Built-in bug control

Sprays and sheets are great tools in battling bugs, but don't overlook your horses's natural defenses against bug.

Between sprays and sheets and wraps and masks, you probably do a lot to protect your horse from the buggy onslaught of summer. But, of course, he has his own natural defenses against insects, and you can manage him in ways that maximize their effectiveness.

Your horse's tail is a nature's fly swatter.
Your horse’s tail is nature’s fly swatter. Keeping it loose allows him to use it.

Keep his tail loose and forelock long. Your horse’s mane and tail are his natural fly mask and swatter, so don’t limit their reach and effect. Tail bags keep a tail clean and tangle-free, but some may hamper the horse’s ability to swat flies. Look for a bag that incorporates tassels to replicate the action of tail hair against flies. For horses with sparse tails, consider braiding long strips of bed sheets or soft felt into the tail to create an “extension” that allows him to swat at bugs. Also, leave his forelock as long as you can. The movement of hair hanging close to his eyes will swish insects from the area.

Turn him out with friends. To combat bugs, horse buddies will stand parallel to each other, head-to-tail. In this position, the swishing tail of one keeps flies out of the face of the other. If your horse doesn’t have a pasturemate he gets along with well enough for this arrangement, try to find him another buddy in a different turnout group. Sometimes two “odd men out” end up being the best of friends.

Let him roll. Your horse doesn’t roll right after a bath to annoy you. He’s combining moisture and dirt to create a natural barrier against insects. If you’re not preparing your horse for a show or other event where he needs to look sharp, turn him out after his post-workout sponging and just look the other way as he wriggles in the dustiest patch of field he can find.

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