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Do Homemade Horse Fly Sprays Work? A Tried and True Recipe

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Horseflies are bothering our horses again. We need a solution that works, so I decided to try a homemade horsefly spray recipe I was given a while back.

Some homemade horse fly sprays work as well as commercial sprays. Plus, the ingredients to make your mixture is safer and cost less than retail fly sprays.

Many people buy horsefly sprays that aren’t effective. There are alternatives and although no product works perfectly homemade fly repellents have a lot of advantages.

Homemade horse fly sprays are effective.

Horseflies are major league pests. They’re not only aggravating to you and your horse; they’re also transmitters of disease. The primary weapon used to fight horseflies in a barn or stable is a bottle of fly spray.

Horses are often sprayed before a trail ride, when turned out in the pasture, or when in their stall. Commercial horse fly sprays work, but with the right combination of ingredients, you can make a spray at home just as effective without the harsh chemicals or cost.

horse fly sprays,

Keeping horseflies at bay with an effective repellent is a top priority. As with many other homemade products, you can make horsefly spray easy and inexpensively at home. The recipes don’t take long to mix and can be varied depending on what items you have available.

Two essential ingredients for homemade horsefly spray

Two must-have ingredients in all homemade horse fly 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.

Flies don’t like the taste of vinegar and avoid biting horses sprayed with the substance. The smell of vinegar repels horseflies and is a natural conditioner for the skin and hair. 

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. 

Picture of essential oils.

Essential oils

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.)

Simple but effective homemade horse fly spray recipe.


Pour the components into a spray bottle and shake to mix the ingredients. Before each use, shake the bottle again to ensure the ingredients are mixed before spraying your horse.

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.

Homemade horse fly sprays are cheap to make.

Most homemade horse fly spray recipes are indeed inexpensive to make. Our recommended simple horse fly spray cost less than two dollars to make. A comparable bottle of commercial fly spray cost over twenty dollars.

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.

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

Picture of a young thoroughbred stallion.

Homemade horse fly sprays don’t use harmful chemicals.

Most homemade horse fly sprays are safer and less expensive than their commercial counterparts.

Many of the chemicals used in commercial sprays with barely pronounceable ingredients, so it’s reasonable to wonder if these chemicals are genuinely safe to use on your horse.

Yes, homemade fly sprays are more reliable than commercial sprays to use on your horse. However, the vast majority of commercial horse sprays are safe when used as directed.

Chemicals aren’t bad per se, but keeping your horse covered in synthetic compounds all summer long might not be the best practice. Most commercial fly repellents formulated for horses use the active ingredient pyrethrin.

Pyrethrins are pesticides extracted from the chrysanthemum flower that is toxic to insects.  This compound works on insects by exciting the nervous system of insects that touch or eat it. Ingestion by the pest quickly leads to paralysis and death. Pyrethrins are commonly mixed with other chemicals to increase their effect

Are pyrethrins toxic to humans?

Pyrethrins are low in toxicity to humans and other mammals. However, it can irritate your skin and, in some cases, cause tingling or numbness at the site of contact. Click here to read a study on the effects of pyrethrins on rats.

When pyrethrins have been ingested or carried into the lungs, people have reported symptoms that are associated with asthma. These signs include wheezing, coughing, difficulty breathing, and irritation of the airways. However, no research has linked exposure to pyrethrins and the development of asthma or allergies.

Insects sprayed directly with pyrethrin are usually killed, and what’s more, pyrethrin quickly decomposes in sunlight and leaves no harmful residues. Compared to most insecticides, pyrethrin is about as environmentally friendly it gets.

Besides pyrethrin, there are synthetic chemicals called pyrethroids that are also used in horse fly sprays. Pyrethroids are designed to be a better version of pyrethrin.

They work well, are biodegradable, and last longer than standard pyrethrin-made fly sprays. These synthetic grades of pyrethrin come in different levels of strength and toxicity. One of the longer-lasting and most effective pyrethroids is cypermethrin. (You can click this link to check the price of horse sprays with cypermethrin.)

Pyrethroids are neurotoxins and are poisonous to flies and other insects, but they’re “pretty safe” when used as directed. Pyrethroid-based fly sprays arrived on the market in the 1970s, and have been used on horses and humans with few reports of adverse health effects.

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

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