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Best Homemade Horse Fly Spray Recipes: Safe & Effective

Last updated: January 4, 2024

By: Miles HenryFact Checked

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Did you know that a single horse fly can bite multiple times, causing your horse significant distress? In the warm, humid climate of Louisiana, where I’ve spent years caring for horses, these pesky insects aren’t just a nuisance but a real threat to a horse’s well-being. Horse flies, with their painful bites, can lead to restless behavior, skin irritations, and even transmit diseases among horses.

Choosing the right fly spray is crucial in this battle against horseflies. While there are numerous commercial options available, they often come with a cocktail of chemicals that can be harsh on your horse’s skin and the environment. This is where homemade fly sprays step in as a game-changer.

I’ve explored a variety of natural ingredients and concoctions to make homemade solutions that effectively keep those pesky flies at bay and are safer and gentler for your horse than commercial fly sprays. In the following sections, we’ll dive into the world of homemade horsefly sprays, uncovering recipes that are both easy to prepare and highly effective.

Picture of a group of young horses in a pasture where horseflies are prevalent.
Horses near water, lots of flies are in the area.

Step-by-Step Recipes for Homemade Horse Fly Sprays

Creating your own horse fly spray is simple, cost-effective, and allows you to tailor the solution to your horse’s specific needs. Here are a few recipes, each suited for different situations and horse types.

Recipe 1: My Go-To Apple Cider Vinegar Spray


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.

Recipe 2: Basic Citronella Spray

Suitable for: General use, particularly effective in high-humidity areas where flies are prevalent.

  • Ingredients:
    • 2 cups of water
    • 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
    • 20-25 drops of citronella essential oil
    • 10 drops of lavender essential oil
  • Instructions:
    1. Combine all ingredients in a spray bottle.
    2. Shake well to mix.
    3. Spray on the horse, avoiding eyes and nostrils. Reapply as needed.

Recipe 3: Eucalyptus-Tea Tree Blend

Suitable for: Horses with sensitive skin; also helps soothe existing bites.

  • Ingredients:
    • 2 cups of water
    • 1 tablespoon of mild soap (to help oils mix with water)
    • 15 drops of eucalyptus oil
    • 10 drops of tea tree oil
  • Instructions:
    1. Mix water and soap in a spray bottle.
    2. Add the essential oils and shake vigorously.
    3. Apply lightly, avoiding sensitive areas.

Recipe 4: Strong Garlic-Vinegar Mix

Suitable for: Areas with heavy fly infestations; not recommended for horses with a strong aversion to garlic scent.

  • Ingredients:
    • 2 cups of water
    • 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar
    • 1 teaspoon of garlic oil (ensure it’s food-grade and safe for horses)
  • Instructions:
    1. Combine all ingredients in a spray bottle.
    2. Shake well before each use.
    3. Spray sparingly, as garlic can be potent.

Recipe 5: Gentle Lavender Spray

Suitable for: Young horses or those with anxiety, as lavender has calming properties.

  • Ingredients:
    • 2 cups of water
    • 10 drops of lavender oil
    • 10 drops of citronella oil
  • Instructions:
    1. Mix the oils and water in a spray bottle.
    2. Shake well and apply, ideal for use before stressful situations like transport.

Tips for Use:

  • Always perform a patch test on a small area before full application.
  • Reapply as needed, especially after sweating or swimming.
  • Store in a cool, dark place to preserve the efficacy of the oils.
  • Customize the scent according to your horse’s preference. Some horses may dislike certain smells.

By using these recipes, you can create a fly spray that’s not only effective but also tailored to your horse’s specific needs and preferences. Homemade sprays offer a natural, safer alternative to commercial products, ensuring your horse’s comfort and health.

