Monday, July 4, 2011

The Fourth and the Flies

Wishing everyone a horsey Fourth of July and hoping that no critters get freaked out by fireworks this year. We are careful to make sure our horses are in the pasture with the best fencing and our dogs are locked in the garage before we leave for Staunton's fireworks display. Neither horses nor dogs appreciate either!

I have been doing informal research on fly control this spring since they are on my mind and my body (and my horses' bodies) in pesky numbers. After taking polls and getting feedback from Facebook friends and fellow bloggers, I've concluded that it takes an arsenal to keep flies under control, and even then we 'humans' are losing the battle. The problem is made worse because you and your barn may be battling flies, but if a neighbor is not, then it's tough to decrease the numbers. I use several methods that work for me, and after 'researching' will try a few more. But my neighbor has heifers on his fields all winter, and the manure is never cleaned up. Now he has horses that belong to a renter (who I have never seen attend to the horses)on a back pasture. There is no fly control at all. When I ride past, the flies cover the horses' faces and backs. No masks, no sprays, no manure picked up.

But back to fly control. What works best for my two horses is bringing them inside during the hottest part of the day. Like Terri, I use fans to keep flies out of the barn. My husband mounted two huge dairy fans that hang from the ceiling. Turn on those suckers and the horses stay cool and bug free even in our hot, humid weather. However, after about five hours, Relish has had enough of his stall. He starts bellowing at anyone who will listen. Farnum fly masks--which I have found to be the most durable-- go on in the afternoon for turnout unless I know I can't take them off at night. Anal, I know, but I see too many horses who wear their masks 24/7 for weeks at a time. Terri mentioned Equissential Fly Masks, which I have not tried.

I use Endure rollon for riding--only putting it on Relish's face. If I ride early enough (before 8:00 am) the flies aren't too bad. A facebook friend recommended Quiet Ride Face Masks, and after going to the website, I'm eager to try one to reduce the amount of fly product I use on Relish.

Skin so Soft (find an Avon lady) was the clear winner for spot treatment. Linda recommended Clear Swat (around tender areas or wounds) and Laura recommended Bite Free by Farnum (which she warned was expensive); Tri-Tech 14 and Bronco were also products that people endorsed. Like Terri, I also use Equispot, which is dotted on like the flea/tick dog product. It's supposed to work for two weeks, but seems to lose it's effectiveness after the first two week period I use it. Perhaps the flies get immune to it or it could be they are more brazen later in the season. However, it definitely helped to control ticks when my horses were turned out in the neighbor's field, which doesn't get mowed often.

For those who get tired of sprays, Francesca and Terri both recommended feeding garlic granules, which is growing in popularity. (Terri mentioned her barn now smells like a "cheap Italian restaurant" a description I loved!) Fly/yellow jacket traps work well--but put them out early in the spring. Also set them away from the barn--you want to attract pests to the traps, not invite them inside. Lastly, several people mentioned fly predators, which attack fly larva in the manure. Because I have two horses and compost my manure, I don't have enough of a problem to warrant predators, but I would love to set a bunch lose at my neighbors!

Let us know your favorite product for controling and killing flies so we can all enjoy riding pest-free. Also don't forget the GREAT SUMMER BOOK GIVEAWAY! Lots of terrific books for lazy-day reading for you (and your kids) will be given away July through August. Tell your friends! Scroll down to Jami's blog, which kicks off the contest.


Terri Rocovich said...


What a great summary of useful weapons in our season long fly battle. In my war against flys I am going to try a few of these things that I have not tryed before because I think changing things up may help. I think the key is diligence and a consistent rountine like you have. FYI I do have one pony who needs to wear his fly mask 24/7 in the spring and summer. His name is Tahoe and at 28 years young his eyes are both allergy and dust sensitive so they get weepy and crusty if he goes too long without his mask. This is compounded by the fact that southern California rarely gets rain from May through December which leads to dry dusty conditions as summer progresses.

I look forward to seeing any additional ideas our readers may have. Happy 4th to all!

Alison said...

Hi Terri! Yes, some horses/ponies need fly masks 24/7 (and you are a very responsible owner who no one would question!) but most of the ones in my area who wear them round the clock have owners who are too lazy to remove them (which I know for a fact!)

Fantastyk Voyager said...

We haven't had too much of a fly problem this year. I have at least eight swallow nests in the barn and three on the house so maybe they help by catching them. I haven't even been putting on the fly masks and I never use fly spray.

TBDancer said...

I feed two teaspoons of granulated garlic in the horse's supplements daily. It's a bit salty, which encourages drinking. The flies land but don't stay long.

I also put up those fly bags/traps (add water and P-U).

The Farnam masks are starting to rub the hair off his nose (so instead of a star, strip and snip, he has a star and snip with the strip interrupted by two black spots on the "bridge of his face"). I use Swat around the eyes now instead of the masks.

Have ordered Cashel Crusader maks with ears. He's never worn "ears" masks, but he's pretty copasetic with whatever I do with/to him.

My preferred fly spray is Pyranha, though anything oil-based works well. Used to use Wipe, but it got to be too expensive.

The "green" sprays or water-based sprays don't work at all. The flies hover until I stop spraying, then land to continue where they left off.

I also use a fly spray machine (Country Vet) with a pyrethrin-based spray in the stall. Goes off every 15 minutes. One can lasts 30 days. Batteries last considerably longer.

I don't use the feed-through. Just have a "thing" about poisoning my horse a littkle every day.

Alison said...

Wow TB Dancer, terrific input on some other methods. Do you have a large barn or one or two horses?

Voyager--I am curious where you live. I think everyone I have talked to has MORE flies this year. It must be paradise for you.

Jen said...

We have a sulfur block as free choice and also have a Molasses/ Raybon block to prevent eggs in manure. I have to break it up and feed it as a supplement though, because the horses think it's a king size candy bar ;o)
I just use Zonk for a spray; seems to work as well as anything else and the cost is must less painful. We had almost no flies at all until the guy down the street brought his horses back. It was great while it lasted anyway. *sigh*

Alison said...

Thanks Jen for adding Zonk (I hadn't heard of it) and the Raybon block to the list!

I think it is hard when you are battling more flies because the neighbors aren't conscientious about their horse keeping.

horsegenes said...

I keep a fly mask on my big horse all the time because the skin around his eyes is pink and I am afraid that he will get skin cancer if his eyes are not shaded. But I do take it off everyday so I can see any irritation to his eyes. Also I tried the Cashel fly masks with ears this year and he loves it. It is black thin screen material and more see through. I use the absorbine super shield - it seems to work as good an anything else.

Alison said...

Thanks Kel! Have you tried the Quiet Ride Mask from Cashel? I think I'll add that to my arsenal this year.