Tips for Keeping Flies at Bay

We horse people love summer–the long hours of daylight and the beautiful weather for riding or just spending time outdoors. But of course, along with summer come the biting insects, particularly flies. And if there’s one thing we hate, it’s flies.

Now I’m one of those people who will find a spider in my house, capture it in a cup, and set it free outside. I don’t like to kill anything. But when it comes to flies (as well as ticks and mosquitoes), I make an exception. I would like to believe that every creature serves a purpose of some kind, but I do not like flying, biting insects! And I know for a fact that my horses don’t either.

We all know that chemical fly sprays sort of work (for a while, anyway), but they aren’t so great for our horses, us, or the environment. There are some wonderful non-chemical fly sprays which help, but I’ve yet to find any spray that works 100%. (Though don’t get me wrong, I love my homemade natural fly spray!)

I know sometimes we just feel helpless when it comes to keeping flies at bay, but there are several things we can do that will help. And trust me, every little bit does help.


So here are a few tips for keeping flies at bay this summer (without resorting to chemicals):

  • Keep your pastures mowed. Shorter grass means less insects will hang out in it.
  • Manage manure in barn and in the pasture. Flies lay eggs in manure. If there’s less manure, there will be less flies. It’s as simple as that.
  • Use fly masks and mesh leg coverings. Flies love to congregate around horses’ eyes and lower legs for some reason.
  • For older horses or horse’s with weakened immune systems (whom flies seem more attracted to), use a fly sheet. Here’s Kady, all decked out.


  • If you don’t live around cattle or other livestock, fly predators, such as the ones from Spalding, may help. The key is starting early in the spring with them.
  • Use fans in your barn. The moving air will help keep bugs away.
  • Feed garlic granules or powder, apple cider vinegar, and/or food grade diatomaceous earth (DE). These will all help to deter flies and DE is even said to kill larvae in manure.
  • Plant fly-deterring flowers such as marigolds and geraniums around your barn or pasture (if you plant in your pasture, make sure they’re the species which are safe for horses– Calendula officials and Geranium maculate.)
  • Hang fly traps or non-chemical fly baits in the barn.
  • Employ moisture control: flies also love to lay eggs in moist areas. Clean up wet stall bedding, grass clippings from mowing, etc. Fill in holes or low spots where water tends to collect in your pasture.
  • Don’t trim your horse’s fetlocks, manes, or tails. Your horse’s hair is his first defense against biting flies.
  • Use essential oils to make sprays or rub-ons. Citronella, Lavender, Eucalyptus, Geranium, Neem, Peppermint, and Lemongrass are all fly-deterrents. (Make sure to dilute with water, lotion, or vinegar.) I usually order my oils from Mountain Rose Herbs.
  • Resist the urge to always brush your horse when he gets a nice layer of mud or dirt on his back. This is natural fly protection!


To check out some homemade, non-chemical fly spray recipes, check out these posts:

DIY Natural Fly Sprays

Homemade Fly Spray Recipes for Horses






Garlic for Horses: A Natural Repellent?

Integrated Fly Control




Hi! My name is Casie Bazay. I'm a mom, a freelance writer, and a certified equine acupressure practitioner.

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1 Response

  1. Jason says:

    Some great tips there Cassie. I often find when I’m out doing hands on healing for horses the flies sometimes cause such a distraction that it’s hard for the horses to fully relax. I’ll certainly make a note of those ideas you have.

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