When using or creating homemade fly sprays, it’s important to:

  1. Consult with a Veterinarian: Before applying any homemade solution, especially if your horse has sensitive skin or health issues.
  2. Patch Test: Always do a patch test on a small area of the horse’s skin to ensure there is no adverse reaction.
  3. Research Each Ingredient: Understand the properties and potential effects of each ingredient on horses.
  4. Use with Caution: Natural doesn’t always mean safe, so use these ingredients cautiously, especially essential oils and garlic, which can be potent.
Picture of my horse is in his stall, he's been sprayed and is free of flies.
My horse is in his stall, he’s been sprayed and is free of flies.

Application Tips and Best Practices for Homemade Horse Fly Sprays

Proper application of fly spray is crucial for maximizing its effectiveness and ensuring the safety of your horse. Here are some guidelines to follow:

How to Safely Apply Fly Spray on Horses

  1. Approach Calmly: Approach your horse calmly and gently to avoid startling them. Let them sniff the spray bottle if they show interest.
  2. Start from a Distance: Begin spraying from a distance to gauge your horse’s reaction. Some horses may be sensitive to the sound or sensation of the spray.
  3. Avoid Sensitive Areas: Do not spray directly on the face, eyes, or genital areas. Instead, apply the spray to a cloth and gently wipe these areas.
  4. Spray Evenly: Apply the spray evenly across the horse’s coat. Pay special attention to areas where flies are most likely to land, such as the legs, shoulders, and underbelly.
  5. Use a Brush: After spraying, use a brush to help spread the spray evenly and work it into the coat for better protection.
  6. Test for Sensitivity: Always perform a patch test before full application, especially when trying a new recipe.

Frequency and Conditions for Reapplication

  • Reapply as Needed: Generally, homemade fly sprays need to be reapplied every 2-4 hours, depending on the environment and the horse’s activity level.
  • After Exercise or Rain: Reapply after heavy sweating, swimming, or rain, as these conditions can wash away the spray.
  • Monitor Fly Activity: Observe the level of fly activity around your horse. More frequent application may be necessary in areas with high fly populations.

Tips for Maximizing Effectiveness

  1. Consistent Use: Regular application is key. Even if flies aren’t a nuisance at the moment, preventative spraying can be beneficial.
  2. Clean the Horse First: Applying fly spray on a clean coat can enhance its effectiveness. Dirt and sweat can reduce the efficacy of the spray.
  3. Store Properly: Store your homemade fly spray in a cool, dark place to maintain the potency of the ingredients, especially essential oils.
  4. Rotate Ingredients: Occasionally change the essential oils or ingredients in your recipe to prevent flies from becoming accustomed to a specific scent.
  5. Combine with Other Methods: Use fly spray in conjunction with other fly control methods, such as fly masks, sheets, and maintaining a clean stable environment, for comprehensive protection.

By following these application tips and best practices, you can ensure that your horse receives the maximum benefit from your homemade fly spray, keeping them comfortable and fly-free.

Picture of a young thoroughbred stallion.
Young stallion in a paddock.

The Benefits of Homemade Fly Sprays

In the quest to protect our horses from the relentless horse flies, the choice between commercial and homemade fly sprays is pivotal. Let’s delve into why homemade fly sprays can be a superior choice, considering safety, cost-effectiveness, and environmental impact.

Safety: Gentle on Horses, Tough on Flies

Commercial fly sprays often contain a mix of chemicals like pyrethrins, DEET, or permethrin, which, while effective, can be harsh on a horse’s sensitive skin and may pose health risks with prolonged exposure. In contrast, homemade fly sprays utilize natural ingredients like essential oils, vinegar, and herbal extracts.

These natural components are not only gentler on the horse’s skin but also reduce the risk of allergic reactions and other health issues associated with chemical sprays.

Cost-Effectiveness: Economical and Efficient

Homemade fly sprays have the edge in terms of cost-effectiveness. Many of the ingredients used in these sprays, such as apple cider vinegar or essential oils, are readily available and often already present in our homes. By mixing your own sprays, you can create larger quantities at a fraction of the cost of commercial products, without compromising on effectiveness.

