Fly Spray Phobia!
What do you do if your horse is afraid of flyspray?
by Annamaria Tadlock

I have a 10 year old horse that absolutely fears flyspray. The sound and the liquid touching him freaks him out. It saddens me to see him bothered by the flys and mosquitoes. If you could e-mail me back with suggestion or tips about this problem it would be greatly appreciated. -Sharon

There are a few options you have to help your horse and control flies; You can train him to not be afraid of fly spray, you can use roll-on products or wipe him with fly repellant, and you can take steps to help reduce the number of flies in your area.

A short-term solution would be to pick up a roll-on type product (a fly repellant that comes in a tube with a roller, and you simply roll it over the horse). These are usually used in sensitive areas, like around the face and legs.

You can also spray onto a cloth, and wipe your horse down with the wet cloth.

These are short-term solutions because they won't solve the underlying problem (your horse's fear) but they will allow you to give him some fly relief in the mean time.

The next step would be to get your horse over his fear. If he is afraid of flyspray that can actually be dangerous-- what happens if you're at a show or trail ride and someone nearby sprays their horse? You don't want him to freak out. Plus, his fear is an incovenience because he can't be sprayed normally.

What I would do is follow the steps in this article about Sacking Out, but instead of using a blanket or other object, you will use a spray bottle filled with water (as you're going to spend a lot of time spraying and getting him used to it).

I would take him to a safe area, such as a roundpen, and not have him tied in case he pulls back. I also might roundpen or lounge him first to get any excess energy worked off before you begin your desensitization process.

Start off a comfortable distance away-- where he doesn't freak out-- and spray the ground. Slowly make your way closer and closer until he gets used to you at closer distances. This is all to get him used to the sight and sound of spraying without it actually touching him.
If this seems difficult at first, you might even try with an empty spray bottle, and once he is confortable with that, filling it with water.

The same process used to desensitize (or "sack out") a horse should work with any object the horse is afraid of-- from ropes to plastic bags to fly spray. A desensitized horse is far happier and safer than one that will spook randomly at objects.

The last way to protect your horse would be to make an effort to reduce the flies in the area. Keep manure cleaned up, because moist piles provide a place for flies to breed. To control mosquitos, make sure you remove any standing water (even small pools, like those that collect in old tires, provide a place for mosquitos to breed).

Here are some other fly control tips:

- You can install fly traps or bait around the barn area; many are commercially available, or you can make your own.

- Fly Predators-- a small, nocturnal wasp that lays eggs in fly pupae-- can be purchased to help control the fly population.

- You may consider putting a flymask on your horse to protect his face.

- Some people believe that feeding apple cider vinegar to a horse will make him smell or taste less attractive to flies. You can add apple cider vinegar to your horse's water.



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