As with all other things, Ax is a baby when it comes to flies and his aversion to them seems to have grown over the years. He’s been known to gallop around his paddock when he has had enough of the bugs, often times until someone brings him inside or he is lathered in sweat. Because of this, I do my best to give him adequate defenses against the dreaded flying pests.
First and foremost, Ax wears a fly sheet almost every day, with the exception being if it is breezy out. This is the best way to keep him comfortable and protected all day long, meaning it is the best way to prevent the unwelcome (and sometimes scary) “bug zoomies” he can get. To give him a break, if I am at the barn halfway through the day, I always try to drench him in spray and put him out naked for the remainder of his turnout time, but he really doesn’t seem to mind his outfit too much.
The best fly sheet I’ve found that keeps him cool and covered up is the WeatherBeeta Kool Coat Airstream Detach-A-Neck. The whole thing is pretty breathable—I hardly ever find him sweaty underneath it—and the back coverage prevents bleaching (a bonus in my book). Plus, its $65 price tag doesn’t hurt my wallet as much as some other fly gear. I have a few of these hanging around, and he usually only rips one a year, so I just replenish the stock when they go on sale in the winter. Sadly, it looks like these may have been discontinued when WeatherBeeta redid their blankets, but the Breeze seems to be a comparable replacement.
Ax will shake his head all day long if there are bugs by his ears and gets goopy, swollen eyelids if they are near his eyes all day (I found that one out the hard way), so the other piece to his outfit is a Cashel Crusader Fly Mask. I can’t remember the last time I’ve used a different brand on any of my horses and usually pick one up whenever SmartPak has their free embroidery deal. It fits well, though I usually have to cut the end of the velcro because it is too long for Ax’s horse/cob head, and they’ll last him an entire season if he’s not too rough with it.
For topical products, I’m a fan of SmartPak’s OutSmart Fly Spray. We got some of the fly spray in to test at work and I’ve been purchasing it ever since—it seems to do the job fine. Because he has a sheet and mask on outside, it isn’t detrimental that it works for hours on end, so I can’t attest to that, but it definitely works through the duration of a ride and stays on even if he gets sweaty.
The one place that Ax’s outfit doesn’t cover that needs long-term protection is his sheath area and belly button. For that, I use The Herbal Horse’s Fly Away Salve. A little goes a long way with this stuff, so I just rub some together in my hands and apply it in those areas whenever I’m at the barn. I can definitely tell when I forget to put it on because he will come in with a bunch of crusty bites, so it must be doing something right.
What are your must-haves to keep your horse comfortable during the buggy season?