Natural fly repellent for horses

Shylee kindly sent this in.

Here's how she keeps the flys at bay with her horses:

"What can be better than free fly repellent!

Well we have problems with my horse getting bad dandruff and patchy and loose hair from fly spray,so something we do is spray them with the hose (only good in warm and hot weather).

2 of our 9 horses don't like getting sprayed so we put actual fly spray on them,but the other 7 love getting spayed!

Every day at about 11:00 am the horses come up and wait for me to hook up the hose and spray them,and after I'm done they go and sniff out a good a dusty place and then they role in the dust, creating mud on their fur,it's excellent on helping you four legged friend to get rid of those pesky flies, AND it can help keep them cool on a hot day 🙂


A big thanks to Shylee for that one.

And don't forget the herbs can help too.




  1. Maureen Andreka

    Wonderful idea but utterly useless if you want to take them to a show:(

    1. Lily

      because going to a show is WAY more important then you horses comfort

      1. Kathy

        Lily – a few people actually show their horses! It doesn’t mean they care less about them – after all, if it wasn’t for Showing, Jumping , Eventing etc horses would be a rare breed, on the few ranches etc for stock work.
        Maureen – we used flyspray (just cover the horse’s eyes when on the face).

      2. If you show your horses put a fly rug on them and spray there legs, or get them fly booties if your horse really can’t take fly spray, to minimise the discomfort, and if you show your horses need to look nice, so you can find other ways to,( i have heard of a couple of people who feed their horses garlic to keep the flies away, but if u were going to do that i ask around to see if it worked first, and if someone knows if it does please respond.)

  2. debs

    Good plan…but I cant get near em with a hose!
    I have a 35 year old who is plagued by 2 youngsters are’nt really guessing that he must have thinner skin 🙁

    1. Susan

      Or the old horse has different metabolism. Is his diet the same as the youngsters?

      I understand that garlic is a good bug repellant. Add to their feed. It exudes through their skin, so they smell like garlic, though.

      Having a clean, dry barn or shed, where the horses can get inside to the dark part of the structure is a non chemical way to protect them. Horseflies do not enter dark barns. Cooler, too.

  3. Debbie

    Garlic powder works wonders for keeping flies etc away! Horses love it too. l mix it in my horses food or you can sprinkle it on their food. It comes in powder form and is as equally healthy for them as it is for us. Some people are a bit funny about the smell of garlic but dried it has a pleasant odour and people should just get over themselves and do it for the love of your horse!

    1. Sheridan

      Just wondering, how much garlic powder are you putting in their feed?

    2. Patti

      I haven’t used it with my horses, but I have always mixed an egg, some garlic powder, a bit of grated parmesan cheese & some water into my dogs’ kibble once every few weeks and in 14 years they have never had a flea! My cats don’t like the mixture in with their dry food, so they get a little bit of hummus or tzatiki dip whenever I eat it myself (1/2 tbsp – 1tbsp- a little bit at a time), but I don’t think the horses would eat it!! Both of these foods have lots of garlic in them and I have never seen a flea on my cats either! Some claim that all-natural Neem Oil works as an insect repellant, but I haven’t tried it. Apple Cider vinegar didn’t work for me, nor did Citronella spray, but it might work for you,as I do believe location/climate play a role. I have a few all-natural recipes saved (but have to find them as I am in the midst of changing computers) and I will post them here. Also, there are companies in the States and one I know of here in Canada (called NIC- Natural Insect Control)that promotes use of a few different kinds of insects to control flies. You spread the colonies of these “Fly Predators” around your field, stables etc. and some people who use them claim you will be pretty much fly-free. That doesn’t help if you are looking for fly control at shows though!

    3. Teresa Piety

      Garlic is in the onion family and is highly toxic to horses. Just be careful on how much you give them PLZ.

    4. Teresa Piety

      Debbi, garlic is in the onion family and is highly toxic to your horses. Just PLZ be careful on how much you give them.

      1. Misty

        How much garlic is safe to use?

  4. Jennifer

    There is spot fly treatment that I bought from a local farm supply store. Directions are to put drops on specific spots of the horse. I think 6 or 7 total. It did not keep all the flies off but less than they had. I have also used the collars which were an ok option. And, last but not least the bands around their ankles. Yep, lots to try. Some work better than others in some areas of the country. Process of elimination!

  5. Deb

    Hi have just made a fly repellent out of rosemary and lemon boiled together, then left to steep overnight. I used it for the first time today and it seems to work really well.

    1. Patti

      Hey Deb,
      How much Rosemary, how much lemon and how much water did you use? Did you cut and boil the whole lemon or just use the juice? Did you crush the Rosemary and throw it in? If not, I am wondering if that would allow even more of the oils to be extracted from it. I want to try your recipe!! Thanks for sharing! Patti

  6. Amy

    I can’t use garlic because my one is Insulin Resistant. I make a mix with Skin So Soft, white vinegar, and ivory liquid soap. Works as well as anything I can buy around here! I’d like to try the neem oil, too.

