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Fly Control Help!

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  • Fly Control Help!

    I have a 5 yo OTTB I took to his first event this weekend.. who told me in no uncertain terms how intolerant he is of flies. Granted, the bugs were pretty horrible, but somehow all of the other horses were managing to survive the tragedy ... not mine.

    I doused him in one of the off the shelf (one of the more expensive ones!) sprays- useless. I tried a home remedy that seemed to work better. However, to add to my problem, he has super sensitive skin and this mixture caused him to break out in hives.

    Does anyone have any suggestions for a fly spray that WORKS .. and doesn't irritate sensitive skin? Also, has anyone found any sort of systemic stuff that helps (ex: garlic??)

    Help!!! The thought of another dressage test on a fire breathing pissed off baby TB is horrifying


  • #2
    Well, IME young horses do have a significantly higher drama level WRT flies than older ones. And some are just naturally more stoic than others.

    As to fly sprays that work, well, IME also they are all equally poor. One exception might be Deep Woods OFF or other DEET-containing sprays, which seem to help especially with the bloodsuckers like deer flies, horse flies, and mosquitoes.

    It sort of depends on what sort of flies you're dealing with, too -- face flies, stable flies, horse flies, deer flies . . . ?

    If it was face/deer flies I'd wipe on something like WIPE right before dressage, top it off with some DEET stuff around the face, ears and neck, and wash it off right away afterwards. Then put on an ear net for the other 2 phases.
    Click here before you buy.


    • #3
      I feel your pain - my TB was terribly sensitive to bugs/mosquitoes for years! As in walk out of the woods on his hind legs sensitive, keep to a brisk trot non-stop and he was happy and sane.

      Some people swear by apple cider vinegar in feed a couple times a day, and garlic. I tried both, but it was not an overwhelming response. He was more sensitive to mosquitoes, so maybe different from flies.

      I have considered doing allergy testing/desensitization, but never got around it.

      Good luck!
      Horses should be trained in such a way that they not only love their riders, but look forward to the time they are with them.
      ~ Xenophon, 350 B.C.


      • Original Poster

        I was wondering about Deet.. if that was something that was safe for horses. For myself, the 100% deet stuff when hiking is relatively effective? Since I rinse him off after I ride anyway, mybe his skin would tolerate it.

        This seemed to be a swarm of every fly known to man... from the tiny stable flies, to the green biters, to the scary massive giant black ones that even I want to run away screaming from (Dressage warmup was near a swamp). We didnt quite leave the ring on our hind legs haha.. but he was really only comfortable while cantering .. even at trot it involved a lot of kicking/head tossing/sideways action. interesting what you say about the allergy.... in addition to this behaviopr, he does also appear to have allergies (runny eyes nose/ sneezing that pretty much coincides with when I feel the same way).

        He generally lives in an ear net, but obviously I cant get away with that in the dressage ring. I suppose it might benefit me to warm up in it and then whip it off right before I go in... something I hadnt considered.


        • #5
          I believe ear nets can be permitted in exceptional circumstances, like a buggy late-June dressage warmup near a swamp. You can always ask, but I would frame it with "a lot of horses seem bothered and it's an awfully still, buggy day" and not "my special snowflake has problems".
          Click here before you buy.


          • #6
            I would definitely use the DEET. That is what my friends with AQHA halter/showmanship horses use when they need them to stand still with all four feet planted for a long time, and it works.


            • #7
              I tried Bug Check last year for my lovely new OTTB (thank you jleegriffith!) who also had a strong aversion to bugs. I thought I only saw a slight improvement for him. But, I also put his little old "companion" horse on it and saw a drastic improvement for her.

              This year he seems a little more tolerant and less dramatic about the bugs. Maybe a year older and he is a little less reactive.

              For every day, the best thing I can do for him is cover him with every form of mesh known to man! Big mask, sheet with neck cover and fly leg wraps and he is good to go! Obviously you can't do that at a show, but it does save on how much repellent I have to put on him every day.


              • #8
                Feel free to email me (irishtangerine@ufl.edu). I'd be more than happy to discuss your specific problem with you. I am a veterinary entomologist and currently working on my PhD. I can share my knowledge of what works and what is a hoax (unfortunately, most!)


                • #9
                  Have you tried a product like Bugzo? One of the ladies at my barn swears by it for her young one. I think it might be garlic based, apparently it makes the biting insects less interested.
                  Always be yourself. Unless you can be Batman. Then always be Batman.

