Our 10 Best Fly Repellents For 2020 - Real Rider Reviews!
Finding the right fly repellent for your horse can be a bit of a minefield, and is often a case of trial and error. The wide range of options available can be overwhelming, with active ingredients, application methods, and effectiveness all playing a part in the buying decision.
So, we’ve put together this guide to help you make an informed decision, without the stress! Each product has been personally recommended by one of our brand ambassadors or a member of our inhouse team, having been tried and tested thoroughly by them.
Things to consider...
The main ingredient used in each solution will differ from one product to another. It is important to ensure that the active ingredient used is suitable for use on the intended horse(s). Active ingredients include insecticides (which kill the insects), repellents (which simply repel the insects), and synergists (which are additives that increase the effectiveness of the insecticides and repellents). Certain products will not be suitable for young horses, pregnant or lactating mares, and horses with broken or sensitive skin. Always check the ingredients in the product before use and follow the instructions on the label carefully, looking out for any manufacturer warnings about unsuitability.
Another factor to consider is the quantity in which the active ingredient is present in the repellent. Those with a higher percentage of the active ingredient will naturally be more effective than others.
Some products contain ingredients that are not FEI approved, so if you compete it’s worth checking an up to date list of banned substances, to ensure the repellent you choose meets with their regulations.
If you prefer to use only completely natural products on your horse then there are also plenty of options available that contain only naturally sourced ingredients.
Please note: We recommend performing a patch test of any new repellent purchased before full use. The patch test should be performed on all horses on which the repellent is intended for use. As with humans, some horses have allergies to certain ingredients, where others do not. In the case of a severe reaction, please ensure you consult a veterinarian.
There are two types of base for a fly repellent; water or oil. Both have their own advantages and disadvantages.
Oil-based repellents tend to work better initially as they cover the flies more effectively, causing them to suffocate or drown. They also give the coat a nice shiny look after application, however, this also means their coat then attracts a lot of dust, so can look messy quite quickly. Another slight disadvantage of oil-based repellents is that they can cause some horse’s skin to burn if they are turned out in the sun after application.
Water-based repellents often aren’t quite as good at staying on the coat, especially in the event of sweating or rain, but a lot of these products will contain extra ingredients to help them stay put. Water-based products are also generally kinder to the horse’s skin and are absorbed more easily.
Plenty of lotion, ointment and cream repellents combine a mixture of water and oil in varying proportions, with the addition of emulsifiers to aid the mixing of the two base ingredients.
There are many different ways to apply fly repellents, with the range of products on the market developed specifically to cater to the differing needs of horses and their owners.
Here are the different types of application available (there may even be more!);
With this in mind, finding the right form of application will be a personal choice based on various factors such as ease, convenience, quantity, and location (both of the area being treated and the environment you’re in).
Sprays are the main choice for convenience and value, as they can cover a larger area with minimal effort and can be used on rugs and tack as well as your horse. However, for the best results when using sprays, we found that it helps to brush the product into the coat after application to ensure it stays on the coat for longer.
Creams, lotions, and gels are better for accurate application to a certain area of the body, with creams and lotions being absorbed more easily, and gels providing better treatment for sensitive areas.
Wipes and roll-ons are a great choice for speedy and accurate application, and are perfect for applying to areas that sprays are not suitable for, such as the face. They are also a convenient choice for use at shows and while out and about due to their compact size and mess-free application.
In a lot of instances, the effectiveness of a repellent is dependent on the length of time it protects the horse for. The best fly repellents are long-lasting, saving time and hassle by negating the need for constant reapplication. This is even more beneficial if your horse is somewhat resistant to your efforts to keep them fly-free!
There are lots of products available that do a great job at protecting your horse for longer durations, however, this is often at the sacrifice of some other factor, so it’s about achieving the right balance for you and your horse.
So here are our personal recommendations for fly repellents we have found to be highly effective, including what it is that we like about them and why!
Please note: Before applying any fly repellent, it is important to make sure that your horse’s coat is dust-free, as a dirty coat will reduce the effectiveness of any repellent. Brush your horse thoroughly prior to application to get them as clean as possible, giving the repellent the best chance of sticking to the surface.
This oil-based spray contains only natural, non-toxic ingredients that have all been harvested from sustainable sources. It has been proven effective against flies, midges, bots, horseflies, house, stable, and black flies. It also offers soothing relief to midge bites and can be applied even to pink and exposed areas, stopping the need to rub.
