horses wearing fly masks

It’s the time of year where we get excited to get to the barn and spend every day with our horses. Which also means it’s fly season, or its getting close. And I have a few things that I do for my horses to help keep the fly population lower, and making it easier on my horses, and making it more enjoyable for me to be outside. Which is what I wanted to share with you today.

There are so many things that we can do to help keep our horses happy, and minimize the amount of flying pests that seem to love our horses almost as much as we do. So here are some things you can do before fly season gets underway to help keep the pests away!

And I want to share with you some of the products I use for my horses and I have included some affiliate links throughout this post. This means if you click on a link, and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission from the company.

Horse Clothing

One of the easiest and less labor intensive ways to keep the flies off your horse is to protect them with different types of clothing,

Fly Sheets

a horse wearing a fly sheet

One really good option is a fly sheet, if your horse will tolerate it. Fly sheets have an open weave mesh to keep bugs off a horse’s body. Some models of fly sheet are coated with horse fly repellent for added protection. And having your horse wear a fly sheet can help reduce the fading of his beautiful summer coat too. Unfortunately my horses destroy fly sheets, so I have a few other things I like to do to reduce the fly population on my property.

Fly Masks

horses wearing fly masks

Fly masks, sometimes called fly bonnets, are made of see-through mesh. They keep flies, which can be attracted to eye secretions, from landing in horses’ eyes and causing infections. Fly masks come in a variety of styles, including those that cover the ears and that extend to the end of the nose. Some fly mask models are designed of very fine, lightweight mesh for use over bridles during riding, and others are made of sturdier mesh to stand up to turnout and horseplay, literally.

Ear Bonnets

an ear bonnet for a horse

I love my ear bonnets. And at first, I thought they were for decoration, but I have since learned that they really help to keep flying pests away from my horses ears. Ear nets, sometimes called fly hoods or fly bonnets, are a tool that some riders use to keep flies and other bugs from bothering a horse’s ears during riding. Ear nets are usually made of crocheted yarn or a combination of crocheted yarn and fabric. They are designed to be worn over a horse’s ears with a flap that goes under the browband. Sometimes you can find them with a fringe along the edges to help deter insects from bothering a horse’s eyes.

Leg Fly Wraps

a horse wearing mesh fly leg wraps

Fly wraps are mesh leg coverings designed to keep flies off a horse’s legs and may help reduce stomping. You can make your own fly wraps using old socks, or sock that you have bought at the dollar store. Simply cut off the toes of the sock, and you will have a leg sock for your horse.

Fly Collar

fly collar for horses

There is also something called a Fly Collar, which is covered with horse fly repellent to ward off flies, mosquitoes and gnats from the horse’s head and neck.

Fly Sprays

bug pellent fly spray

Fly Sprays, fly wipes and fly roll-ons are available in many all-natural and synthetic formulas that not only repel flies but gnats, mosquitoes, ticks and other insects as well. Active ingredients in horse fly repellent may include organic pyrethrin derived from the chrysanthemum plant or oils and essences that are naturally repellent to insects, such as cedar, citronella or peppermint. Or they may include synthetically derived permethrin, a strong deterrent to ticks, in an inert base. Horse fly repellents are designed to prevent insects from landing on your horse, but they do not kill them. Insecticides actually kill the bugs that come in contact with them. Some fly products combine the effects of both repellents and insecticides.

Be sure to test any new fly spray on your horse prior to a full application to check for allergic reaction. To get the most out of the fly spray, be sure to follow manufacturer’s guidelines and apply it to a clean horse. Also, check the application rate recommended by the manufacturer. Some are designed to be sweat resistant and can be applied less frequently. And when applying fly spray to your horse’s face, it’s best to use a rag or washcloth for the application and avoid his eyes.

Also, it’s a good idea to rotate between the types of fly sprays you use because over time, flies can get used to the scent of a spray, making it less effective. But if you are switching fly sprays, it’s also a good idea to give your horse a bath before switching, so you don’t end up with a reaction between the different fly sprays.

Keeping Your Horse Clean

I know, this is easier said than done in many cases. But if your horse is relatively clean, he will be less appealing to flies.

Sweat, urine and manure stains make horses more attractive to flies.  SO not only do you want to make sure your horse is clean before you spray him with the fly spray, by having him clean he will be less attractive to the flies to begin with.

