The nice people at Horsequest has this reponse to your question:
Response (Dr. McCall) - 05/24/2004 11:24 AM
"The best home remedy for fly and gnat control around horses is cleanliness. Make sure that all potential fly and gnat breeding places are cleaned up. These breeding places are any moist debris (wet hay piles, rotting vegetation, manure, wet areas under feeders and waterers, etc.). Stalls and sheds should be cleaned daily. Also, water troughs should be emptied and cleaned weekly and areas that collect rain water should be eliminated to reduce gnat and mosquito populations. All manure and vegetative debris should be composed to reduce insect eggs and larvae. If horses are stalled, screens and fans can help reduce insects in stalls. Unfortunately, other home remedies (herbs, vinegar, etc.)are not extremely effective in controlling insects around horses.
I'm a veterinery assistant and have many people in our area swear by using AVON's Skin-so-soft bath oil SPRAY on their horses. It not only keeps the flies off it also gives their coats a nice shine. According to the clients, you use the spray daily when needed. I would be careful not to get into into their eyes just like any other fly spray. Use a clean rag, spray the rag and wipe around the face. Hope this helps!
I feed my horses about 2 tablespoons of granualted garlic a day. That seems to help. It does not keep all the flies away but it has reduced the number that bother them. I do use fly predators which has greatly reduced the fly population.
What I use on my horse is white vingar, skin so soft, water and drops of tea tree oil. Like the others say make sure you don't use around eyes. I use when going riding. On hotter days may have to use more. Good luck.
I use Apple cider vinegar in my horse' oats, start with small amount so they get use to the smell and then add more. Also I've heard of adding it to there water.
It helps with other things with soreness in there legs, too. They say drinking a glass of water with apple cider vingar and honey works for people why not horses?
I have used two cups vinegar, one cup skin-so-soft, one cup water, and 3 Tb of vicks vapor rub works well in a spray bottle
Just a word of caution. Skin so soft gave my horse an allergic reaction on his skin. (had a mare that was fine with it) He ended up with small bumpy hives? all over his skin where I had sprayed. Needless to say, I never used that on him again.
Warning... my mare gradually developed extreme itching/flaking skin in her mane and tail when given 1/4 cup organic apple cider vinegar once daily in her oats. She also had an extreme reaction to Avon Skin So Soft, so I've given up on any "home remedies" for her. Interestingly, she does fine with Permetrin fly sprays! She has trouble with the "natural stuff" but is fine with chemicals! Go figure! The yearling does fine on vinegar, so it must be an individual thing.
Forgot to mention a GREAT method for keeping blood-sucking gnats from biting hairless areas on the horse (udder/sheath, between hind legs, around anus and under tail). You can even use this on nursing mares and the foals are not bothered by it. Rub some Olive Oil on these areas and you'll be amazed at how it repels gnats. I've never had an adverse or allergic reaction and the older foals nurse regardless of the oil (though I wouldn't use it right after birth until the foal is bonded and nursing for 2-3 days). You need to reapply every two-three days or whenever the horses go out to pasture where there are a lot of gnats. The only drawback is that it attracts dust and you'll have to wash the area once a week so it doesn't build up dirt.
I use any vinegar with a tint of tea tree oil and a dish soap it seems to work. So what's not worth the try. One of my horses has had a allergic reaction to it but the rest of them did not. Oh I also use a Apple Cider Vinegar in their water it makes a shiny coat and keeps some flies away so try it works for me and i hope it works for you.
hi I've used vegetable oil and cooking non-stick spray and it seems to be helping a lot!
as a vet tech and a horse breeder I have learned that one way to keep flies out of your horses ears (or any where else that isn't chafed or open sored or near babies), use any hemorroid cream.
I have always used an oil (canola,vegetable etc) mixed with crushed garlic cloves, vinegar and water to dilute...I also bleach the barn windows and floor to kill any larvae. Keeping the surrounding area clear of any pools of water etc is key to minimizing your horse's exposure
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