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Homemade Horse Fly Sprays: Do They Work?

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As the temperature rises, a familiar menace rears its head in horse stables everywhere – the persistent and pesky horse flies. These seemingly insatiable insects not only make life uncomfortable for our equine friends, but they also pose a risk to their health. The question lingers: How can we protect our horses effectively without breaking the bank on commercial sprays?

Enter the realm of homemade horse fly sprays, a DIY solution that’s gaining popularity. Promising an affordable, customizable, and often more natural way to combat these bothersome insects, these sprays offer an appealing alternative to off-the-shelf products. But in the face of stubborn horse flies, do these homemade concoctions truly hold their ground?

In this blog post, we’re going to dive deep into the world of homemade horse fly sprays. We’ll explore the ingredients and recipes and, most importantly, put them to the test. Do these sprays actually work? Let’s find out together.

Homemade Horse Fly Sprays: An Overview

Homemade horse fly sprays, simply put, are do-it-yourself mixtures you can whip up at home to keep those pesky horse flies at bay. The idea is simple and effective – instead of buying commercially produced sprays, you make your own using readily available ingredients.

Picture of a group of young horses in a pasture where horseflies are prevalent.

There are a few key benefits to this approach. First, it’s a cost-effective alternative. Ingredients for a homemade spray often come at a fraction of the price of commercial sprays. Over time, this can result in significant savings, especially if you have multiple horses to care for.

Secondly, homemade sprays allow you to control what goes into your mixture. This can be particularly advantageous if you’re keen on using natural ingredients or if your horse has specific allergies. In a world where artificial additives and harmful chemicals are all too common, a homemade spray offers a natural alternative.

Lastly, these sprays are customizable. Want a stronger mixture? Add more of the active ingredient. Prefer a certain fragrance? Incorporate your chosen essential oils. Homemade horse fly sprays grant you the flexibility to experiment and find the perfect blend that suits your horse’s needs and your preferences.

Two essential ingredients for homemade horsefly spray

Two must-have ingredients in all homemade horsefly sprays are essential oils and vinegar. After using different variations of these primary ingredients, we found a couple of mixtures that are effective and simple.

The smell of vinegar repels horseflies. Apple Cider Vinegar is a natural product created from fermented apple juice. One of the ways a horse fly finds its victim is through smell, so an effective spray needs to mask the horse’s scent.

An interesting side note, adding a 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar to a horse’s daily diet causes thiamine (vitamin B1) to be excreted through the skin, repelling flies and mosquitoes. 

Essential oils repel insects and are safe to use. They are derived from plants and are considered “essential” because they contain the characteristic fragrance of the plant from which it is derived. Many essential oils repel horse flies and are safe to spray on your horse, such as lavender, lemon, citronella, sage, bergamot, cedarwood, lemon eucalyptus, lemongrass, peppermint, geranium, sweet orange, and rosemary.

Each oil has a different scent, so experiment with the various oils until you find the one that works for you and your horse. Note: All essential oils aren’t the same. Some commercially sold oils are low quality, so do your research before purchasing. (The Centers for Disease Control website provides useful information about repellants to help you make a safe choice.)

Picture of essential oils used to make homemade horse fly sprays.

Homemade Horse Fly Spray: The Recipe


Pour the components into a spray bottle and shake to mix the ingredients. Before each use, shake the bottle to ensure the ingredients are well-mixed. Spray lightly on your horse, avoiding the eyes and mouth.

This recipe is quick and easy. You can add a teaspoon of Dawn dishwashing soap or swap out white vinegar for apple cider vinegar. You may also want to try different essential oils, such as citronella, instead of Eucalyptus oil.

This simple horse spray works effectively for roughly an hour before you will need to apply it to your horse again. The need to reapply after an hour is consistent with most commercial-grade sprays.

Picture of a young thoroughbred stallion.

Testing the Homemade Horse Fly Spray

To figure out how well our homemade horse fly spray works, we set up a simple but solid test. We picked two healthy horses of about the same size. We sprayed our homemade mix on the first horse while the second horse got a dose of a widely-used store-bought spray.

For the next four hours, we kept an eye on both horses, noting how many flies were buzzing around each one and how often the horses showed signs of being bothered, like shaking their heads or swishing their tails.

The results were pretty clear. The horse with the homemade spray had far fewer flies bothering it and seemed much less irritated. On the other hand, the horse with the store-bought spray still had a fair number of flies around it and seemed more troubled by them.

So, based on our test, the homemade horse fly spray works really well – even better than the store-bought kind. This means that making your own spray could be a great way to save some money and keep your horse happy at the same time.

Understanding Horse Flies

Horse flies are large, buzzing insects that are a serious nuisance for horses. These flies are known for their painful bites, which can cause discomfort and distress in horses. The female horse fly needs to consume a blood meal for successful reproduction, making our horses prime targets.

