For equestrians, the summer is all about flies. How much they trouble your horse depends on the type of horse, how and where you keep him and even his colour.
Horses are troubled by flies in different ways:-
- Some horses can be covered in flies and remain completely oblivious whereas others will be driven to distraction
- Certain types and colours of horse and pony are more attractive to flies than others
- Flies target different areas on different horses
- Some horses react to flies on different locations on the body and not others
- Certain horses will have a sustained and allergic reaction to fly bites developing widespread, hard swollen lumps whereas others will not and just have a tiny non-itchy lump at the bite site that is barely noticeable
Preventing fly bites
Preventing fly bites on all horses is important because:-
- Persistent biting flies can cause anxiety, agitation and distress – some horses will become sufficiently upset, frustrated and unsettled to risk injuring themselves if they cannot get away from the constant attack
- Fly bites can become a source of infection
- Some horses have an adverse and allergic reaction to fly bites creating hot, itchy lumps all over their body which require topical and systemic treatment via oral medication
Endless stomping and stamping can have other implications. Horses tied up in the stable for the farrier or procedures like plaiting just won’t be able to keep still and it can make life difficult. Fly rugs and leg wraps stop the endless tickle, irritation and sharp pinprick of a fly bite and will keep the horse calmer and quieter when you need to handle him and he has to remain still.
Horses which stamp and stomp continuously can actually cause some damage to their limbs:-
- The hoof wall may become compromised and brittle, splitting and cracking as the horse chips bits off with a repeated stamping motion
- Thoroughbreds and other horses with flat feet can end up bruising their soles through the repeated concussive effect of stamping and stomping
- The horse can damage other hoof structures and is constantly causing concussion to travel up his leg
- Shoes may become loose
Horses which stamp repeatedly should be checked for other sources of irritation on the skin such as mites, particularly if they are stamping when there is not much of a fly problem or it is during the autumn or winter.
Cashel Leg Guards
Cashel Leg Guards can save your horse from the misery of fly irritation and fly bites and also help protect white/pink skin from the effects of direct sunlight. They can be used in the field where their unique ergonomic design means they allow freedom of movement but are secure enough to ensure that won’t slip down or come off if the horse messes about or trots and canters. And they can also be used in the stable where flies can continue to pester horses at rest.
The mesh fabric is soft and flexible designed to promote a good fit and prevent rubbing and chafing yet strong and durable enough to last the course and withstand rips and tears. Cashel Leg Guards are comfortable but cool and breathable to prevent those vital tendon and ligament structures from overheating during long hot summer days. There are Cashel Leg Guards for both the front and back legs and a wide range of sizes to suits lots of different horses and ponies including those who are traditionally more difficult to fit with legwear.
All leg guards should be removed at least daily if the horse is out at grass 24/7 to check for any rubbing or sore areas and also any injuries which might otherwise go unnoticed. They are easy to clean, just hose them through.
Leg guards are only part of the picture
Some horses will also need fly rugs to protect them from biting insects. These are made of a tightly woven mesh and depending on the style you choose, can encase the horse from head to tail. A standard fly rug is the same style as any other rug but you can add to this a belly section to protect the underside of the horse, a neckpiece and a tail flap. Horses which suffer from sweet itch can benefit from a Boett rug which acts as a total barrier against the bite of the Culicoides midge.
Protecting your horse’s eyes is also very important as flies are attracted by the moisture and can congregate in huge numbers on the horse’s face causing irritation and infections. Horses without adequate face protection will constantly rub their eyes to remove the annoyance of the flies and risk scratching and damaging the surface of the eye with dust, hair or dirt perhaps even lodging a foreign body in the eye itself. The flies will cause their eyes to weep which will attract even more flies.
What other measures can you take to protect your horse from fly bites and fly irritation?
Managing the constant nuisance of flies and other biting insects during the warmer months is an ongoing battle for many horse owners. Fly protection clothing for the horse is therefore usually part of a broader coordinated response to the problem of biting insects. Good management can significantly reduce the nuisance of flies and make your horse’s life happier and healthier. Here are some other steps you can take to protect your horse:-
- If you have a choice of pasture then avoid hedged fields with lots of trees which act as a fly trap. Pick exposed windy grazing where there are few trees and wide open spaces – just remember that your horse will need some shade and shelter from the sun especially if he is out 24/7
- Avoid grazing with standing water nearby
- Keep muck heaps out of grazing paddocks and also away from the yard although this is not always so convenient – they act as real fly attractors
- Turn your horse out at night and bring in at dawn – there are far fewer biting insects at night and in very hot conditions, this is a cooler time for horses to wear fly protection like fly rugs and leg guards
- Make sure your horse has a field companion who he will buddy up with – horses are expert at keeping flies off one another
- Leave fly protection on in the stable – stable flies tend to aim for the horse’s legs so remove the fly rug and leave on Cashel Leg Guards to avoid the misery of stamping and stomping
- Ventilate the stables as well as you can as a good flow of air will reduce flies who prefer still and stagnant air – use stable fans to help air flow
- Use essential oil in the stables to deter flies – a simple blend sprayed onto strips of fabric works well – and flypaper to catch the ones that don’t take the hint
- Use fly repellents on top of the fly rug and leg guards and on any exposed areas
- Keep your horse as clean as possible as flies love sweat, urine and manure stains. After riding, bath the horse using an essential oil wash like lavender which helps repel flies as well as care for your horse’s skin and then fit his fly equipment before turning out
- Consider using a ride-on fly rug which will make it easier for your horse to concentrate when is working and make him less of a target for flies as he starts to heat up and sweat
- Ride in the cool of the early morning when there are fewer flies and your horse won’t become so hot
- Swap your travel boots or bandages for Cashel Leg Guards when you arrive at a competition, lesson or event so your horse can stand in peace free from fly irritation either inside or outside the lorry or trailer
Every horse owner longs for the endless warm and sunny days of spring and summer especially after the cold and dark of winter but with this change of season comes a real imperative to manage flies and other biting insects. It can take just as long in the summer months to prepare a horse for the field as it can do in the winter in freezing temperatures.
Fly control is very important for your horse’s health and wellbeing and properly managed, a fly control programme will keep him comfortable and happy during the hot months, free from bites and irritation. And a good fly prevention routine will allow you to carry on riding too. Good quality fly wear for your horse is crucial to this regime and Cashel Leg Guards will be a valuable addition to your horse’s summer wardrobe.