Making Bug Season More Bearable for Horses
It is that time of year for many when the sun shines, brining us much desired vitamin D, longer days and more riding time! This time of year also turns my thoughts to how can I make bug season more tolerable for our much loved horses. Several of them are older, though let's face it, fly stomping is not good for young horses either. I am not an expert though I can tell you a few items we have added to our barn and pasturelands to lower the bug population. Please do leave a link in the comments if you have more suggestions for us!
As horse owners, we love our horses and want them to be comfortable, though we all know how pesky flies and insects can be during bug season. They not only annoy our horses, donkeys and mule friends but can also pose health risks. The first line of defense we have tried is to protect their eyes and ears with fly masks. There are many styles and also, a safety check of the pasture to be sure there are no hazards for the horse to catch the mask on. We are a halter free pasture, so I don't like to leave a mask on, though really they are velcro and seem to release fairly well. For us, fly masks have become a must-have for keeping flies away from a horse's ears and eyes. They provide protection for the eyes, ears, and face while reducing the risk of sunburn and irritation. Brands like Cashel and Kensington offer a range of stylish and functional fly masks. Check out these Amazon links to find the perfect fit for your horse: https://amzn.to/43pRWNc Cashel is offering a pink fly mask this year that they are choosing to donate part of the sale of the pink fly mask to Susan G. Komen Foundation to fight breast cancer. We did buy one of these and added it to the herd. Cashel has several size and style options, be sure to click on the correct size for your horse. The horse size fit our gelding well, though was too roomy for Faith, she has a smaller head and could have used the Arabian size possibly.
Biting flies and ticks seem to go for the horse's legs making the horse stomp to remove the flies.
It seems like ticks use the horse's legs as a super highway to other parts of the horse such as their elbow, jowls and belly, so I am all for slowing them down and hopefully stopping them all together as ticks harbor some serious diseases such a Lyme disease and anaplasmosis, so we decided to extend our pest control if possible . Leg covers, such as fly wraps or mesh boots, offer an additional layer of protection against flies, insects, and minor abrasions. They provide a physical barrier that reduces discomfort and minimizes the risk of infections. Consider trying leg covers like the ones from Cashel : https://amzn.to/3oDJ0oI They are sold in sets of two, we did buy these to test out on Grace, as she has the beginning stages of DSLD and we want to minimize stomping by her. We did notice that she rarely has a tick on her, so I am thinking we need to add more of these to the herd. The things we liked about these boots are the heavier construction, the velcro closures also have elastic material that has give to it, they are shaped to the structure of the horse's leg and I love the bright colors (easier to find if one got lost). One cautionary note I would add is that make sure that someone who knows how to put gear on a horse's legs puts these on, as they could get over tightened and possibly irritate a tendon.
One other method we use to reduce the mosquito population is to put out bug zappers right away, basically as soon as we start mowing the grass, the zappers go up. We did buy ours from Menards, though you can also shop for them on amazon. They do have acreage specs on them, so be sure to look out for that and get the most zap for your dollars. Here is one that covers and acre and a half:
and then there is this Black and Decker one that covers two acres
https://amzn.to/3oDTfcB though they also offer ones that cover less area at a lower price.
We have four bug zappers, we just added them slowly one per year to make it easier on the budget, though for me they are a must have. They do clear the areas they are in pretty well, and I definitely notice a difference when I go places that don't have them.
For mosquito control, making sure the water tanks are refilled regularly with fresh water and dump out the old water that likely has a ton of mosquito larvae swimming about. Tall weeds also create the kind of places that these pests like to hide, so time to trim the weeds!
One pest that is particularly pesky, and if you know you know, is the little no-see-um gnats that swarm the face of the horse, the dogs and the humans!
This is the only thing that I have found that catches them Horse Fly Trap now, that is NOT what I bought it for, I bought it for horseflies which it really didn't impress me with, though it did get the gnats! And it seems to be the only thing that does aside from spiders.
While we cannot completely eliminate bug season for our horses, we do try to help elevate as much discomfort for them as possible by using fly masks, leg covers, and implementing very happy pest control measures, we can make bug season more bearable and enjoyable for our equine friends. Remember to choose products that fit well and offer comfort, such as those from Cashel. This is by no means an exhaustive list, there are many stinky fly traps also (I just don't like dealing with the stinky bait). What all have you tried? Leave me some of your best tips!
Note: Always consider your horse's individual needs and if needed consult with your equine professional to determine these pest control strategies will work for your specific horse.
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