Insect Protection - What To Do Against These Little Vampires?

We've researched how you can protect yourself and your horse against horseflies and gadflies not only while riding but also on the grazing land.

I. The Nuisances

Especially the sweat of the horses attracts these annoying vampires who do not even let themselves be bothered by our thin riding leggings. It is visible that the horses suffer from these pests, who primarily sit at the parts of the body to which the tail and the head do not suffice. These insects are not only a problem while riding: Even the daily walks on the gazing land become an enormous stress factor.

These insects are mainly a concern between June and August but really spoil every ride without proper preparation. The largest type of fly is the so-called "horsefly", which can be up to 2.5 cm long and is characterized by an olive-brown, oval body. The horsefly is not as common as its smaller counterparts, but they are anything but harmless. The bite of a gadfly hurts through the larger mouth much more intense than the bite of a mosquito. Especially during high humidity, at the edge of forests, in the open field or near water an increased occurrence of these annoying insects are to be expected. They bite horses with great preference, especially in the area of their stomach or shoulder, as the horse can only reach these areas poorly. Gadflies are almost magically attracted to sweat. They find their victims primarily through movement. So 'quickly galloping away' usually achieves exactly the opposite of the desired effect. Although the little vampires are gone for a moment all other gadflies in the area start moving towards the rider-horse pair.

II. Natural Protection Against Gadflies

Those who do not want to constantly spray their horse with chemical anti-horsefly agents can also resort to a few natural tips and tricks:

- Blankets

By now there are numerous blankets (also for riding), which keep gadflies at a certain safety distance. Especially bright/light colors are suitable for this purpose, as a study has shown, in which the horseflies primarily flew towards dark horses. Even a zebra pattern protects against bites particularly well - the zebras in Africa make show how it's done and they are almost invisible to annoying bugs thanks to their striped fur.

- Garlic

The effect of garlic in the fight against horseflies and gadflies has not been proven scientifically, but to a certain extent, the feeding of garlic can provide the horse with some relief. This can either be done with already-made feed mixtures or the garlic is cut into small pieces and mixed with the rest of the food. Including a little oil makes the mixture particularly good and can be easily administered into the daily diet. However, it is important to pay attention to the amount, so that the horse does not get too much garlic. The essential oils of garlic are carried out with the sweat, the best case scenario would be that the horseflies do not fly exactly towards this horse

- Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil is especially suited if the horses have additionally no peace from flies when staying in their boxes. Horseflies get rarely lost here, but numerous flies can bite and are annoying - especially since the movements of the horse in the box are limited. Tea tree oil smells very strong, therefore, even small amounts are enough to keep at least a part of the flies at bay. Simply apply a few drops to the pit walls - but always out of reach of the horse.


- Apple Vinegar and Co.

Diluted apple vinegar and other herbal tinctures are partly a help against insects, but the preparation is usually so time-consuming that a purchased product is ultimately easier, helps better and, above all, smells better.

- The Right Time of Day 

Horseflies are diurnal and can be found till late into the evening. Therefore, the perfect time for a ride is during the early morning hours in the forest. Without additional protection, water and wetlands should be avoided. During highly humid days it is wise to linger at the stable, to stay bite free.

III. If Nothing Else Helps

If none of the home solutions shows positive effects, the last resort is to visit the horse shop and to purchase an anti-bug spray. The effect is guaranteed, but not every remedy works equally well on every horse. Trying different product every once in a while is particularly effective. In no case should the saddle layer be sprayed: First of all, it is not necessary because the saddle protects this part of the body anyway. Second, most sprays consist of chemical ingredients that can cause skin irritation by rubbing the saddle. In addition, the rider should also use an appropriate spray. Some sprays are already suitable for horses and humans. Sweating is especially during summer a part of the day. Therefore, transfer some anti-bug spray into a smaller bottle and take it with you on your ride. This way the protection can be maintained if necessary or after splashing in the water.

- On the Gazing Land

Since many horses cannot find peace from the little bloodsuckers on the grazing land, sprays with a working time of up to 24 hours are especially suitable. This allows the horse to be sprayed in the evenings so that it can really enjoy the barnyard the next day. In addition, there are a variety of bug traps that can be mounted on or in the hayfield. You can either buy them or build one using a black gymnastic ball, a mosquito net, and wood. Some fly or gadflies traps also work with a special adhesive that attracts the bugs. Once they sit down on their supposed victim, they are stuck. Above all, when buying such products a respectable brand and quality must be considered. If starch glue is used, butterflies, dragonflies, and even small birds can easily get stuck and die painfully. Adequate bug glue attracts primarily only gadfly, mosquitoes and horseflies and is even so strong that really only insects stick to it. The glue can simply be applied to a black bucket and hung outside the meadow. The movement in the air simulates a potential victim for the gadflies and lures them towards the bucket and the horses have their peace.