Flies are more than a minor annoyance to horses in the pasture or under saddle. These pesky insects can spread dangerous diseases, such as Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA), Pigeon Fever, or “summer sores.” Horses can also experience skin irritation or increased anxiety from flies constantly biting and landing on them. Some horses might even experience lameness or decreased energy from stomping at flies or fleeing from swarms, loss of appetite, weight loss, and a lowered quality of life.

We commonly find “filth flies” around the barn and pastures since this species tends to breed in areas that offer moisture, warmth, and manure. In a matter of a few weeks, filth flies can lay thousands of eggs. Unfortunately, horse barns are the perfect breeding ground for these flies. Manure, moldy hay, spilled feed, leaking hoses, wet areas around the water trough, damp rubber mats, and trash are all attractive homes to filth flies.

Even though flies are inadvertently found almost everywhere, especially during the warmer months, there are several ways we can minimize potential breeding grounds and decrease our horse’s risk of catching harmful diseases. You can fight these unwanted barn guests by properly managing manure and trash, monitoring leaks, storing grain, hanging up fans, setting up traps, and outfitting your horse in fly gear and spray.

The Best Stable Fly Control Methods

While it might be impossible to eliminate flies from your barn and pastures completely, most strategies are simple. The key to reducing the number of flies around your stable is starting a fly prevention routine early and limiting the fly population from breeding.

How do I keep flies out of my barn?

There are many methods for keeping flies out of your barn, including:

  1. Cleaning stalls daily
  2. Spraying your manure supplies fly spray
  3. Store your grain in closed containers
  4. Make sure your garbage cans are closed
  5. Check that your faucets aren’t leaking
  6. Hang up fans in your barn and stalls
  7. Attach fly mesh curtains to your entryways
  8. Use fly sprays and systems

The number one method to keeping flies out of your barn is to clean stalls at least once a day. Flies lay eggs in and feed on feces, so removing all horse manure and soiled bedding as often as possible greatly reduces the number of flies attracted to your barn. Be sure to clean out your horse trailer and under the mats after every trip.

Similarly, spray off your wheelbarrow, cart, or bucket that you use to transport manure. By regularly cleaning your manure management tools, flies will have one less place to call home. Allow your receptacles to dry upside down, which will decrease the number of mosquito breeding ground areas.

Find a place for your manure pile far from the barn and pastures. If you have a manure composting pile, dump manure up rather than out. Try to cover the pile as well since the added heat from piling manure upward and covering it can create an environment that is too hot for flies to lay eggs in.

Store your grain in closed containers that flies cannot crawl into, particularly for feeds containing molasses or other moist ingredients. Immediately clean up any feed spills and regularly wipe down your horse’s feed buckets from leftover grain. You might also need to scrub down your horse’s water buckets if they often dunk their hay or mouthfuls of grain into their water.

You do not want trash attracting flies, either. Ensure all garbage cans inside and around the barn have tightly fitted lids. To prevent flies from accessing this food source, take the garbage out regularly and try not to let any residue build-up.

Check that none of your hoses or spigots are dripping or leaking. Any leaks, like around the wash rack, will attract flies that seek out damp areas to thrive in. You want the areas around your hoses to dry thoroughly after every use.

Hanging up fans at each stall cools off your horse and deters flies. If you angle one to blow air over your horse, air circulation from the fan will keep flies from landing. Plus, a fan can help dry off wet areas around the barn that sunlight cannot reach.

Attach a fly or mosquito mesh curtain in the entryway to your barn. The mesh keeps bugs, heat, and damaging UV rays out of barns and run-in sheds. Your horse can stay cool and unbothered by hanging up a handy breathable curtain that flies cannot cross.

Horse-safe premise sprays around your barn’s perimeter, doorways, and windows can further decrease the local fly population. Consider investing in a premise spray system if you operate a large equine facility or one that attracts significant insect activity. It typically uses a system of tubing and misting heads or canisters that release a controlled amount of fly insecticide at regular intervals. Mounted on rafters or above doorways, these spray systems are highly effective in repelling and killing flies.

How do I control flies in my pasture?

When you turn out horses, you want them to enjoy their time and not be stomping away flies for hours. There are a few methods to controlling flies in your pasture:

  1. Regularly remove manure and unwanted hay
  2. Check outdoor spigots and troughs are not leaking
  3. Sprinkle fly parasite along fence lines and wet areas
  4. Set up fly traps

Like your horse’s stalls, regularly remove manure and hay from the pastures. Cleaning out your horse’s run-in shed is vital, providing them a nice spot to escape the sun and stubborn flies.

Mowing and dragging pastures can also prevent manure buildup while allowing sunlight to reach the ground. Check that your outdoor water spigots and troughs are not leaking, too. Muddy areas with leftover forage or big piles of manure can quickly attract flies.

Consider sprinkling fly parasites along fence lines, on manure piles, and around wet areas to combat flies in an eco-friendly way. Fly parasites are small, stingless parasitic wasps that eliminate flies by laying eggs inside fly pupae. The wasp larva then kills the developing fly pupae. They are harmless to humans and animals, and they can adapt to many climates, making them a great way to stop a fly’s life cycle before it even begins.

Another common method to prevent flies around the pasture is to set up fly traps that attract flies through color or scent. Many fly traps use an orange or yellow sticky surface to lure flies. Once a fly lands, the glue-covered surface sticks to their feet, so they cannot fly away. Bait fly traps might use water on the inside, drowning trapped flies. Other fly traps are some form of a simple container that kills off flies from a lack of food and water. Ensure that you hang every fly trap away from the barn and high above ground, away from your horse’s reach, since you want to catch flies far from your horse’s living areas and do not want to run the risk of your animals getting into the trap. Likewise, sticky tapes placed on ceilings or rafters are handy inside the barn for flies that make their way to the arena or stalls.

What is the best fly protection for horses?

There are multiple ways to protect your horse from flies during turnout or rides. Some of the best fly protection methods for horses include:

  1. Fly Spays
  2. Fly Sheets
  3. Neck Covers
  4. Fly Masks
  5. Fly Boots

Fly sprays are instrumental in directly preventing flies from landing and biting on your horse. Your horse should be sprayed down at least once every day, depending on their schedule. Fly spraying every morning before they go out in their pasture is a good start to repelling pesky flies, as well as spraying before and after every ride, especially if your horse sweats or gets a bath. Do not forget to pour fly spray on a washcloth or towel to coat your horse’s face. Some horses are allergic to certain ingredients, so experiment or double-check which sprays will not irritate their skin.

Additionally, you can outfit your horse in breathable fly sheets, neck covers, masks, and boots. Fly gear is crucial for horses with sensitive skin, who need a protective layer from harmful UV rays or in case any flies do bite them. An entire fly prevention outfit even doubles as a method to keeping your horse clean as they inevitably roll during turnout. You might need to experiment with fly masks, though. Some horses do not like masks with ear coverings, for example, and some horses might need a mask that fully covers their nose if they have a blaze that exposes sensitive, pink skin.

Remember, these fly control methods are most effective when you start before the fly season is the heaviest, usually during summer. Maintain manure and housekeeping methods year-round and begin investing in fly sprays, fly gear, fans, curtains, fly traps, and parasites now, ensuring that you are prepared once flies come out. While you will certainly enjoy fewer flies buzzing around, more importantly, your horse will thank you!