We’ve all been there – whether you’re enjoying a summer hack, concentrating on a dressage test or standing in line at a show, it’s all going well until those annoying flies attack, and poor pony is reduced to head-tossing, stamping and shuffling in a desperate attempt to be rid of them. You need a fly repellent you can rely on.
All fly repellents in the UK come under legislation requiring them to carry a HSE or BPR registration number, so look out for this on packaging. This number ensures the product is using one of the recognised fly repellents proven to be both safe and effective. There are only a small number of repellents approved for horses, and these include the well-known synthetic DEET (diethyl-m-toluamide), and PMD (p-menthane-diol) which is naturally derived from flowers.
The choice of which repellent is right for you and your horse is partly personal preference, but also which works on your horse. In our experience different repellents work better for different horses. So if you find one is not effective for you choose a different one, but make sure it has a different active ingredient to help you find one that works for you and your horse.
Traditional approaches to fly control using essential oils such as citronella cannot now legally be marketed as fly repellents, as they are not approved under EU law. However they are not banned for competition as the restriction applies only to marketing them as fly repellents. You may still use them in other ways, for example as a fresh summer coat spray or a cooling after-work wash.
Unfortunately for many the nuisance of flies goes far beyond a simple annoyance. ‘Sweet Itch’ is an allergic reaction to midges which typically leaves affected animals sore and itching, and their manes and tails may be rubbed out. The result is unpleasant for your horse, and annoying for yourself whatever you do with them, but particularly if you were hoping to show them. Appropriate management will also help affected horses and ponies, and regular application of a fly repellent is certainly part of that. Ensure they are not turned out near standing water – a field pond can be a real magnet for midges! If possible turn out in a hilly field, which encourages a constant breeze.
Also consider stabling affected animals through the heat of the day, we’re sure they’ll thank you for it.
In conclusion by using a registered fly repellent will keep your horse or pony calm, collected and looking great, whatever you both have planned through summer and on it to autumn.