“In the summer we swear by this product by Barrier Animal Healthcare. I find this is the most effective all over body spray and I particularly like that it contains the added avocado coat conditioning treatment. It’s ideal for use at home and shows.”
- Olivia Catton Eventing
"We primarily use Barrier Super Plus Fly spray with Avocado Coat Conditioner as I prefer the less chemically smell to all the others, and the more pleasant smell doesn't detract from its effectiveness. I like that you can buy refills, saving a bit on plastic, and the 5 litre refill is great value and means we never run out. The fact that it contains all natural, plant derived, non-toxic ingredients is important to me as Rock is always clipped out in the summer and therefore more sensitive... and it also doesn't discolour a grey!”
- Caroline Ramsay
Check the price on Amazon > Barrier Super Plus Fly Repellent
As the name suggests, this gel contains Citronella as the active ingredient, which effectively repels flies, mosquitos, and midges. The gel formula makes it ideal for use as an accurate ‘spot-on’ treatment and it can be applied by hand or using a sponge, avoiding the eyes, mouth, and any broken skin.
“We use this in combination with the above, Super Plus Fly Spray, as essential face protection. We carefully wipe it around the horses’ faces to keep the flies away from their eyes and nose. This is really effective and doesn’t bother the horses at all when having it applied directly to their face.”
- Olivia Catton Eventing
Check the price on Amazon > NAF Off Citronella Gel
Again, this fly repellent from NAF utilises the power of citronella oil to keep the bugs at bay, but this time in the form of a spray. This effective and long lasting formula will leave your horse's coat fresh and smelling amazing!
“I have used NAF OFF products for years now and I have been incredibly impressed with the fly spray options that they offer. I personally find that their Citronella Spray is by far the best of their products and keeps the flies away from the horses really well. In fact, I was hacking the other day with a friend of mine and my horse Memo had no flies on him whatsoever, whereas her horse Ray was covered. It is my “can’t live without'' product for the summer months and I thoroughly recommend it.”
- Jessica Colvin Dressage
Check the price on Amazon > NAF Citronella Spray
This extra powerful, water-based formula provides long-lasting protection from flies using the active ingredients N,N-Diethyl-m-Toluamide (more commonly known as DEET) and Ethyl Butylacetylaminopropionate (or IR3535). DEET is the most common synthetic chemical ingredient used within repellents due to its proven effectiveness, while IR3535 has been found to be just as effective, but with greater effectiveness against black flies and sand flies, as well as a longer duration of protection.
“I’d always opt for NAF Off DEET Power. I discovered DEET when one of my new liveries arrived with lice a few years ago and I noticed after having treated with it that the flies stayed away too! The NAF Off DEET Power fly spray is for flies and other bugs, and I’ve always found it effective and economical. You can also buy in larger quantities which is ideal for a yard.”
- Cheryl Johns - Livery List
Check the price on Amazon > NAF Off DEET Power
Tri-Tec 14 Fly Spray is a water-based formula that claims to provide effective protection against 6 different types of fly, including horse, house, stable, face, horn and deer flies, along with gnats, mosquitos, lice and even deer ticks. The manufacturer states that this fly spray offers up to 14 days protection, which they achieve through the use of a mix of active ingredients (primarily Cypermethrin and Pyrethrins) to make it effective as both a repellent and an insecticide.
“Tri-Tec 14 is a brilliant product, it does what it says on the tin! I’ve used it a lot when competing abroad, especially in Saumur, France, where it was so hot, the flies & midges were horrendous! In fact, it was so brilliant I had to loan it out to all of the other competitors! The container is robust and conveniently reusable, and the spray mechanism has a really good trajectory so that you can quickly and economically dust over the horse. I have never had the trigger mechanism break, unlike some other products I’ve used. Although the product states that it is effective for 14 days, I have found it best to apply to the horses at 5-7 day intervals.”
- Sarah Williams Dressage
Check the price on Amazon > Farnam Tri-Tec 14 Fly Repellent
With its claim of “extra strength”, this spray-on repellent also utilises the active ingredient DEET, at an optimum level of 20%, for powerful, long-lasting protection from midges and all other flying and biting pests.
“I have used quite a few of the fly sprays on the market and this is the one I like best. It works well in comparison to most that I have used, and I particularly like that this one also contains added coat conditioners to promote a healthy, shiny coat. The application is very easy; the bottle has a special Equimist spray setting which sprays out a light mist, very quietly and gently, making it ideal for horses who aren’t so confident around spray bottles. Due to the way it’s dispensed, I also find that the bottle lasts longer than most, as it helps to ensure a light, even coverage, rather than creating denser patches like some of the other fly sprays I’ve tried. In some of the more sensitive areas, such as the face, I just apply it to a sponge first.”
