Managing Flies on Your Horse Farm

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Few things are worse than enjoying your trail ride or evening schooling only to be hounded by flies. Fly management can be a tricky business. It can seem simple at first but often needs a multi-pronged approach. It is important to use a combination of methods to reduce fly levels. 


The first action to take when trying to prevent any problematic species is identification. The most effective use of your prevention methods is to know what you are up against. Different flies have different biology which can mean different life cycles, and food preferences, and identifying flies can be difficult. Using online resources and your local Extension office can help you with this task. You can bring in samples of the insects to most Extension offices where the livestock or horticulture agents can help identify it. Stable flies and house flies are the most common flies found around horses. Once you have identified the culprits you can start your prevention methods. The best time to start fly prevention is before the flies are out for the season. Early prevention reduces the overall number of flies you will have to deal with throughout the season. Peak fly season is between July and August. 


Managing things like manure, mud, hay, straw, water, and feed can all decrease shelter and food sources for the flies. Picking up manure in your paddocks and pastures can be a major pain. It is time-consuming, back-breaking work. However, these are where you will find most of your stable flies. It is important to pick or drag the manure into the fields weekly. Mud, wet hay and straw are the perfect homes for flies. When feeding we need to be mindful of how much hay waste we leave out and let get wet. Standing water exposed to the sun can be breeding grounds for flies and mosquitos. Water troughs that are in the open are the perfect opportunity for these insects. Increasing your management of manure, mud, hay, straw water, and feed will decrease the flies around your horses. 

Physical and Chemical

Fly spray and fly sheets are helpful tools when managing flies as a pest for your horse. Fly spray is a chemical solution to our fly problems. It is a convenient short-term solution for when we are working or riding horses. Fly sprays do have a negative effect on pollinators that are needed for crops and grasses to grow. Fly sheets and masks are a common physical barrier to prevent flies from landing on horses. These tools are helpful when the horses are in their stalls or pastures but cannot be used while riding and working the horses. Another negative effect of the fly sheets is that they can increase the chances of heat-related issues acting as a blanket trapping heat. 

Triple Threat

Using a combination of the above methods is the most effective way to deal with flies in pastures and around barns during the summer months. Try a combination of the methods this July and upcoming August during peak fly season.