We might be excited about the prospect of some sun — but with it comes the pesky flies. So we asked Horse & Hound readers to reveal their handy tips for keeping flies at bay. Start stocking up...

NB: These best fly spray recommendations come from H&H readers based on their personal experience and may include products which have not been officially approved for use as an equine fly repellent. H&H takes no responsibility if your horse suffers a reaction to any of the suggestions below and recommends you patch test all lotions on your horse before applying to the whole body.

Avon Skin So Soft

“I use Avon Skin So Soft for both humans and horses, and find that it really helps. It’s widely recommended in Scotland as a midge repellent.

“Use any type that suits — sprays are easiest to get in awkward areas or you could massage the lotion/oil directly into the mane and tail. It also does wonders for the coat and is useful for detangling tails. I have been using it for years on several different horses. As well as repelling flies, it softens and moisturises the skin, helping avoid further scratching. It’s a lot cheaper than most sweet itch products, too.” Judith Morris

Buy Avon Skin So Soft from Amazon.co.uk >>

Deosect

“I’ve used Deosect on my horse and it’s amazing. You dilute it into water and spray all over the horse. It lasts for a month and then you reapply. It also protects from ticks.” Christine Crompton

Note: this item is available by prescription only from your vet

Garlic

“I am a qualified aromatherapist for humans and over the last 40 years I have worked out a few things that have helped me.

“One: feed a little garlic daily. Two: don’t over-groom or wash horses unnecessarily. Three: don’t brew a home-made citronella solution and spray it on madly. Citronella is a powerful antibacterial essential oil with the potential to cause irritation. It will affect the natural bacteria levels on the skin, and in many cases I have seen horses react far worse to insect bites where they have been over-treated. If you must use citronella, buy a good-quality spray that is a recognised brand. Four: keep fly masks spotless and change them regularly.” Ann Hesketh

Buy Baileys Garlic supplement from Amazon.co.uk

Whisky

“With regard to flies biting humans, I don’t have too much of a problem, but an old frontiersman once told me that his apparent immunity to fly bites was due to the amount of whisky he drank!” Anonymous

Cider vinegar

“I mix 300ml of Avon Skin So Soft with 300ml of cider vinegar, 300ml of water, a drop of washing-up liquid and five drops of citronella, then spray it on my cob.”
Natalie King

Buy cider vinegar from Amazon.co.uk

Dermoline

“My pony has sweet itch and destroys fly rugs, as well as rubbing his skin until it is sore and scabby. He’s 15 and his crest and dock are scarred with thick skin. I have found that hogging his mane, feeding garlic and giving him a bath with a Dermoline gel once a month, as well as a daily fly spray, works. I also apply Vicks Vaporub every other day to any bits that flies target.” Georgina Burnhill

Buy Dermoline Aloe Vera gel from Amazon.co.uk

Marmite

“I always used to feed garlic, but found it doesn’t work well. My hubby and son eat Marmite and are never bothered by flies, whereas I get eaten the moment I’m out of the house. I’m going to try Marmite or a yeast extract, as it’s affordable.” Natalie Rowe

NAF OFF Extra Effect Spray

“I’ve tried several fly sprays over the years and find NAF OFF Extra Effect Spray the most effective for my ponies, particularly my skewbald pony Sonic. The flies seem to prefer him to my bay pony for some reason.” Alice Verrier

Buy NAF OFF Extra Effect Spray from Amazon.co.uk

Forever Living aloe vera deodorant

“I use a Forever Living aloe vera deodorant — he’s never bothered by flies. I feed garlic, too.” Kymm Kitten

Buy Forever Living Aloe Ever Shield deodorant from Amazon.co.uk

Camrosa ointment

“Camrosa ointment is brilliant!” Natasha Anderson

Citronella wipes

“My horse wears a fly sheet and I use citronella wipes, plus Sudocrem for sunburn and cuts, as flies hate the smell.” Amelia May

Net-Tex Itch Stop Salve

“Net-Tex Itch Stop Salve is amazing. I apply it once a week — twice at the most — and my pony is happy.” Clare Nicholas

Buy Net-Tex Itch Stop Salve from Amazon.co.uk

Equine America’s Tea Tree Shampoo

“Equine America’s Tea Tree Shampoo really helps. I use it on my dogs, too, and they all have lovely coats.” Louise Kyle

