With all this glorious weather we have been having recently it has meant we are talking about flies and midges and what we can to do to combat them.
There are so many fly sprays, wax, roll ons, gels etc on the market that it can be hard to work out what will work best for your horse. The most important thing to stress is that all horses and ponies are individuals, so the one your friend raves about may not be the one that works for you, a lot of the time it is trial and error to find the one that works best for your horse or pony.
So what ingredients might you find in your fly repellent?
DEET (Di-ethyl-m-toluamide) is a man made ingredient (synthetic chemical), it was formulated for use by US soldiers whilst in the jungle in 1946. Generally, the higher the volume of DEET within the product the longer it will last. DEET is known to be particularly effective on mosquitos – not many of them in the UK and generally lasts for 3-6 hours. It’s quite a powerful solvent so be careful when using it around your tack as it has been known to dissolve leather and synthetics over time.
It can cause skin irritation in both humans and horses and can cause irritations in your throat and respiratory issues, one to avoid if you suffer for asthma. Many fly repellents containing DEET will come with advisories on the bottle to use with gloves and avoid contact with your horse’s eyes, mouth and nose. You’ll find DEET repellents from NAF, Power Phaser, Lincoln etc.
Citronella oil – This is commonly found in insect repellents however as it has never legally been established what the efficiency and safety is it cannot be marketed as a fly spray. There was a debate many years ago about its safety for competition purposes however it never got passed the point of debate and therefore it isn’t on the banned list under FEI guidelines. You may find that you have to apply a citronella-based product a lot for it to be effective for you.
The one thing to be cautious of with citronella, it is a stimulant so if you already have a fizzy horse then it may not be the best product you can use. It can also cause skin irritations so definitely one to patch test if you do decide to use it. You’ll find this in some products from EqWax, Naff, Lincoln, Fly Away etc.
Saltidin® – Repellent (also known as Icaridin or Picaridin) – The World Health Organisation has said that Saltidin is as effective as DEET but without the concerns around irritation and safety. One thing to note this is not a natural product, like DEET it is a synthetic chemical.
You may also find that the fly repellent itself is quite expensive, this is because the ingredient is five times more expensive than DEET. You will find this in Red Horse Products Red Zone Super.
Premethrin and Cypermethrin – Probably one of the most confusing ingredients for a repellent and often referred to as natural when both are indeed synthetic chemicals. About 200 years ago in central Asia it was discovered that dried, crushed flowers of certain chrysanthemums were toxic to insects. Premethrin is part of the Pyrethroid family which is a synthetic chemical that acts like natural extracts from the chrysanthemum flower. Most pyrethoroids are broken down by sunlight, so you may find that it won’t last particularly long when you use it on your horses during the day.
The other thing to note is that they can cause nausea, headaches and shortness of breath in humans, they are highly toxic to cats so if you do use one on your horse be sure to wash your hands straight after without touching the yard cat and they cause significant harm to aquatic life so make sure they do not get into the water system. You will find this in repellents such as Absorbine Ultra Shield and Coopers.
Neem – Neem is an evergreen plant indigenous to the Indian sub-continent. Neem Oil, derived from the seeds of the Neem fruit, has been part of traditional remedies that date back almost 5000 years.
It provides a non toxic, eco friendly option to those that are made out of synthetic chemicals. It is great to help with the midges and is often effective for helping those horses who suffer with sweet itch and general itchy skin complaints.
Eucalyputus citriodora oil (Lemon Eucalyptus) – This is a natural derived oil with proven insect repellency. This product is safe to use on horses and a popular natural choice for many. You will find it in our HSE approved Fly Off from Natural Equine. You can also find it in NAFF sprays, Lincoln products and Horsewise No Flies.
Natural Ingredients – Plants do not want insects gnawing on them any more than we do so as they have evolved, they have developed bug repelling properties.
Like with many natural products it is hard to find scientific evidence to support the use of them although Lemongrass oil is one that has that backing. This can be found in our EqWax Lemongrass Fly Repellent Tin and Lemongrass Fly Repellent Bag.
Peppermint, Cedarwood, Bog Myrtle, Lavender and Tea Tree oils have received mostly anecdotal support therefore combining them with other ingredients that are proven like Lemon Eucalyptus i.e. Fly Off can only help produce a more powerful formula.
Whatever you choose for your horse/pony it has to feel right for you and them. Always do a test patch for any new product. Most importantly try and choose products that are safe for you, your horses and the environment.