- Edward Chitty - Equine Tuition
Check the price on Amazon > Carr & Day & Martin Flygard Extra Strength
This 100% natural spray repellent contains a blend of tea tree oil, castor oil, lavender and cedarwood oil, and provides up to 8 hours of protection against mosquitos, flies, midges and other biting insects, as well as the diseases they carry. The ingredients are also designed to effectively soothe any itchiness and relieve irritation.
“I love to use Equine America’s Fly Repel spray on those hot days in the summer! My young mare gets terribly bothered by flies and is uncomfortable in the field and especially in work when they are around. This repellent really helps ease it and allows her to relax in the warm weather!”
- Lily Chandler
Check the price on Amazon > Equine America Fly-Repel Spray
This great German-made fly spray is widely available in the UK, and contains the active ingredient DEET for powerful and long-lasting effect against flies, mosquitos, ticks and many other parasites. This vegan formula also contains aloe vera to help calm and soothe irritated skin.
“This is a great product from Germany, but widely available in the UK. I’ve been using this spray on our horses, who live in a moorland field, which has some boggy parts and is close to a stream. We do see a lot of horseflies and even if the horses wear fly sheets, you can find them clinging on to the rug or exposed parts of the horses. I have found the spray to be excellent in terms of how long it lasts (I spray in the morning and it still seems active 7-8 hours later) and its ability to repel most insects. It’s been really good to use when riding and I’ve even sprayed myself when the flies have been bad, which also seems to do the trick! It has a pleasant smell and my sensitive-skinned chestnut mare has had no reaction to it, even on her white socks and pink skin.”
- Dr Tracey Cole
Check the price on Amazon > PFERDEPFLEGE24 Insect Repellent
With a powerful formula that has been optimised to ensure it is both gentle on your horse’s skin whilst being highly effective at keeping the flies away, Leovet Power Phaser claims to provide 7 hours of protection from horseflies, ticks and all biting and non-biting flies. This product has been developed using DEET as the active ingredient and promises to stay put and continue to ward off the flies, even when your horse sweats.
“After trying a lot of the fly sprays on the market and even homemade recipes too, Leovet Power Phaser has secured the spot as number 1 for me. The biggest reason being that it still works even after the horse has sweated up! I can complete the full cross country phase, pull up with a rather sweaty horse and he’s not immediately covered in flies, even the nasty horse flies! This allows me to give him the right aftercare he needs and check for injuries etc. without having to contend with flies making him irritable too.”
- Natalie Alexander - NMA Fitness
“Another massive selling point for me is that it also comes in a gel/cream, so I can still apply it safely to the younger, more nervous horses and get some on their heads for the dressage phase… we take no chances, every point counts so you don't want the distraction of a fly bite on the chin! It even comes with a free sponge!”
- Natalie Alexander - NMA Fitness
Check the price on Amazon > Leovet Power Phaser Gel
Formulated to be suitable for use on sensitive skin, this DEET based fly spray contains added moisturisers and conditioners to soothe the skin and increase the duration of effectiveness. Nettex repels flies, stable flies and all biting insects, and comes in two variations - Standard and Advanced - to ensure effective protection, whatever the location or conditions. In areas of heavy infestation, the formula may need reapplication throughout the day to achieve the best results.
“Having lived in the Scottish Borders, home of the infamous Scottish midge, I discovered early on that you needed a fly spray containing DEET. Working through the repellents available at the local equestrian shop, I found Nettex the most effective and have continued to use it now that we’re down south. Nettex makes two types – Standard and Advanced. Personally, I opt for the Standard as it contains a higher level of DEET, is cheaper than the Advanced, works as well and lasts just as long. I tend to buy the 2 litre refills but find that the bottle being refilled has a limited life and the nozzle tends to go after a couple of refills. The other thing I learnt at the hands of the persistent midge is to apply the fly spray twice a day for best effect and to particularly spray the legs. This seems to reduce any stamping, at least in my two!”
- Alison Lincoln
Check the price on Amazon > Nettex Fly Repellent
So there we have it, our top fly repellent recommendations based on tried and tested rider reviews. We know it can be frustrating trying to find what works best for you and your horse, but hopefully this has helped you narrow down the options a bit and given you hope in your fight against the flies!