The Right Way to Fly Spray a Horse

Regardless of where you live, you will find fly spray on almost every list of essential supplies for horse owners. Especially in the warmer months, an invasion of flies may seem inevitable. However, there are several ways to keep flies off your horse – minimizing the nuisance for both horse and rider. One of the most effective forms of fly control is fly spray. 

How do you fly spray a horse? Fly spray is an easy and effective form of fly repellant. The application process is quite simple! Spray your horse’s body with fly spray as directed by the manufacturer’s instructions, avoiding delicate areas such as the face and genitals. Starting by spraying the horse’s legs and working your way up to the body will keep your horse from getting startled. It is important to use an adequate amount of spray to provide optimal protection. Your horse should be damp to the touch immediately following the fly spray application. 

So, what exactly is fly spray? What should you keep in mind as you protect your horse from flies? Are there alternatives to using fly spray if it does not seem to help your horse? In this post, we will discuss the right way to fly spray a horse. We will also share some important tips on protecting your horse from these pesky insects that cause both distraction and disease. 

What is Fly Spray?

While there are many forms of fly repellants, fly spray is perhaps the most common and convenient. Fly spray is a liquid fly repellant that comes in an easy-to-use spray bottle. As with any other equine product, there are countless types of fly spray on the market, each with a unique combination of ingredients. 

Fly spray is used to keep flies from landing on your horse, especially during the warm summer months where flies seem to run rampant. Fly spray is especially important for days when you are riding your horse as flies can become a distraction and nuisance to both horse and rider.

How to Apply Fly Spray to a Horse

The application process for fly spray is relatively straightforward. It is important to read the manufacturer’s instructions before applying as specific brands of fly spray favor unique application methods. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you apply fly spray:

Start Applying the Spray on the Horse’s Legs Then Work Up the Body

Even a horse that is used to being fly sprayed frequently can still be startled by the spray if you catch them off guard. For this reason, start applying the fly spray to the horse’s legs before moving up to the body. A sudden feeling on the horse’s legs will usually startle them less compared to a sudden feeling on their body.

Use an Appropriate Amount of Fly Spray 

Even experienced horse riders and equestrians develop bad habits over time. Far too often, horse owners fail to apply an appropriate amount of fly spray. This causes the spray to be ineffective. When you are finished applying the fly spray, your horse should be damp to the touch. 

Most brands of fly spray recommend using between 1-2 ounces of spray per application. It may be hard to visualize this amount while you are spraying. However, you may find it helpful to measure that amount of fly spray into a clean, empty spray bottle to get an idea of an appropriate application.

Avoid Spraying Delicate Areas

While fly spray is highly effective in repelling those pesky insects, it may irritate certain areas of your horse’s body. As a general rule, it is best to avoid spraying delicate areas such as the face or genitals. Although fly spray may not be the best solution for these more sensitive areas, there are other alternatives such as ointments, creams, or even fly masks.

Brush Fly Spray Into the Coat After Application

One step that is often overlooked in the application process is to brush the fly spray into the coat. While fly spray is meant to sit on the surface of your horse’s coat and not the skin, it can easily roll-off the coat once sweat and humidity enter the picture. 

After completing the application of fly spray, quickly run a medium-bristled brush or a soft cloth over the surface area of your horse. This will help to prevent roll-off once your horse begins to sweat. 

Tips for Applying Fly Spray

As a long-time equestrian and horse owner, I have learned my fair share of tips and tricks for applying fly spray. These tips will ensure that your fly spray is effective and that any potential for skin irritation is minimized. 

Always Start With a Clean Horse

It is important to always apply fly spray to a clean horse. This does NOT mean a horse that is freshly bathed. If you apply fly spray to a horse that is still wet from a bath, the spray may soak into their skin and cause unnecessary irritation. Instead, wait until your horse has completely dried before you reapply fly spray.

If you are not bathing your horse, apply fly spray after thoroughly brushing them to remove any dirt or loose hair. 