Feed Through Fly Control Products

Rest Day For Your Horse - Busy Day For You

Consider using a feed through larvicide a few weeks before fly season begins, so like now. The larvicide works by depositing in your horses feces, and breaks the fly life cycle by preventing the formation of fly larvae’s exoskeletons when they molt (resulting in their death).

I have used this for my horses every year for the past 4 years, and I have noticed a dramatic difference in the amount of flies. And I am not one who takes feeding things like this to my horses lightly. I was nervous at first, but my horses have been a-o-k with the Simplifly. This is why I stick with this brand, and I haven’t switched in 4 years.

I found that Riding Warehouse has the best price on Simplifly. Other online horse retailers price may look better, but when they add in the cost for shipping, and shipping an oversized item, they end up being more expensive. Which is why I buy my Simplifly from Riding Warehouse.

Essential oils

I love essential oils, and I love bug pellent products too, they are made from essential oils and really help to keep the fly population out of my horses stalls during the summer months. Starting now, I refill my bug pellent hangers that I have in each of my horses stalls. They smell great, and they help keep the flies out of the barn.

And when I forget to order the replacement pellet hangers in time, I do have essential oils that I mix up, and resaturate the bees wax pellets. It’s not quite the same, but it works!

a bottle of peppermint oil

The essential oils that I use to mix up a batch of my own bug pellent hanger sauce is cedarwood oil, rosemary oil, clove oil, citronella oil, peppermint oil (my most favorite essential oil ever), cinnamon oil, gerainol, lemongrass oil, and linseed oil (which is from pressed flax seeds). And this is not what I mix up for my homemade fly spray, I only use this concoction to recoat my bug pellent hang ups, and a stall spray to keep the bugs away.

I prefer to use homemade fly spray made from essential oils too, and they do work, but not quite as well as the pesticide sprays.

Keeping Your Property Neat and Tidy

Keeping your barn and property clean can help to keep the flies away too. There are a lot of things that you can do on a daily basis to help make your property less attractive to flying pests.

Keep the feed cleaned up

After my horses eat their grain, I remove the feeder from their stalls. This way the nasty flying flies aren’t getting a meal from the leftovers. And I try to keep their feed buckets clean, to help cut the flies down.

Decrease wet spots

Flies need water too, so if you decrease wet spots in the barn, stalls and around your property you can decrease the amount of flies that are buzzing around. Keep your horse’s stall and pen dry and it will help to cut down on the flies.

Get rid of the manure

Keeping your horses stalls, pens, and pastures free of manure will help to decrease the amount of flies. And also keeping the manure pile far from the barn also helps.

a wall in a small barn

During the spring and summer, I try to clean my horses stalls and pens at least once a day, and sometimes twice a day. I keep shavings on the floor and soak up any wet spots with either baking soda or PDZ. It helps keep the floor dry and keeps the flies away. Flies are such dirty little critters!

Keep Trash Picked Up

Horses generate a lot of trash. Well, mine do anyway. So I try to keep everything picked up, and get rid of empty feed bags and supplement containers once they are empty. I also keep my grain in metal trash cans with lids, to help detour pest from getting into my feed.

I also clean my tack after I am done riding because the flies can be attracted to sweat too. The cleaner your barn, tack room, and property are in general will help you to decrease the amount of flies that are hanging around.

And this may seem like a lot to do in order to keep the fly population down, but let me tell you, it is sooooo worth it!

So, if you are tired of having flies on your property, and want to make the most of the summer with your horse, with less flies, start doing these things! They really do help, and once you get in the habit of doing these things, you will have less flies!


I am horse crazy and love DIY projects, and finding great deals on everything horse related. When I have a new idea, or find a great deal I love sharing this information with you.

    2 replies to "How To Protect Your Horse From Flies This Summer"

    • Amanda

      What’s a good fly spray You can recommend? I really wanted to use a something natural but I am open to suggestions. I have been doing a lot of searching & reading up on natural fly spray. Thank you.

      • Lisa

        Hi Amanda 🙂
        Most of the time I make my own using essential oils, vinegar, and sometimes mixing in a drop or two of liquid castile soap to hep it bind better. Unfortunately sometimes you need to buy a commercially prepared spray. When I have to do that, I still try to sty natural and use either Bug Pellent fly spray, or if I have to resort to an insecticide I like to use Endure by Farnam. I like it because it lasts a long time, and I don’t have to use as much of it as I do the traditional fly sprays. I hope that helps! 🙂

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