Environmental Impact: Eco-Friendly Solutions

The environmental aspect cannot be overlooked. Commercial fly sprays can contribute to environmental pollution, with chemicals potentially harming non-target wildlife and contaminating water sources. Homemade sprays, made from natural and biodegradable ingredients, are a more environmentally responsible choice, aligning with a growing preference for eco-friendly equine care practices.

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

YouTube video

Testimonials and Expert Opinions

The effectiveness of homemade fly sprays is not just anecdotal; many horse owners and equine experts advocate for their use. For instance, a horse trainer from Kentucky shares, “Since switching to homemade fly sprays, I’ve noticed my horses are more comfortable, and the stable environment is healthier.”

Similarly, a veterinarian I know mentioned, “Natural fly sprays can be just as effective as commercial ones, with the added benefits of being safer for the horse and the environment.”

Homemade fly sprays offer a balanced approach to managing horse flies. They are not only a cost-effective and safer alternative but also resonate with the growing trend toward sustainable and responsible horse care. Next, we’ll explore some key ingredients all homemade fly sprays should have to keep your horses happy and fly-free.

Picture of essential oils used to make homemade horse fly sprays.
Essential oils we use to make our fly sprays.

Key Ingredients and Their Benefits in Homemade Fly Sprays

Homemade fly sprays for horses often rely on a blend of natural ingredients, each bringing its unique properties to effectively repel flies while ensuring safety for your equine friends. Let’s explore some of these key ingredients and understand how they work.

Essential Oils: Nature’s Repellents

  1. Citronella Oil: Widely recognized for its insect-repelling qualities, citronella oil is a staple in natural fly sprays. Its strong scent masks environmental cues that flies use to locate horses, effectively keeping them at bay.
  2. Eucalyptus Oil: Known for its antiseptic properties, eucalyptus oil is also an effective insect repellent. Its sharp, refreshing scent is unappealing to flies, making it a crucial component in fly sprays.
  3. Lavender Oil: Besides its calming effect on horses, lavender oil is a natural insect deterrent. Its gentle fragrance is soothing for horses but repulsive to flies.
  4. Tea Tree Oil: With its potent antimicrobial properties, tea tree oil is beneficial for treating bites and soothing irritated skin, in addition to its fly-repelling capabilities.

Vinegar: The Acidic Shield

  • Apple Cider Vinegar: A versatile ingredient, apple cider vinegar is disliked by flies due to its acidic nature. When diluted and used in sprays, it acts as a natural barrier against flies without irritating the horse’s skin.

Herbal Extracts: The Natural Armor

  • Garlic Extract: While safe in small quantities, garlic extract can be included in fly sprays for its strong odor, which is a natural deterrent for flies. However, it’s important to use it sparingly due to its potential toxicity in large doses.

Safety Profile for Horses

  • Dilution is Key: Essential oils should be adequately diluted to ensure they are safe for use on horses. Direct application of concentrated oils can cause skin irritation or sensitization.
  • Patch Test: Before applying any homemade spray over the horse’s body, conducting a patch test is advisable to check for any adverse reactions.
  • Avoid Sensitive Areas: Care should be taken to avoid spraying directly into the horse’s eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Consultation with a Vet: It’s always recommended to consult with a veterinarian, especially if your horse has a history of skin sensitivities or other health concerns.

By understanding the properties and safety profiles of these ingredients, you can create effective and safe homemade fly sprays. These natural solutions not only repel flies but also offer additional benefits like skincare and a pleasant environment for your horses.

Picture of fresh shaving in a horse stall.
Stall bedding should be kept clean to avoid flys.

FAQs on Homemade Horse Fly Sprays

How effective are homemade fly sprays compared to commercial products?

Homemade fly sprays can be quite effective, especially when made with the right combination of natural ingredients known for their repellent properties. While they may need more frequent reapplication than some commercial products, they offer a safer, more natural alternative.

What is the shelf life of homemade horse fly sprays?