  7. Heather

    There is a thing called “Shoo fly” that you can plait into your horses mane. It looks a bit like a credit card and it actually does seem to work at repelling flies and mosquitos. I have a horse that is particularly sensitive to any kind of spray (including water) or rub on, or roll on – so the Shoo Fly really helped him get through summer.

  8. Hannah

    Lots of people swear by Avon Skin so soft Dry Oil spray (for dogs too) & it doesn’t have nasty chemical smell. Or make your own with citronella and tea! Google it for lots of different recipes. In my experience they only help, never get rid of flies completely.

  9. Sharon

    With all that garlic, lemon and rosemary our horses are going to smell like a lamb roast!!! But I will try any/all of these alternatives. I also carry my bott knife to every hard feed each day and give their coats a once over to get rid of any eggs. Vigilance is the key to paddock fly control, including removing as much manure as possible (tough over 30+ acres) and putting out LOTS of fly traps early in the season. Good luck everyone!

  10. Emi

    If you spray horses on a hot day you need to use a sweat scraper to get rid of the excess water because it actually traps heat. Rolling in the mud is one of the ways horses keep warm.
    Most horses shouldn’t need fly repellent because they have their own natural ways of keeping the flies off — twitchy skin and flicky tails.

    1. Misty

      Emi I don’t agree. Two of my horses have beediagnosed with”sweet itch” and need the help of a fly repellant in this Texas heat. They can’t do it by themselves.

      1. Kathy

        You have a good sense of humour Sharon!! love it!
        I don’t understand fly traps tho??….
        Cleaning up I do, have 5 acres – put in manure pit with scraps for my free range chooks – along with cleanout of chook pen and ashes from home fire), the chooks scratch it round, I turn over every months and wollah! perfect compost for the vege garden!

      2. Kathy

        Sweet itch is from Midges, not flies!
        And as an ex polo groom working in Australia when the wether gets to 45 degrees cel (113 F) – it is obvious you sweat scrape after hosing down after a work out. I do it with any horse – common sense!

  11. Celeste

    How about lemon juice citronella and garlic tea boil fo about 15 min cool and add skin soft. Just try different combinations to see which work best. 💡

  12. DAYNA

    I too have tried a ton of things this year the flies were horrid It was such a hot year and humid too we had to spay the horses a few times a day just to give them relief
    rolling ing the dirt only works IF they do it and it does nothing for the legs and face which is where the flies are the worst
    I have put baggies with water and 4 pennies in them and hung them above every stall the Amish said it works but it did not
    my horse was freaked out getting sprayed with fly spray for I did get the stuff you put on different spots in the body and legs it was OK
    viniger was only good for five min.
    Sooo the best thing is fly preditors and fly masks
    and shoofly leggings they dont fall down and stay
    up to the knees and dont bunch up.
    Ill try anything to keep them comfortable
    Id like to try the lemon and rosemary
    can you post the measurments it there is one

    1. Kathy

      if your horse reacts to spray, spray onto your hand then rub onto the area of the horse. We in Aussie have a great pump bottle called off, that I use on horses – not only keeps flies away but Mozzies, midges etc!

  13. Summer

    🙄 I had a friends friend gave this hose atachment to me, for horses. It was wonderful. After many years it broke. Not thinking any thing of it. I would replace it. Have tryed the internet,special orders at feed & farm stores. Can’t find it. It was a brush on a handle, where when you squied the handle water would come out. The other side of the brush was a squeegee. For horses who fear the hose spraying on them, this worked for my girls.

  14. Misty

    Has anyone tried the fly sheets? I’m desperate for help for my boys. The vet said some horses inherit from the mare what they call sweet itch. it ihorrible. ileaves welp and hives all over the neck and back. then thhorses rub the skin off. it ihorrible nightmare.ibrsavib

  15. Mel

    We have a spray bottle they we put 1/3 apple cider vinegar, 1/3 Avon skin so soft, 1/3 works like a charm

    1. That sounds good – but does the ACV help with the smell of the SSS? SSS has worked in the past, but I seem to end up sick to my stomach every time I use it – the smell is too strong for me.

  16. Chris Ferreira

    Hi All

    I have made a very effective fly repellent and its all natural.

    250ml Apple Cider vinegar
    1 tea spoon / 15 drops lavender essential oil
    1 tea spoon / 15 drops tea trea oil
    1 tea spoon / 15 drops euculuptus oil
    if you want to you can also add citronell oil but only 8 drops. Mix with 1/4 water and one drop dishwash soap to get the oil and the vinigar to mix 😉

    1. Margie

      1/4 CUP of water? Or, 1 part oil and apple cider vinegar to 4 parts water (
      ? Or, do you mean 8 drops citronell to 4 times that amount of water? That would make a lot of spray!

