier between your horse and their environment. Biting insects may be able to land, but they’re unlikely to be able to bite through the clothing. Mesh fabric is lightweight and keeps your horse cool in the summer heat. 

Fly protection clothing is hugely beneficial, but be sure that it fits your horse correctly. Ill-fitting sheets and boots can cause painful rubs and hair loss. You may want to only leave fly protection gear on your horse during the day, when the bugs are at their worst. 

If this is your first time using a fly sheet, start off with the basics. The  TuffRider Sport Mesh Fly Sheet protects your horse from their withers to their tail. Strong, soft, and breathable 190 gram Polyester fabric protects your horse against bugs, and even reflects the sun to prevent overheating and coat bleaching. A comfortable shoulder lining prevents rubbing, while stainless steel twin buckle front closures make it easy to take on and off. 

If your horse is extra sensitive to flies, upgrade your fly sheet to the  TuffRider Power Mesh Fly Sheet. This sheet features a belly band to protect your horse’s sensitive underside, while a detachable neck cover and extra large tail flap ensure your horse is covered from ears to tail. The lightweight, durable fabric is lined with a soft shoulder lining to reduce rubbing. Shoulder gussets allow for unrestricted comfort so your horse can play all day long with their pasture mates. 

Combine your fly sheet with a fly mask to protect your horse’s sensitive ears, nose, and eyes. Flies are particularly attracted to the moisture that’s found in these areas of the face. A durable  fly mask that covers the ears and nose deters flies and prevents them from setting up shop near your horse’s face. The breathable nylon micromesh also protects from 70% of UV rays and safeguards your horse’s eyes, thanks to a peaked design.

Don’t stop there! Finish arming your horse against flies with Jacks Shoofly Leggins. These unique fly boots have sewn-in, durable plastic stays to prevent sagging. The open top design allows for optimal air circulation and relies on heavy-duty Velcro® fasteners to ensure your horse can’t get them off. The chemical-free design prevents biting insects from landing on your horse’s legs and even prevents bot flies from laying eggs. 

5 Ways to Control Flies on Your Next Trail Ride

horse fly repellent for trail rides, woman riding chestnut horse through field

A relaxing trail ride can quickly become aggravating when flies come around! When your usual horse fly repellent doesn’t cut it for a trail ride through the woods, it’s time to elevate your fly control methods. Most equestrians know exactly what to reach for when it comes to fly control for horses in the pasture, but under saddle gets a little trickier since you want your horse to have full freedom of movement and be able to see clearly.

If your horse isn’t particularly bothered by flies, start simple with an  Equine Couture Fly Bonnet. This bonnet will cover your horse’s sensitive ears to prevent flies from landing on and biting them. Your horse’s ears might be a hot spot for fly activity, thanks to their dark interior. Because the skin is so thin here, your horse can actually start to bleed and develop a  rash from the irritation. Plus, thanks to the Equine Couture Fly Bonnet, your horse will look stylish. 

If your horse wears a fly bonnet, but is still tossing their head on your trail ride, it might be time to take your horse fly repellent up a notch. The  Cashel Quiet Ride Fly Mask offers full coverage from their ears to their noseband. Modeled after the Crusader, this fly mask is made with lighter nylon mesh that fastens quickly and securely without affecting your horse’s vision. 

Don’t underestimate the power of a good horse fly spray!  EcoVet Fly Spray is a new alternative to traditional fly products containing pyrethrins or essential oils. Instead, it uses a proprietary mixture of natural food-grade fatty acids and silicone oil that creates a zone of repellency around your horse. And it doesn’t just work on flies– it repels gnats, mosquitoes, ticks, lice and more. 

Take advantage of your horse’s natural fly defense systems– invest in a fly whisk! A fly whisk is essentially an imitation horse tail on the end of a crop-like stick. Usually made of genuine horse hair, a fly whisk allows you to shoo flies off your horse while you ride. The familiar sensation may even remind your horse of hanging out with their pasture mate in the paddock. 