Typically, homemade fly sprays can last for about 1-2 weeks when stored in a cool, dark place. The presence of natural ingredients like essential oils means they don’t have the preservatives found in commercial products, so it’s best to make them in small batches and use them within this timeframe.

Are there any safety concerns with using homemade fly sprays on my horse?

The primary safety concern is ensuring that your horse doesn’t have an allergic reaction to any of the ingredients. Always perform a patch test before full application. Additionally, be cautious with the concentration of essential oils; they should be well-diluted to avoid skin irritation.

Can homemade fly sprays cause skin irritation in horses?

Yes, if not properly diluted, ingredients like essential oils can cause skin irritation. It’s important to follow recipes carefully and observe your horse’s reaction to the spray. If irritation occurs, discontinue use immediately.

How often should I apply homemade fly spray to my horse?

This can vary depending on the environment and the specific recipe used, but generally, reapplication every 2-4 hours is recommended, especially in areas with high fly activity or after the horse sweats or gets wet.

Can I use homemade fly spray on a pregnant mare?

It’s advisable to consult with a veterinarian before using any type of fly spray, homemade or commercial, on a pregnant mare. Some essential oils can be harmful during pregnancy.

Can I use homemade fly spray on foals?

Caution is advised when using any fly spray on foals. If you decide to use it, choose a mild recipe and apply it sparingly, avoiding the face and other sensitive areas. Always consult with a veterinarian first.

Can I use any type of vinegar in my homemade fly spray?

Apple cider vinegar is most commonly recommended due to its natural properties and mild scent. Other types of vinegar may be too harsh or have an unpleasant odor.

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

Conclusion: Embrace Natural Fly Control for Your Horses

Homemade horse fly sprays offer a safe, effective, and eco-friendly alternative to commercial products. By using natural ingredients like essential oils and apple cider vinegar, these sprays provide a gentle yet potent defense against flies, ensuring your horse’s comfort and health. The flexibility to tailor recipes to your horse’s specific needs adds to their appeal.

I encourage you to try these homemade solutions and share your experiences. Your feedback can help shape a more natural and holistic approach to equine care. Let’s work together towards a healthier, happier environment for our horses.

Join the Natural Equine Care Movement

Ready to make a positive change in your horse’s life? Start by trying out these homemade fly spray recipes and join a community of horse owners dedicated to natural, sustainable equine care. Share your experiences, tips, and insights with us. Your feedback not only helps improve these recipes but also inspires others to embrace a more natural approach to horse care.

We’d love to hear from you! Share your stories, photos, or videos of your horses enjoying the benefits of your homemade fly sprays. Connect with us, and let’s build a supportive network of like-minded horse enthusiasts. Together, we can make a difference in the world of equine care. Try a recipe today and share your journey! 🐴✨

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Additional Resources and Further Reading

For those interested in delving deeper into the world of equine care and natural fly prevention methods, the following resources offer a wealth of information:

Online Resources and Articles

  1. The Horse Magazine’s Website:
  2. Equus Magazine:
    • Equus Magazine Online
    • Offers a range of articles and studies on horse care, with a focus on practical, vet-approved advice.
  3. American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP):
    • AAEP Horse Health Articles
    • Provides scientifically-backed information on various aspects of horse health, including pest control.

Research Papers and Studies

  • Journal of Equine Veterinary Science:
    • Journal of Equine Veterinary Science
    • For those interested in more scientific studies, this journal publishes research on various aspects of equine health, including pest management.

Online Forums and Communities

  • The Chronicle of the Horse Forum:
    • COTH Forums
    • A community where horse owners share experiences and advice, including homemade remedies for fly control.
  • Horse and Hound Forum:
    • Horse and Hound Online Forum
    • A platform for equestrians to discuss horse care, including natural and homemade solutions for fly prevention.

These resources provide a blend of practical advice, scientific research, and community wisdom, offering a well-rounded approach to understanding and implementing effective horse care and fly prevention strategies.