Horse flies have a unique lifecycle, going through four stages – egg, larva, pupa, and adult. They lay their eggs near water sources, and the larvae burrow into the ground after hatching, feeding on organic matter. The larvae eventually transform into pupae and finally into adult flies, ready to continue the cycle.

Their persistent biting and quick reproduction make them difficult to control, underlining the need for effective control methods. Not only do these bites cause distress, but they can also potentially transmit diseases, amplifying the importance of efficient horsefly management.

Common Methods to Control Horse Flies

Controlling horse flies requires a multifaceted approach. Common methods include mechanical traps, fly sheets, masks, and leg wraps for horses. These offer a physical barrier against the flies. Another widely used method is the application of fly sprays, both commercial and homemade.

Commercial horsefly sprays are popular due to their convenience and effectiveness. They often contain pyrethrins, a type of pesticide that quickly kill and repel flies. Additionally, these sprays are readily available and easy to apply. However, there are a few downsides.

Some horses may have allergic reactions to the chemicals, and there’s also the concern of environmental impact from these pesticides. Furthermore, commercial sprays can be costly, especially when used regularly throughout the fly season.

On the other hand, homemade sprays allow for customization, often using natural ingredients, and can be more cost-effective. Nonetheless, their effectiveness may vary, and it requires time and effort to prepare.

Picture of a horse with flies on its face.  It needs safe horse fly spray.

Comparing Homemade and Commercial Horse Fly Sprays

When comparing homemade horse fly sprays with commercial alternatives, several factors come into play. In our test, the homemade spray outperformed a common commercial spray, demonstrating impressive effectiveness in reducing fly activity and horse discomfort.

Cost is another key factor. Homemade sprays, created with readily available ingredients, can be considerably less expensive than store-bought sprays. Our recommended simple horse fly spray costs less than two dollars to make. A comparable bottle of commercial fly spray costs over twenty dollars. Over a fly season, this difference can add up, especially for those caring for multiple horses.

Safety and environmental impact are also worth considering. While commercial sprays are generally safe when used as directed, some horses may react to the synthetic compounds used. In contrast, homemade sprays can be made from natural ingredients, reducing the risk of adverse reactions.

Moreover, homemade sprays, especially those with biodegradable ingredients, may have less environmental impact than commercial products, which often contain pesticides.

However, convenience shouldn’t be overlooked. I have friends that love the convenience of picking up a bottle of fly spray when they are at the feed store. They have zero interest in making their spray, which is fine; however, for those who want to save money, this recipe is the right choice.

Additionally, the efficacy of homemade sprays can be variable, depending on the recipe used. Ultimately, the choice between homemade and commercial sprays will depend on individual priorities and circumstances.

The following are some tools you may find helpful in your battle against horseflies.

Most homemade horsefly sprays don’t contain harmful chemicals.

Homemade horsefly sprays are typically safer and more affordable than commercial options, as they avoid synthetic chemicals often found in commercial sprays. While most commercial sprays are safe when used properly, constant exposure to synthetic compounds may not be ideal for your horse’s wellbeing throughout summer.

Commercial repellents usually contain pyrethrins, pesticides derived from chrysanthemums, lethal to insects through neurotoxic effects. These are often combined with other chemicals to boost their effectiveness.

Are pyrethrins toxic to humans?

Pyrethrins, often found in fly sprays, have low toxicity to humans but can cause skin and respiratory irritation. They quickly decompose in sunlight, posing a minimal environmental risk.

Pyrethroids, synthetic versions of pyrethrins, are longer-lasting and potent against flies. Generally safe for humans when used correctly, they’re insect neurotoxins. Like pyrethrins, they also degrade quickly in sunlight.

Below is a helpful YouTube video showing how to make homemade fly spray for horses.


Horse flies are more than just a nuisance for horses and their caretakers; they pose a genuine challenge that requires an effective solution. This exploration into homemade horse fly sprays demonstrates their potential as a cost-effective, customizable, and potentially more natural alternative to commercial sprays.

While commercial sprays offer convenience and are generally safe, they can be expensive and contain synthetic chemicals. Our testing of a homemade recipe revealed promising results, making it a worthwhile option for those willing to invest the time in preparation.

Ultimately, the choice between homemade and commercial horse fly sprays depends on personal priorities, including cost, convenience, and the desire for natural solutions. By understanding the strengths and weaknesses of each, we can make informed decisions in the quest to keep our horses comfortable and horse fly-free.


Do horsefly masks work?

Yes, horse fly masks can be effective. They provide a physical barrier that prevents horse flies from landing on and biting a horse’s most vulnerable areas, including eyes and ears. However, they don’t protect the entire body, so using them in conjunction with other fly control methods is recommended.

What smell do horse flies hate most?

Horse flies are known to dislike certain smells, with citronella, eucalyptus, and peppermint among the most repelling. Therefore, these scents are commonly used in horsefly repellents. However, effectiveness can vary, and additional methods of horsefly control are often necessary for comprehensive protection.