The basics of fly protection for your horse — sheets, masks and sprays — are familiar to most horsemen, who usually use a combination to provide the best relief possible. However, you may wonder about leg protectors and long-term control repellents. You may want to know exactly how far you should go in covering your horse and emptying your wallet. After all, it doesn’t seem necessary to outfit your horse in a suit of “fly armor” — or is it' We decided to try some of those labor-saving fly products to determine what’s useful and what’s not.
We quickly determined leg protectors are must-haves to quiet that aggravating stomping. They’re especially useful on farrier days. You can cover three legs for a faster, easier shoeing job with less stomping and less smelly, slippery fly repellent for the farrier to put up with. The same goes for fidgety youngsters standing on the crossties — slap these booties on and relieve stomping and stress.
While leg protectors can be used for turnout, they don’t stay positioned well. However, if you have a horse that stands by the gate and stomps the ground endlessly, we’d use leg protectors. Otherwise, we found them more useful around the barn.
The three sets of boots we tested differed slightly. All were effective and fit our test horses well. Kensington’s ($21.99 pair) feature a heavy fleece edging. EEG Everest Extreme’s fly boots ($21.95 pair) are edged with lighter fleece, and Royal Riders ($20 pair, or $40 set of 4) were the lightest and simplest of all.
The only thing we hate worse than using fly repellent at all is spraying the stuff two or three times a day. Not only is it a nuisance, but at times we wonder if we’re doing more harm than good. On the other hand, it sure doesn’t seem to bother the flies!
In an effort to decrease those sprayings, we tested Defy The Fly collar and leg bands, War Paint Insecticidal Paste, Farnam’s Fly Guard brow band, and Freedom Spot-On. We’ve lumped these products together because they all claim to protect the whole horse from flies, while actually touching his body in small areas and decreasing applications.
War Paint, a roll-on fly-repellent paste, was gummy. You roll it on your horse in a few specific spots and then the chemical gradually spreads over the horse’s body, giving body-wide protection that lasts over a week. It was acceptably effective, but we wouldn’t use it on anything but pasture horses. It leaves a whitish mark on the horse’s coat. $16.95.
We found the Defy The Fly products, which reminded us of “flea collars” for horses, sticky and smelly. You can choose either the collar, which sits around the horse’s throatlatch, or ankle bands. Overall, we were disappointed and felt their longevity was hampered by the dirt and debris that adhered to the surfaces. $16.95.
The Fly Guard from Farnam is like a browband with three yellow strips that hang down in front of the horse’s eyes. Its elastic banding was easy on-off, and the slow-release insecticide dangles helped to swish flies from around the eyes when grazing.
Fly Guard is said to last over four months. We had no problems with it and found it works well, provided you don’t mind that pesticide constantly dangling in front of your horse’s eyes. $14.25.
Freedom Spot-On works with one application in several spots that spreads over the horse’s coat for eventual body-wide protection that lasts several weeks. $24.95/month.
While we started with the spots the directions indicated, we found our best results were obtained by streaking the chemical behind the poll (instead of the face, so it doesn’t run down the face and irritate the eyes), and behind the knee (instead of the front of the knee, so the horse doesn’t rub his face on his knee).
We also streaked it on either side of the spine from croup to dock and made a circular pattern around the gaskin. It was difficult to apply on the front of the hock, because we found the chemical would drip off.
We didn’t find the same results with Spot-On as with the canine spot products that revolutionized the flea-control industry. Flies still land on your horse and horses still swish their tails and act annoyed, but we did notice fewer welts, bumps, and bites from flies. We also noted longer grazing hours outside the turnout sheds. Ticks were virtually non-existent on a horse treated with Freedom Spot-On, which may be a big plus in heavy Lyme disease areas.
However, it seems to take a little time before Spot-On kicks into action. Results were subtle until the two-week treatment period was coming to a close, and then suddenly we fully appreciated the efficacy. You repeat the application every two weeks.
Among our test subjects was a single horse turned out in a large herd. Flies would still land on this thin-skinned mare but didn’t seem to bite her. The swarm would go instead for her eyes, so a fly mask was necessary. Remember we adjusted our application points — the manufacturer suggests putting it on the face, but we objected to the stuff dripping near the horse’s eyes.
Spot-On contains permethrin. The chemical combines with the oils on the horse’s skin, although we didn’t detect any changes in the coat, hair, or skin after treatment.
Horses in hard work aren’t good candidates, as shampooing will remove the product. We didn’t notice light rain or sweat affecting its efficacy in our trials.
We wouldn’t use any other pesticides with Freedom Spot-On. Opt for a plain fly mask only. If this doesn’t control flies well enough, Freedom Spot-On may not be right for your horse.
We love leg boots, which can protect an open wound and definitely decrease stomping, and we believe they should be in all barns. Our favorites were the light, simple Royal Riders boots.
For long-term localized treatments, Spot-On’s two-week treatment interval is tough to beat. It’s great for pastured turnouts or horses that aren’t bathed often, with a fly mask.
That said, we remain wary of its intense level of permethrin and would restrict its use to horses who never need periodic spraying with traditional sprays, whether for the farrier, at a show or on a trail ride. We’d also pass for young, old and sensitive horses and absolutely keep it away from our pets.
Contact Your Local Tack Store Or: R & R Enterprises Defy The Fly 916/783-3158; Loveland Industries War Paint 800/356-8920, www.lovelandindustries.com; Star Horse Freedom Spot-On 800/562-7535, www.starhorseproducts.com; Farnam Fly Guard 800/234-2269, www.farnamhorse.com; Miller’s/EEG 800/526-6310; Kensington Protective Products 909/623-6925; Royal Riders 800/437-6676, www.royalriders.com.