Has anyone else noticed an increase in the number of flies over the past week or so? I think the small amount of rain we have had, although much needed for the fields, has potentially caused fly numbers to increase. As ever, many horses are become incredibly irritated by the flies, with some having extreme reactions to being bitten.
Here are my top tips to reduce the risk of your horse being bothered by the flies this summer:
invest in a fly rug - this will not only protect your horse from flies, but may also help to reflect the sun and keep them cooler
consider fly masks or fly fringes, and even fly boots, if you need to protect your horse from flies in other areas
use a fly repellent containing permethrin (e.g. once weekly Switch or once weekly Z-itch) or a cypermethrin containing product (e.g. Deosect)
remember to check the rules for prohibited substances in fly repellents if you horse is competing in affiliated or international competitions
consider a fly gel or cream for areas which you cannot spray such as around the face and eyes - our vets love using a citronella vaseline product for this purpose (such as Equisalve or Protection Plus) - this may also be useful for horses which do not tolerate fly spray being applied
consider stabling your horse at dawn/dusk when the flies are most active
ensure good stable and field hygiene, as flies will be attracted to manure/urine and wet hay/haylage - keep up with your daily poo-picking!
consider fencing off areas of standing water in the field so horses do not have access to these areas
try to avoid making your muck heap close to where horses are stabled/kept
keep your horse clean! - bathing any discharge from the eyes for example (with cooled boiled water and cotton wool), should discourage flies from landing there to feed, and may reduce the risk of conjunctivitis - other areas to ensure are kept clean include udders/sheaths/armpits etc.
use a fan in the stable to increase air flow and blow away the flies
ensure wounds are treated appropriately - this may simply mean clipping and cleaning the wound and keeping it covered as necessary, or may require involvement from one of our vets to advise how best to manage the wound - we want to avoid complications such as flies laying eggs in wounds which can then hatch into maggots
if you horse has a reaction to a fly bite you can try ice-packing or cold-hosing the area to reduce inflammation and swelling, and bathing the skin with salt water - some horses may require anti-inflammatories and even antibiotics if the reaction is severe, in which case we will need to attend to examine your horse
Remember that in some cases, flies can spread infection, and even sarcoids - so act now to get your horse protected. Some horses may react excessively to being bitten, or may even show signs of an allergic reaction. As ever, please contact us for advice if you are worried, or if you are interested in any of the products mentioned in the above blog.
Written By: Jenny Staddon