    2. Margie

      I am confused by your last statement. Is that 1/4 cup water or are you talking about ratios, ie 1 part oils to 4 parts water? Or, are you talking about 8 drops citronnel oil (representing one part) to four times that much water? This sounds like a good recipe; I just want to get it right! Thanks!

  17. What is good and effective to keep mosquitoes at bay from horses????

  18. Helen

    Aromatherapist recommended and proved very effective: roughly equal quantities of catnip and citronella essential oils in a small amount of liquid soap or shampoo to emulsify and shaken in plenty of water to distribute over a big horsey body! Get large quantities (half litre/litre or more)of essential oil direct from a good supplier such as Kobashi (who are also fantastically helpful with advice) as getting 10ml bottles from your local health food store won’t go far and will work out very expensive…

  19. Karen Weakley

    I had been feeding my horse garlic as well from Springtime Inc. I started doing some research on the garlic and there really has not been enough research to show whether this is a safe method. Some report that over time this could cause anemic issues over time and you may notice your horse becoming lethargic. I have a friend who use to use garlic and ended up having to put her horse down due to anemic issues. Not sure if this is related or not. But remember garlic is like a blood thinner. Just due to the fact alone, that research has not been done extensively, I have quit using the garlic. I now use Simplifly. Better safe than sorry. Karen

  20. julesh

    I used to use citronella oil, which we used to dilute down as it could be quite harsh to skin, if not used with care, garlic also had its advantages have used crushed elderflowers/berries in water – sometime ago some of the horses used to stand under said bushes and they definately weren’t plagued by flies (it was just us humans 😆

  21. Sue

    Terrible waste of a valuable resource! (water!) I use diatomaceous earth, 1 tbsp twice a day in moist feed, to control flies in the poop. Stops them at the source. I scarcely even have one fly.

    I thought this was a remedy for horseflies and deerflies, far more painful and insidious creatures…..

  22. Remona Woodward

    You guys, I’ve tried just about all the fly repellants and still have half full containers of the expensive stuff for one reason or another. Not one of my horses like the horrible smelling sprays and bolt away like lightening when they see the bottle coming toward them. SO, I started the water hose last summer and so far only one likes that. In fact, he likes it so much he gets the water hose in his mouth and lets it run out. He will turn so that I get his entire body sprayed and then he rolls in my donkeys’ dusting bowl to take off the remaining water and to coat with dust. The other three will stand in overspray of the yard sprinkler so that they’re misted but will not allow me to use the water hose. Now, the only thing I can do is wipe their faces with warm water on a washcloth, paying close attention to their eyes where the pesky flies seem to congregate and then I continue down their backs the same way. I sneak a salve repellent down their backs too. I find if I do it as part of a daily grooming event they’re ok with it. In fact all four of my boys and girls love the attention. Wish there was an easy cure for the monsters! Alas, I’ve not found one! 😥 😥 😥

  23. Debra

    We live in Somerset UK, so warm hot weather is rather few and far between here! However, our lane is home for many horses & livery yards, so homemade & natural repellant that DOES work 1/3 Cider vinegar 1/3 baby oil (cheapest brand equally fine), 1/3 warm/cooled boiled water, shake it up before each use & spray away the flys, don’t like the vinegar/oil combination, then glossy coat groom ready for show! 😎

  24. Shirlee

    Rub your horse down with a bounce dryer sheets every day. It keeps the flies away and they smell good too. I have done this for years. I also use fly preditors.

  25. Patty

    Where I live, the hose brings over the horseflies. Have also tried making the citrus/witch hazel treatment, garlic, and a concoction with listerine to keep mosquito’s from biting. Ok for an hour or so only. Went back to UFA horse spray. Stickin’ with that.

  26. Shauna

    Garlic is great to use if you feed it to them everyday, but it can get expensive if you have more than one horse. I use Diatemaceous Earth (Food Brand). It is only about 35.00 for a 50 lb bag and you feed about 1 cup daily to my horses in their grain. It controls flies from the inside and out in their manure. It supposedly controls parasites in their guts as well, gives them a healthy sheen. Read up on the positive things is does and used for. Humans can take it also!

  27. rona

    🙂 this is always a fun thing for my equines, e enough when it rains.

