Time for a report on fly control. First, a little history.
When we first got Valentine, it was the dead of winter. It was very cold, and we were very new to all aspects of horsekeeping, including manure management. We didn’t have a clue what to do with the poo he filled his stall with every day. So, what we did was…and I’m embarrassed to admit this…chuck the manure over the wall of Valentine’s stall into the stall next to his. It was meant to be temporary, until we figured out what to do with it long-term. We don’t do that anymore – but there’s still a pretty big pile in the vacant stall. The thing is, we have a really nice trailer to load it up in and take it out to the pasture. But we had to disassemble that trailer to get it onto the other trailer to move it out here (Bill has a “thing” for trailers). And we haven’t found the bolts to put it back together again. So it sits in pieces next to the barn and the pile of manure sits in the vacant stall awaiting the assembly of the trailer. It’s a sad, sad cycle.
Anyway…so knowing that there would be a lot of fly attractant sitting around the barn (and by the way, we are moving it out a wheelbarrow at a time, but it takes a while), we knew we’d have to be pretty aggressive with fly control. We decided on a multi-faceted approach:
Feed-through fly control. As the name implies, this is a supplement that you add to their feed. There are several different kinds. Solitude IGR, EquiTrol, SimpliFly and similar products contain a horse-safe chemical that is passed through the intestinal tract into the manure where flies lay their eggs, preventing the formation of the larvae’s exoskeleton when they molt (gross, huh – but they are FLIES). There are also a few herbal-type supplements that are supposed to make your horse unappealing to biting insects, such as Inside-Out. (I’m thinking of trying one of those myself, I’m entirely too tasty to mosquitoes and such.) We chose a formulation offered by a local feed store. It’s of the first variety, the exoskeleton knocker-outer. We add 1 teaspoon to their food every night, and they don’t complain. We’ve been feeding it to Valentine for about two months now with no problems.
Fly Parasites. It sounds strange, but we bought bugs to eat other bugs. Not only that, but these fly parasites look like tiny little flies themselves. But instead of harassing your horse (and you), they eat fly pupae. Yummy! We ordered them by mail through Arbico Organics (there are several companies that sell these). They send a batch of Fly Eliminators once a month. The first batch we got was already hatching; the new batch we got last week isn’t hatching yet, but once the bugs start hatching, you open up the bag they’re in, distribute them at dusk around places where flies might want to lay eggs, and let them go to town. We see no flies around our giant manure pile, so I tend to think they are working quite well.
Spot-On Fly Control. If you have dogs, you’ve probably used a product like this to repel ticks and fleas. It comes in a little tube that you squeeze on your pet from neck to tail. For dogs, it comes in a 1 ml tube; for horses, 10 ml. We use Equispot. You squeeze one ml on the poll, one ml on the back of each leg, then the remaining 5 ml along the back from ear to top of tail. Frankly, I’m not impressed with this product – the flies don’t seem to be deterred from any of these areas at all, and still congregate around their eyes. But I haven’t stopped using it to see if it will make a difference, either.
Fly Sprays. We started using a fly spray to supplement the Equispot about a week ago. There was a lot of stamping going on – the horses were frequently stamping the ground to shake flies off, and this can actually cause injury to the horse – so we spray their legs with Bronco Fly Spray before they go out in the morning. The first day, we tried to do it after they were already out in the pasture. I don’t recommend that, because they’re not fond of being sprayed with anything, and it’s a lot harder to aim the spray when they’re moving out in the open than when they’re in a 12’x12′ stall.
Wound Care. Flies are unfortunately attracted to open wounds. Your horse is going to get owies, and you of course don’t want to spray a strong insecticide on an open wound – that would really sting. There are fly repellants especially formulated for open wounds. Since they’re “gentle,” they’re also good for, ahem, sensitive areas. Our poor horses were being eaten alive on their bellies, so I posted a message on Horse City’s forum asking for advice. I was told to use SWAT ointment. It is also working very well.
There are other options as well: good old-fashioned fly strips, bug zappers, and fly masks. We haven’t tried any of these yet, but we may in the future. In the meantime, we’ll continue our current methods of fly mass murder.
Death to all flies!