Flies are not just a nuisance for your horse — because they can carry disease, they’re a hazard as well. But how many times have you tried a horse fly spray that didn’t live up to the hype? As enthusiastic equestrians ourselves, we’ve had the same experience! We’ve tested dozens of sprays to find the ones that work best. In this post, we’re sharing our tips for how to best use sprays so they’re most effective, and the six most effective horse fly sprays we discovered.
Why a Horse Fly Spray is Needed
Keeping your horse healthy and safe means implementing a fly-management plan to reduce these pests as much as possible. Unfortunately, you can’t eliminate flies entirely. But you can make great headway in reducing them. The best way to reduce flies is to make the area around your horse, and your horse itself, less hospitable to them. Your plan will include things like:
- Removing nearby water sources
- Tightly containing trash bins
- Keeping the area clean of manure
- Using fans to circulate air
- Pasturing horses away from livestock
- Using barriers like fly sheets, masks, and boots that cover the horse to provide protection from flies
- Using traps designed to remove flies
Barn spray systems can be installed, running tubing around your barn and dispensing fine droplets of fast-acting insecticide in the air periodically throughout the day. However, these systems can be costly to set up, and they kill helpful insects alongside flies. Some horses (and people) may also experience a reaction to the insecticide as well, so they’re often not the best solution.
An effective solution that will improve the environment for your horse is to treat the horse itself. Fly sprays are a useful and cost-effective way to help manage this issue.
How to Use Horse Fly Sprays
If you haven’t used a horse fly spray before, you’ll want to get the horse acclimated to the sound of a spray bottle before using it. Then, it’s a good idea to curry and brush your horse thoroughly to remove loose dirt and hair before applying the fly spray. Make sure to read the manufacturer’s instructions as some may suggest that you brush hair against the direction of growth as you spray. After spraying, be sure to wait an adequate amount of time for the spray to dry. This will prevent the heat and pressure in the saddle area from interacting with the spray and causing irritation.
Start at the hooves, working your way up, making sure to not spray on the horse’s face directly. To cover the face, spray the treatment on a rag and then apply to the face. Wipe in a downward motion over eyes (instead of up) to prevent the treatment from getting into the eyes, and wipe down inside and outside of the ears. Take a rag and wipe down the midline as well.
Horse fly sprays can be used whenever they’re needed. They can be used as a daily repellant if you find consistent issues, or you can apply when you see your horse is having an issue. Check the bottle to see how long the treatment will remain effective — some last for hours, but others can last for multiple days or even weeks.
6 Best Fly Sprays for Horses
As you might expect, there are a lot of options for fly sprays for horses. Here are six that we’ve tested and recommend:
1. Ultra Shield Ex Fly Spray ($27.95 for 32 oz.)
Absorbine sets a new standard for insect protection with their Ultra Shield Ex. It kills and repels over 70 insect species for up to 17 days with a sweat-resistant insecticide formula. This effective spray contains sunscreens and coat conditioners with aloe and lanolin to keep your horse safe and their hair looking great — and it can also be used on dogs, too!
2. Pyranha Wipe ‘N Spray ($23.95 for 32 oz.)
This highly-rated pyrethrum-based solution can be sprayed directly on your horse. It’s a ready-to-use formula that provides excellent protection with the added bonus of producing a lovely high shine when the hair is brushed out thanks to a lanolin additive for coat conditioning. It kills and repels many kinds of flies, including horn flies, deer flies, stable flies, and others as well as gnat and mosquitos. This spray offers effective protection with only two ounces per head, making it economical and effective.
3. Absorbine Flys X Insecticide Spray ($16.95 for 32 oz.)
This fly spray is economical, versatile, and ready-for-use right out of the bottle. It’s a contact killer and works effectively on flies as well as mosquitos, gnats, and lice. It’s safe to use on your horse, dog, and livestock. This water-based formula doesn’t leave an oily residue, so it won’t compromise your clothing.
4. SWAT Fly Repellant Ointment ($12.95 for 7 oz.)
SWAT is a pyrethrin fly-repellent ointment formulated to use around sores, scratches, wounds, and abrasions. It’s an ideal treatment for hard-to-reach and sensitive areas and can be used daily for fly control. SWAT can be used on horses, ponies, and dogs and it’s effective for hours.
5. Clac deo Lotion ($12.95)
This lotion option to repel flies can be used full-strength or diluted as desired. It’s all-natural and safe on the skin and coat while being effective repelling many types of insects. It is easy-to-use and also environmentally safe. Clac deo Lotion has received the #1 rating for a natural fly repellant by the Horse Journal and receives great reviews. It’s available in an easy-to-use roll-on option (for $12.95) and an economical 500ml concentrate bottle (for $26.95).
6. Enviro Equine All Natural Fly Spray ($31.50 for 32 oz.)
If you’re looking for a natural and cruelty-free option for fly spray, Enviro Equine has got you covered. It uses an effective and unique blend of natural surfactants and essential oils in a pH-balanced solution. This spray is effective with flies, gnats, mosquitoes, and other pests for up to 8 hours and can be used safely on your horse, dog, and even you! The added camelina oil nourishes the coat and skin, leaving it shiny and soft.
Alternatives to Fly Spray
If you’re looking to avoid using any chemicals, Fly Predators could be the way to go. This is nature's way of dealing with pesky flies. These tiny non-stinging wasps are shipped to you as larvae, and when they mature you toss them on your manure pile. The wasps are very tiny but they eat the fly larvae. This can be highly effective at controlling flies, however, if you have neighboring farming, or board your horse it is not enough to just use in your barn or stall, this has to be applied at farms within ¼ of a mile to be fully effective. Learn more about Fly Predators.
An insect growth regulator (IGR) is a supplement that you can give your horse. It’s consumed as a pellet in the horse's feed and breaks down at the end of the digestion cycle. When your horse poops and the flies lay eggs on it, the flies cannot develop an exoskeleton so they can’t fly away and reproduce, generally, the flies die before maturing.
Feed Your Horse Garlic
If you're feeling a little on the hippy side, many people claim that there are benefits to feeding your horse garlic. Many individuals claim adding garlic powder to your animal's feed deters flies from irritating livestock, horses included. Start small with one teaspoon daily and increase in small doses until results are seen. Do not exceed 2 tbs per day. Some say they see results in about a week, others say it can take up to 4 weeks to see the full effects of using garlic powder.
Implementing fly control for horses is a necessary part of ownership. While these pests are certainly annoying, it’s not impossible to deal with them. The best way to manage this issue is a multi-pronged approach that involves treating the environment of the horse as well as the horse itself. Choose a great fly spray, and you will have a much happier horse!
Have questions about the horse fly sprays we carry? Give us a call at 864-457-3557— we’re happy to help!