Don’t forget to protect yourself, too! If you’re aggravated and moving around in the saddle trying to swat flies off yourself, your horse is sure to become grumpy. Wear a long-sleeve shirt that will keep you cool on even the hottest days, like the  TuffRider Ventilated Sport Shirt. Made of technical fabric, this long-sleeve shirt is lined with ventilated mesh fabric under the arms. With a variety of color options, this is sure to be a shirt that matches your personal style. 

Choose the Best Fly Spray for You

EcoVet horse fly spray

Have you stepped into the fly spray aisle at your local tack store lately? With all of the options available, choosing the right one for your horse can be overwhelming. We’ve chosen our favorite horse fly sprays from five different categories to make your life a little easier. 

Go All Natural

This cutting-edge, all-natural horse fly repellent doesn’t rely on essential oils or citronella. Instead,  EcoVet uses a proprietary blend of fatty acids and silicone oil that creates a zone of repellency around your horse. This zone of repellency prevents flies, gnats, mosquitoes, lice, ticks, and more from landing on your horse. If you’ve tried essential oil-based horse fly sprays before and haven’t been impressed, try EcoVet.

Reap the Benefits of Citronella

Perfect for the equestrian on a budget, Bronco Plus Citronella Scent is a non-oily insecticide that you can use as either a spray-on or wipe-on. Made in the USA, this horse fly spray has a long list of insects that it repels and kills, including stable, horse, face, deer, house and horn flies plus mosquitoes, gnats, ticks, fleas, chiggers and lice. 

Sweat-Resistant Protection

Do you live in a hot, humid environment with a horse that is prone to sweating? Try a sweat-resistant horse fly spray like Ultrashield Sport. Designed to stay on even through the heaviest workouts, this horse fly repellent stays active for up to 14 days after application. The water-based formula won’t make your horse’s coat oily and will protect from biting insects, including flies, gnats and mosquitoes.  

Insecticide Plus Coat Conditioner

Is your horse suffering from dandruff? Does their coat feel dry and coarse? You may want to try  Pyranha Wipe n Spray horse fly repellent. This citronella-scented, wipe-on insecticide contains lanolin as a coat conditioner, which will leave your horse’s coat feeling soft with a beautiful sheen. A heavy-duty horse fly spray, Pyranha kills and repels biting flies, mosquitoes, gnats, and horn flies. 

Fly Spray Alternatives

close up of horsefly, horse fly repellent

When horse fly spray just isn’t heavy-duty enough for your horse, you may want to try one of our fly spray alternatives. These roll-on and spot-on topicals will help you protect your horse from biting insects this summer. 

Does your horse have an open wound? Flies can cause serious health problems and prevent your horse’s wound from healing.  SWAT is a thick, clear horse fly repellent ointment that is designed to protect wounds, open sores, scratches and abrasions from dirt, filth and disease-carrying flies. The pyrethrin formula repels house flies, stable flies, face flies and horn flies, and kills them on contact. And, if your horse is particularly sensitive to flies near their eyes and ears, SWAT is ideal for use on these delicate areas. 

Are you tired of stopping by the barn to spray your horse everyday? Equi-Spot Spot On insect repellent is designed to protect horses for up to 14 days at a time. When properly applied, Equi-Spot creates three Defense Zones that repel insects, such as house flies, stable flies, face flies, horn flies, eye gnats, and ticks. The water and sweat-resistant formula is perfect for the horse that lives outside 24/7. 

Last but not least, check out the unique formula behind Pro-Zap War Paint Paste. This roll-on insecticide is designed for full body fly control for horses against face flies, horn flies, stable flies, house flies, black flies, and bot flies. The slow-release formula attaches to the hair and releases the insecticide over a period of eight weeks. But be careful if you would like your horse to look its best while competing this summer– War Paint Paste may be visible on your horse’s hair. 

Enjoy Your Insect-Free Summer

By following these tips, you may not be able to get rid of those pesky flies altogether, but we hope you’ll be able to cut down on your farm’s fly population. When it comes to protecting your horse from flies, ticks, mosquitoes, and more, turn to We have everything you need for fly control for horses– from horse fly spray to fly sheets to fly boots, we’ve got it all. 

Click here to shop our selection of horse fly repellent.

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