There is nothing worse than the feeling of being eaten alive by flies. They are relentless, and they won’t stop coming for you no matter what you do to try and get rid of them.
In this post, I’ll list 7 of the easiest ways to control flies that horse owners can do in their barns without having to use chemicals or pesticides (mostly).
As a horse owner myself, I know how frustrating it is when my horses have to endure fly bites while we’re trying to ride, train, or take care of them. It’s important for me as an animal lover, not only to care about the welfare of my horses, but all animals that live on our farm too!
The best way for me to keep those pesky pests away from my horses has been with (mostly) natural methods like these ones listed below.
7 of the easiest ways to control flies
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First and foremost, you have to keep your barn clean. This is THE best and easiest way to control flies.
Flies are attracted to dirty, wet conditions. They love fresh manure. In fact, flies need moisture for their eggs to hatch. You need to remove manure and wet bedding at least daily, and a few times a day, if possible. Click here to see my favorite bedding.
Dispose of manure as far away from the barn as possible, or better yet, have it hauled away. Check with local trash companies to see if they offer that service, or perhaps a dumpster would work for you.
If you dump your manure on your property, spread it out thin so it can dry out quickly. Flies are much less attracted to dry manure than wet.
Fly sheets and boots are probably the second best and easiest way to keep flies from bothering your horses. Does it get rid of the flies? No, but it provides a barrier between them and your horse.
Here is the newest fly sheet I bought. It’s advertised as durable for hard playing horses and they aren’t kidding!
I went to put this on my horse Sonny while he was out in the pasture. Well, right as I got it over his head, he took off dragging the fly sheet with him. He ran from one end of the pasture to the other stepping on his sheet no fewer than four times! I was certain that it would be destroyed even before I got it all the way on him. I was wrong. He did tear the tail flap away from the actual sheet a little, but that’s it!! Nothing else is wrong with it at all! This thing is as durable as they say!
Another reason I like this fly sheet is that it fits really well. You have the option of two different cuts depending on your horse’s build and withers. My horse has really high, prominent withers so I decided on the V-Tek(R) Wither Relief style. You can also choose between a belly-band, which I picked, or crossed surcingles.
For fly boots, these are the ones I like. They have velcro closures and really good coverage of the horse’s legs. Plus, I like that they’re contoured to the horse’s leg shape. They come in several different sizes. They’re usually sold in pairs.
And don’t forget a fly mask! Here is one of my favorite masks and they usually last the full season. Flies are attracted to the moisture in your horse’s eyes and will drive them absolutely crazy! It can cause excessive watering, which attracts even more flies, also can cause an eye infection if not taken care of promptly.
If your horse gets runny, swollen, irritated eyes, try this. It’s an over-the-counter eye antibiotic ointment that can be used on many different types of animals. It has to be applied under the eyelid 2-3 times a day.
I suggest gently pulling down the horse’s bottom eyelid with your thumb and, without touching their eye, squeezing about a half inch of ointment onto the inside of the lid. Then release your thumb and put your hand over their eye so they close it and the ointment can be moved around by them naturally.
This year, I found some heavy duty box fans at Home Depot and I decided to snatch up a few.
Being in Arizona, we have some hot summers. I placed each fan in a hay net and hung it facing into each stall. See how I set them up here. This not only provides some heat relief for the horses, but it creates a breeze that bothers the flies. I find my horses standing with their faces right next to the fan with no flies on them.
We use Fly Predators every year.
These are significantly smaller than pest flies and they eat the fly pupa BEFORE they can become pests. The Fly Predators are not attracted to animals or humans and don’t become pests themselves.
They would be affected by fly repellants so use caution if using those.
We get an automatic shipment of Fly Predators on the recommended schedule of the company. They come in the mail and we have to wait a few days for them to start to hatch. Once they do, we clean our stalls and when we dump the manure, we also spread out the Fly Predators in the fresh manure.
Since I do use fly repellant sprays in the barn and on the horses, I don’t release them inside the stalls themselves. Do they control our fly problem 100%? No, but they make a significant and noticeable difference for us.
This season I forgot to add our fly control supplement to my horse’s SmartPaks early in the season. It just slipped my mind. However, about midway thought, the error of my ways dawned on me and I immediately added them for the next shipment and bought a bag to get the horses started on.
SmartPak has a great supplement called Smart Bug Off Ultra. This has ingredients such as garlic, apple cider vinegar, omega-3’s, and diatomaceous earth.
Within just one week, we saw a noticeable decrease in flies on the horses. Just one week! Did we still have a lot of flies? Yes, but on the horses themselves, there were fewer flies.
Here’s where we get into the “less” natural forms of fly control. There are several “natural” or “green” fly repellants on the market, and to be honest, I haven’t ever really tried them to see if they actually live up to the claims.
If I use a fly repellent, I want it to work really well. My all-time favorite fly repellant is Absorbine UltraShield EX. This stuff is expensive, but it really works well.
My second favorite is the Farnam Endure Sweat-Resistant Fly Spray. This has some of the best staying power I’ve found. It claims to repel flies for up to 14 days.
I find topical fly sprays to be some of the quickest and most reliable methods to fly control.
Fly spray misters
This is another one of my must-haves in the barn each year. In fact, I have them around my house as well.
You guys, this stuff makes a world of difference! I can tell when the cans are empty because we will have a huge influx of flies!
There are different types of formulas (fly, and fly & mosquito repellent, among others) that you can choose from. Each can lasts about 30 days. I usually have refills shipped to me automatically all season so I never have to go without. These are a game changer!
There you have it! 7 of the easiest ways to control flies!
There are several other easy ways to control flies in the barn too. You can try using a fly zapper and/or bug light, or you could put out traps such as sticky boards or fruit juice bait stations. Our chickens even help by eating fly larva and other annoying insects.
What other methods have you used to manage your fly population?