There are many forms of fly repellent that you can use, such as sprays, lotions and bands.
One of the longest-acting forms are spot-on repellents. These are liquids that you apply to your horse’s body in certain areas and they help to keep bugs away for up to two weeks. Make sure you read the instructions on the packaging to make sure you are applying the repellent properly.
Never spray fly spray directly on a horse’s face. Dampen a soft towel with fly spray and wipe it under his eyes and on his ears, being careful not to get it in his eyes. You can also put a roll-on fly repellent on his face. Roll it under his eyes only so that when he sweats it will not drip into his eyes accidentally.
You can also go to the store and get a bingo blotter to use as a home-made fly spray roller. You can buy pre-moistened towelettes that provide easy-to-apply fly repellent in a ready-to-use form.
By using these methods you can be sure that your horse is getting the proper amount of fly repellent at a time. You’ll want to massage a fly cream into his ears if you are riding without a fly bonnet. This will help keep flies from biting the sensitive tissue in his ears.
A fly bonnet totally covers a horse’s ears and has fringe on the end to keep flies away from his eyes.
You could also use specially- treated bands or collars that fasten around your horse’s neck, just behind his ears. These bands have been treated with fly repellent and help to keep flies off of your horse’s ears and face. The manufacturers claim that these bands keep flies away for up to two months.
Always apply fly repellent to your horse before riding or turning him out in buggy weather.
When turning out your horse, use a properly-fitted fly mask to keep flies away from his face while he grazes.
You can buy masks that include ear and nosepieces as well as eye protection to cover as much of his face as possible. Be sure to wash the mask when it gets caked with dirt so your horse can see out of it.
Always put a fly mask on under a halter if you use one for turnout (leather, please) so that pesky flies can’t get under the mask and annoy him.
If you’re using a mask that covers only a portion of his face, be sure to protect the rest of his face, ears and nose with fly repellent.
Even if you’re not going to ride, be sure to take off your horse’s mask every day to make sure that nothing has gotten underneath it and irritated his eyes.
There are fly masks you can buy that you can ride in. They are slightly thinner than regular fly masks so your horse can see through them more easily.
Stick to quiet trail rides while your horse is wearing one of these masks. Horses don’t have the best eyesight in the world, so it’s probably not a great idea to gallop around or jump while your horse is wearing a mask.
If your horse doesn’t like to have things covering his ears, you could turn him out with a fly fringe. A fringe is a browband with thin ropes hanging off it, that fastens tothe headstall of his halter and keeps flies out of his eyes.
You can make a homemade fly fringe using the browband of a bridle. Simply thread the ends of the browband through the halter’s crownpiece and tie foot-long sections of baling twine to the band. This will allow about ten inches of twine to hang down, preventing flies from landing on his face and in his eyes. Do not ride with this fringe on, as it might poke him in the eye if he’s moving quickly.
Did you know that there are fly masks for humans? They fasten to your helmet and cover your face and neck. Look for them where helmets are sold.
This article first appeared in the May/June 2005 issue of Young Rider. Subscribe today!