Flies & pests
Most horses hate flies and bugs, and many, when bitten, particularly by midges, can react quite dramatically! The mane and the top of the tail are usually the worst affected areas and the itching can be bad enough that your horse rubs on anything available, rubbing away hair and even skin. Itching issues are mainly a problem over the summer months but can also occur during mild springs and autumns. Mites can make their presence known all year round!
In the UK, several species of the Culicoides midge and, to a lesser extent, the larger, hump-backed Simulium Equinum, a member of the blackfly family, are responsible for intense irritation in horses. Different midges have preferred feeding sites; Culicoides tend to be body feeders and the Simulium ear feeders. Culicoides adults mainly rest among herbage and are most active at dawn or dusk in calm conditions. They do not fly in strong wind, heavy rain or bright, clear sunshine. They dislike hot, dry conditions. Normally, when bitten by a midge, the horse’s immune system recognises a foreign protein and reacts to eliminate the substance. In horses the immune system overreacts, in the same way hay fever sufferers overreact to pollens. This is known as a type one hypersensitivity reaction.
Itching causes a horse to rub and scratch away the tail, mane and parts of the coat, posing more problems. Measures should be taken to stop a horse being bitten and reacting. Wherever possible, susceptible horses should be moved to pasture away from trees, nettles and rotten vegetation, such as muck heaps and leaves; chalk-based grassland will have fewer midges than heavy clay pasture. Midges do not fly in strong wind and pasture on a hill is therefore preferable. Midges are at worst during dawn and dusk so turnout at these times should be avoided. As midges do not fly in strong wind, heavy rain or bright, clear sunshine and dislike hot, dry conditions, these are good turnout times. Fly screens can be fitted to windows and doors, and protective rugs help reduce the biting.
Pro-Equine has developed a range of Neem-based products to stop your horse being bothered by flies, midges and other pests. We are aware that some horses don't like sprays so the Alternative Fly Spray is also available as a gel called Wonder Gel - because it does so much more than deter flies. By buying good quality, pure Neem Oil, you can make up your own shampoo, spray or lotion - a little goes a long way!