Never Apply Fly Spray Immediately Before Tack

Another common cause of irritation is when a horse owner applies fly spray directly under the horse’s tack. While applying fly spray directly before your ride provides the best protection, it must be done in the proper order. If you are planning to ride your horse, first put the necessary tack on your horse. 

Once your horse is ready to go, apply fly spray to the areas of the body that are not covered by tack. This will prevent irritation from occurring under the saddle due to added heat and pressure.

Always Follow Manufacturer’s Instructions for Application

As we have previously mentioned, you must follow the manufacturer’s instructions for application. While some brands recommend that you apply the fly spray indoors, others recommend an outdoor application. The directions will also provide you with information regarding the proper amount of fly spray to use for each application. 

Desensitize Your Horse if Necessary

Some horses, specifically younger horses, may spook at the sight, sound, or even the smell of fly spray. You must work to desensitize your horse if necessary. Because fly spray is so beneficial for both horse and rider, your hard work will certainly pay off. Slowly introduce a spray bottle, using water at first, until your horse is comfortable with the sound and feel of a spray.

In this video, I show how I’ve been desensitizing my miniature horse, Yoshi, to fly spray: 


You can learn proper desensitizing techniques by visiting my article Bombproof and Desensitize a Horse: The Ultimate Guide.

Find a Fly Spray That Works for Your Horse

While the wide variety of equine care products can sometimes feel overwhelming, it is actually quite beneficial! Not every fly spray will work for your horse. If you find that one brand of fly spray is ineffective, or is causing irritation, try a new brand! With a bit of experimenting and patience, you will find a fly spray that works for the needs of your horse. 

How Long Does Fly Spray Last Between Applications?

During peak fly season, typically the warm summer months, it is recommended that you apply fly spray at least once a day. However, in some regions, you may find that you need to apply fly spray twice daily. Much of this will depend on the activity level of your horse, the severity of the flies in your area, and the space in which your horse spends most of its day. 

Alternatives to Fly Spray

Although fly spray is often the most cost-effective and efficient form of fly repellant, there are other alternatives. Some of these products are best used in conjunction with fly spray while others perform well on their own.  

Wipe-On Fly Repellant

Nearly identical in formula to fly spray, wipe-on fly repellant is often applied using a cloth across the surface area of the horse’s coat. While this application method is usually more time-consuming, it is a great alternative to horses who do not respond well to sprays. Additionally, wipe-on repellents are great for the sensitive areas of the horse’s body such as their face and near their genital region. 

Fly Repellent Creams & Ointments

There is nothing a fly likes more than a wounded horse. Unfortunately, horses are quite prone to small injuries such as nicks and scratches. These open wounds attract flies at an astounding rate. Fly repellent creams or ointments are an invaluable tool for protecting your horse’s wounds from an infection carried by flies. In addition to fly spray, fly repellent ointment is a necessary addition to any equestrian’s tack box.

Fly Masks & Sheets

Fly masks, sheets, and boots are great tools for protecting your horse from pesky flies while you are not riding the horse. Flies can quickly cause your horse’s skin to become irritated and inflamed, resulting in a horse that is uncomfortable and maybe ornery. 

Of course these are just a few of the alternatives to fly spray. It may also be wise to invest in fly repellants for your barn to create a more comfortable environment for both horses and humans. You can learn more about keeping flies off your horse here.

Is Fly Spray Really Necessary for Horses?

Fly spray is an incredible asset to any tack box. The frequency and rate at which you will need to use fly spray for your horse will depend greatly on your location and the severity of flies. While flies are certainly a nuisance, they can actually cause disease or infection in certain situations. For this reason, you must work to protect your horse from these common stable pests.

Thanks for reading! If you want to read more of my horse care articles, check out the ones below!


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My husband and I started Equine Helper to share what we’ve learned about owning and caring for horses. I’ve spent my whole life around horses, and I currently own a POA named Tucker. You can learn more here.

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