Buy Equine America Tea Tree Shampoo from Amazon.co.uk

Sudocrem

“Last year I put Sudocrem around my horse’s eyes and a bit here and there on his legs and body. The flies didn’t bother him at all.” Heidi Ingram

Buy Sudocrem from Amazon.co.uk

Benzyl benzoate

“My Dartmoor and Dales ponies both have sweet itch. I use benzyl benzoate every day from early March to November, plus I spray them with a dilute solution of pyrethrin.”
Eileen McGinley

Buy benzyl benzoate from Amazon.co.uk

Nature’s Botanical

“A product we use in Australia is called Nature’s Botanical and it is amazing stuff. It has rosemary and cedarwood in it, and keeps flies off both me and my horse.”
Tessa Sharman

Boett rug

“A Boett rug was the breakthrough for me, plus a steroid spray for the really itchy bits. I also recommend Red Top Fly Catchers, which have transformed my yard and paddock. They are available on Amazon.” Polly Eddis

Buy Red Top Fly trap from Amazon.co.uk

Fly repellent rubber necklace

“My pony wears a fly rug from March until October, as well as lots of fly spray and a fly repellent rubber necklace. He has a freshly washed fly rug on every few days. He stays in at night and goes out during the day — after dawn and back in before dusk — but wears his fly rug in the stable, too. It seems to work.” Lynn Samuels

Premier Equine fly rugs and masks

“I feed brewer’s yeast and use Premier Equine fly rugs and masks, which I wash regularly in insecticidal shampoo. When riding, I carry a fly whisk, which is a horsehair switch on a leather whip.” Marylou Ashton

An alarm clock!

“When it comes to working the horses, I get up early, because it’s nicer for all involved. I work my hunt horses at 4am in the summer, then they stay in and go out at night. Just remember to set an alarm clock!” Kim Louise

Buy an alarm clock on Amazon.co.uk

Keep eyes clean and dry

“Keep eyes clean and dry so as not to attract more flies.” Ros Burch

Cornucrescine

“My section A gets sweet itch so I use cornucrescine on her rubs and hoof oil on itchy places.” Elfin Moreton

Buy Cornucrescine from Amazon.co.uk


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Tabard lotion

“Apply Tabard lotion late in the afternoon and a Leovet spray before turnout. Flowers of sulphur powder mixed into aqueous cream, applied every evening, helps restore lost hair.” Shaun Baker

Buy Tabard lotion from Amazon.co.uk

This article was first published in Horse & Hound Ask The Vet (Spring 2015)

  • Herbie Rijndorp

    bought a horsefly trap a few years ago (£125 http://www.flytraps.biz) which catches the female horseflies very effectively, without chemicals or electricity. As a result the number of horseflies on the yard, outdoor school and 4 acre field has gone down significantly. Recommended!

  • Louise Nash

    Garlic poision!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! first horse 36 years old, garlic everyday of his life, second horse 30 years old, current horse 14 on garlic. didn’t seem to kill them off Elizabeth Cowling-Jones xxx

  • Rosemary DUDLEY

    My horse has 2 small scoops of garlic EVERY day in his feeds. (the little diddy blue ones) I use Naff Off extra fly spray on his privates and sponge it on liberally on all of his many whorls where the skin is more vunerable to flies. Then a dollop of Sudocrem. I also sponge it round his eyes and ears. I mix some garlic powder and water in a spray bottle, give it a GOOD shake and spray from knees and hocks down, avoiding the hooves. This method prevents a lot of foot stamping causing possible bruising to the soles. For the rest of his body, his tail to the ground can cope with! I have not used his fly sheet and hood yet as I feel that flies and wasps etc. can get under them and cause more distress to him. He is pure white and is not troubled by flies as much as darker coloured horses. I have had him for 6 1/2 years and he is fine…..

  • Elizabeth Cowling-Jones

    Just been reading the tips.. really good some of them.. but Garlic is poison to horses.. and to get enough garlic into the system of a horse for it work against flies would be a couple of kilos a day.. but that would also kill your horse.. the equine system, cannot cope with onions or garlic.. IT IS TOXIC FOR EQUINES 🙂