  28. rona

    I also use fly predators

  29. Connie

    First of all, love this site. I have a horse and three dogs. I have been trying to find a solution to the fly problems with my horse. She is stabled and I don’t like to use sprays with poisons. I was walking by a friend who was spraying her horse in the cross ties, and within an hour, my neck on the side closest to the spray area developed a terrible rash. I am not putting these sprays on my horse. I have tried the bags of water w/pennies??? who knows how effective that is, but remember, if you do try it, place it up high where light can reflect through it. I have found that flies hate Pine Sol. I tried it on my dog walk and haven’t seen any since. Has anyone heard of a essential oil or spray solution with pine scent in it? Pine Sol is too harsh of course,
    but I believe the idea of using a pine scent has real possibilities. What about any suggestions for mosquitos, Im still looking for a good one.
    My beautiful horse is sure eye candy to flies, just like some people. Thanks for any suggestions.

  30. Karen

    Hi all
    My horse too hates the traditional fly spray so I will try the potion mentioned above. However I have started rubbing a little blob of germolene at the tip of her far so good!!

  31. Karen

    While not a ‘natural’ fly spray, I have had the most success with products from Fly spray & sweet itch medicine – fabulous .. even those pesky gnats (noseeums). Now my girls see the bottle of spray and come up with a “please spray me”. I also use fly predators and a fly mask – no sheets.

  32. Chris

    Ive been using Spaulding Fly Predators for about 10 years now. It REALLY keeps the fly problem to a minimum, but takes a year or two to “get ‘er done”. I only need to use a little “War Paint” now and then.

    1. candice

      I use Arbico fly predators and it took awhile to build up my area to keep the flies down

  33. penny

    I use vegetable oil flies can’t fly after coming in contact with it and pesty gnats stick to it. Looks good for showing to. Otherwise them rolling in dusty dirt is their natural way soothes their bites . acts like a camouflage . because no sweat smell. When I trail ride I get a branch that has lots of leaves to swoosh flies just as they do on their own in the woods. Native Americans made a switch using horse hair to swat at flies. They used horse hair. Wrapped leather around end for handle. Nothing like having your rider helping to keep flies off them. Show them you care. Turn outs should be morning and evening less flies and less sugars in the grass and more comfortable temperatures in the summers.

  34. SA Spinks

    Does anyone have any input regarding the “Natural Ride Saddle” made by Colorado Saddlery?
    Comments I’ve found online are all a few years old. Can’t find any recent ones about the new redesigned Natural Ride Saddle.
    Thanks in advance!

  35. NOMS by advanced biological concepts. A teaspoon a day keeps the flies completely away and It is good for them. A 5 pound lasts months even with three horses. Ive tried everything else. This is my 4th most wonderful year of fly free.

    1. Gail

      What is NOMS. Sounds like that is what I need.

  36. Ps: im in florida so flies are year round . I did the predators but then yoy can’t spray for nighttime mosquitoes which one bomb around stalls a month in summer does the trick. With NOMS there are no flies on their face, body or in my house. Whoopie

    1. candice

      where do you get NOMS from?

  37. Mal holman

    I grew up in the country scone( nsw) horse country and a lot of dairy farms— so lots of bush flies/bots we always had fly veils when the horses were outside .when dressing the horse we added some citronella /kerosene to our wisp bucket… Flies hated the mix + kerosene put a great ( sheen) on their coat….mix 1/2 teaspoon in 4litres of warm water of the kerosene / citronella!!! Good luck. M H

  38. candice

    great idea for keeping some of the flies
    unless you live in Texas where the soil
    is black plastic clay that knots up your
    mane and tails until your horse looks
    like a Jamaican with dreads. It becomes major work
    to get the mess of knots out and it most often ruins the appearance of the mane.

  39. Gail

    🙄 I have an extremly spooky horse. I cant used fly spray or any strong smelling wipe. But I need something. Can anyone help !

  40. Greg

    If u want a cheap and effective solutiom to the problem, Use vinegar with water. Works wonders. I use that ob my horse.

  41. Kiley

    When using the skin so soft, which kind do you use? and do you just use the bath oil?

  42. Jacq

    You really don’t need any of those concoctions if you use a neem rinse, or spray. It is potent on ticks mites and all insect pests a horse has to endure. It affects the hormone and reproductive cycles of these pests.

  43. Lil Judd

    OK this one isn’t free, but you can mix TeaTree Oil, the good kind, with water. Doesn’t smell good granted, but flies don’t like TeaTree Oil. You’ll always have to shake up the spray bottle so the oil & water mixes. But it also has the great effect of being good for so many other reasons like any scrapes they have etc.

  44. JJ

    I tried Fly predators for 2014
    We have seven horses and lots of manure.
    It was amazing!!!
    They shipped auto monthly based on horse numbers
    And area size.
    I also got the fly traps and the natural spray
    That eliminates the toxic effects from urine in
    We were very pleased.

  45. Kelly

    apple cider vinegar in there feed helps
    start small to get ur horse use to it

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