With summer in full swing, and fly season entering its third month here in Iowa, I thought I'd share some of the tricks that have been working for my horses thus far. The Morgans suffer from fly bites so horrifically they rub themselves raw. All but one of them refuse to leave on fly masks and fly sheets are shredded within hours. So, I have to treat the symptoms. I have tried garlic, vinegar in the water, feed through fly control, fly predators, composting manure, timed fly spray misters in the stalls, Cortizone injections and a bevy of fly spray recipes ranging from costly essential oil mixtures to my own mad scientist versions [see How Does Turquoise Smell? http://hossbiz.blogspot.com/2010/04/how-does-turquoise-smell.html ] as my horses break out in enormous hives if I use fly spray with petroleum distillates: which is the only fly spray that actually works for any length of time.
This year, I had a gallon of Bronco fly spray on hand, so I decided to add some vinegar, and Dawn dish washing liquid. The vinegar cuts the petroleum distillates to manageable levels and the Dawn helps it stick. Or so I believe. This worked fairly well, until it got hot and the bites were all over all the horses, not just in the usual spots. The horses were crazy with itching, so I got out a bottle of Betadine Surgical Scrub added it to some water and gave them all sponge baths. Which, of course, they all complained about vociferously.
But...aha..itching subsided, as did the incidence of new bite sites. I have continued the sponge baths a couple of times a week and now my mare comes up and whinnies at me when I am bathing one of the boys, lest I forget her. She stands stoically for her sudsing, as she has never stood for one second in her lifetime of baths.
"If this is so good as a sponge bath," I reckoned, "Maybe I should put some In The Fly Spray." I will say with confidence, this is the first time in 14 years of treating this problem that I have felt I was at least keeping up with it, rather than continually losing the battle until October. I put about a 2-3 table spoons of the Betadine Surgical Scrub in the fly mix of Bronco/ Vinegar/Dawn to make a half gallon of potion.
The Morgans can come and go as they please, inside or out, so they manage their own grazing. I spray them twice a day [more if it's beastly hot & humid] with my homemade hooch fly spray. This system is working quite well, but when I leave for five days for a show, I return to find them insect bitten mad horses. After a couple of days of sponge baths, we are back to a manageable bug tolerance level. Sponge bathing 4 horses isn't as time consuming as it sounds, you really only have to scrub the suds into their coats, not dowse them with it.
This is not a cure, don't get me wrong, but it is a vast improvement for my herd. It is cheap enough, with results in a short period of time. Let me know if it works for you.
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