With summer upon us, horse riders are engaged in the ongoing battle with midges and flies, which can make riding at this time of year so difficult. Sensitive animals can be tormented until nearly un-ridable, others can be plagued with lumps, rashes or Sweet-Itch, while wounds can become infected, as can eyes.
There are several species of fly which are particularly problematic. Biting flies can pierce the horse’s skin and feed on its blood while nuisance flies lay secretions in and around the horse’s eye, mouth, nose and other sensitive areas. Aside from the threat of an allergic reaction and annoyance, flies can carry diseases, which spread from horse to horse.
The horsefly which typically appears in June and July, tends to bite the horse’s underside, legs and neck, causing painful lumps. They also bite humans! Black flies are another common pest, being most noticeable at dawn and dusk. They commonly feed around the face, particularly inside the ears, but also on the horse’s neck and underside.
While flies are undoubtedly a nuisance to horses during the summer months, Recurrent Dermatitis (SSRD) or Sweet-Itch, as it is more commonly known, can cause absolute misery if not effectively controlled. The condition is caused by a reaction to the saliva of biting midges. It causes horses to rub their manes, tails and sometimes their undersides too. The severity of the condition varies from horse to horse; some will only rub occasionally, while others will rub manes and tails until the hair falls out in clumps revealing raw, eczema like areas.
Stable your horse from dawn to dusk
Use a fly rug with face mask for additional protection
Fly rugs for riding in are now also available
Use an effective fly control product and apply it at least once per day
Feed garlic to repel insects through residue on skin
Use a human insect repellent when riding
Use fields with lower midge burdens; those away from water and higher up are preferable.