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Why do Flies Like Horses and Ponies so Much?

Check out how you can make your own fly spray with Horsemart's handy hints...

It’s a common occurrence for any owner to spot their horse being bombarded by flies and other insects. They’re nothing but pests and the horse itself can become quite distressed by the constant crawling, biting and sucking going on somewhere on their body. Although it can be extremely difficult to eliminate them, you can take some level of action that can help to keep your horse comfortable and relatively bug-free. Flies are scavengers, meaning they’ve learnt to live off the health of other animals; particularly cattle and horses. They’ll take any chance they can get to set up camp on the backs of large mammals, so knowing a little bit about how they operate is vital to taking the next preventative steps.


You’ll find there are 6 main types of fly that will love to irritate your horse if they’re allowed to. All of them will find their own unique way of doing so. You’ll find Face Flies in the corners of your horse’s eyes, Stable Flies on their legs, Blackflies feeding on a horse’s ears, Botflies targeting the digestive system and House Flies in their manure. The best ways to eliminate these flies are to make sure your horse has no open wounds, use food additives, repellents or control systems, and cover your horse with protective clothing.


Face Fly –  known as Musca Autumnalis and Feeds on the secretions from the corner of the eye. They also try to consume blood from any open wounds on the body, so making sure there are none present can reduce the chance of presence. They also choose to live off vegetation and plants during the night, so it’s far more likely for Musca autumnalis to be absent in the later hours.


Stable Fly – known as Stomoxys calcitrans, the stable fly draws blood from the horse’s legs. There is a chance that horses which are more heavily troubled by this pest can become anaemic.


Horsefly – The horsefly (Tabanus Sulcifrons) as given away by the name is the most common fly to find on your horse and will suck blood from the main body. Only females will bite as they search for sources of protein when laying eggs.


Blackfly –  Simulium Trifasciatum. Once again it’s only the females who bite as the males prefer nectar. The blackfly feed on blood inside the horse’s ears making them slightly harder to spot and control. However, preventing entry into the ear would be an immediate prevention.


Botfly - Some other kinds of fly such as the Botfly use the horse’s digestive system to reproduce. These flies lay their eggs on the horse’s legs and wait for them to be accidentally ingested. Once the eggs are inside the horse’s mouth they hatch and burrow themselves into the horse’s cheeks and gums. Next, they' will drop and attach themselves to the stomach lining where they will detach and enter a cocoon stage and emerge as bot flies and the whole process begins again.


House Fly – Known as Musca Domestica. The house fly lays its eggs in previous manure and then they hatch, feed and turn into irritants for your horse. This species is the least likely to cause real harm to your horse, but are notoriously persistent which can cause additional aggravation.




How to Protect Horses and Ponies from Flies

Horses with Fly Masks




  • You can buy a food additive which you can place in your horse’s grain to stop larvae developing into adults in the horse’s manure.

  • You can buy fly control systems which are rigged up to stable ceilings to periodically spray the horse with insecticide to stop flies from settling, biting or laying eggs. Pesticide and specific fly repellents are also available. This has a flaw however because insecticides also kill the insects which eat and kill the flies naturally.

  • The most common way of protecting horses and ponies is to buy protective horse clothing. You can buy horse hoods and rugs to stop flies being able to bite.

Investing in a good quality fly rug is strongly advised, as it’s the best way to prevent flies having any contact with your horse’s skin. The mesh construction makes them extremely breathable and still allow full mobility.

For more information about specific horse care techniques, check out our Ultimate Horse Health Guide.