                  The Grove at Five Points


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by deltawave View Post
                    I believe ear nets can be permitted in exceptional circumstances, like a buggy late-June dressage warmup near a swamp. You can always ask, but I would frame it with "a lot of horses seem bothered and it's an awfully still, buggy day" and not "my special snowflake has problems".
                    ...except, I've noticed, pretty much all upper-level competitions lately. This is leading to a trickle-down where the LL competitors are showing up with ear-nets and being told "no, that's against the rules." All the special-snowflake 4* eventers are exceptions to the rules I guess!

                    You never know what kind of obsessive compulsive crazy person you are until another person imitates your behaviour at a three-day. --Gry2Yng


                    • Original Poster

                      I was considering something like Bug Check or Bugzo ... Don't really have any confidence in them being effective, but I suppose for $20/month it can't hurt?

                      The earnet would be a huge help- if they are starting to make concessions for it at the upper levels, why not get rid of the rule all together? I was already getting the stink eye for warming up for dressage in a running martingale (totally legal!!), I can only imagine if I added a bonnet to my warm up attire

                      Hopefully if I get him on something like Bug Check or Bugzo and then use a Deet based spray at shows I can get the situation under control...
                      Oh, baby Tbs are fun. The funniest part is, when I bought him he was advertised as being "super laid back, you would never know he was a 4yo off the track! Would make a super child's mount, looking for a rider to take care of." We get a good laugh about that every time he pulls these sorts of stunts


                      • #12
                        The funniest part is, when I bought him he was advertised as being "super laid back, you would never know he was a 4yo off the track! Would make a super child's mount, looking for a rider to take care of."
                        you never know ... he may have been exactly like that with them - sometimes these OTTBs are dead clam while transitioning, & then one morning it seems they wake up go yee haw

                        The ear nets may be disallowed, but you might try the ear plugs.

                        If he is that senstive skinned (hives), then I'd test any/all fly deterrents on a small area for at least 3 days, before using them all over his body.

                        Most of the feed-throughs need to be started 2-3 months prior to high bug season to be effective (& please don't feed any animal garlic or onions without reading up on hemolytic anemia).


                        • #13
                          Ear plugs are also illegal for dressage...I feel your pain about the bugs though. I have a thin-skinned grey OTTB and what I've found works is having a helper douse him in flyspray again after warmup right before the test.
                          No Trouble
                          2/2/05 - 7/29/13
                          Rest In Peace my quirky brave boy, I will love you forever.


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by TSHEventing View Post
                            Feel free to email me (irishtangerine@ufl.edu). I'd be more than happy to discuss your specific problem with you. I am a veterinary entomologist and currently working on my PhD. I can share my knowledge of what works and what is a hoax (unfortunately, most!)
                            Awww. Maybe you can publically share what works without necessarily pointing fingers at what does not work?

                            Personally, I get alot of mileage out of using endure on the body and putting swat on their ears, down their nose bone, under their eyes and on their belly button.
                            "The mighty oak is a nut who stood its ground"

                            "...you'll never win Olympic gold by shaking a carrot stick at a warmblood..." see u at x


                            • #15
                              Slather him from ears to shoes with Farnam's original "WIPE." Just don't light a match near him--or you!


                              • #16
                                I add some extra stuff to the 'Repel X' concentrate (4:1). Cider vinegar, blue Dawn, and some Off w/Deet. Works well enough...I don't dare go out on a trail-ride or the like, and as soon as they start sweating it's pretty useless. My TB will get a 'chemical peel' - the DIY variety - if I add too much extra stuff (I eyeball it, generally a glug of each is sufficient & wont peel mine). TriTec will also cause problems. Did like the purple 'bug block' but Repel X concentrate is my go-to.

                                For show purposes, I'd spray right before entering the ring, and swat any needed areas. Request to use a bonnet, worst case scenario the answer is 'No.'

                                When I used the feed-through Bug Check I noticed he didn't develop hives. However, he lives in a high-neck fly-sheet all season which also fixed that problem


                                • #17
                                  Most fly sprays actually say spray till wet. That's the only way they work. I would try using more. Like someone said, have a helper spray them again right before going in, and something like SWAT on the face that won't sweat off. Good Luck!


                                  • #18
                                    On a COTH thread I read that a lot of people liked a product called FLICKS. I ordered it and must say, after 3 days of using it, I am really impressed. This is especially true since it is all natural and smells divine. I was even able to ride in the woods today!