In The Saddle: Time for flies - but we’re not always having fun!

Anita Marsh

Anita Marsh

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Well, the last fortnight has been lovely weather but with this comes the bane of my life (and probably that of other horse owners too) the dreaded horse flies and other flying insects.

I try to be kind to all animals. I’m the type who lets flies out of the window at home, waiting patiently to guide them out. I catch spiders indoors and find a them a lovely new home outside and currently the field mice in our feed room are left to next door’s little furry killer paws, Cookie the cat rather than traps and poison. But horse flies - well, they are a different breed altogether.

They are the bad boys compared to your average house fly. It’s not that I have a particular pecking order of insects but these little devils bite my horse and suck her blood. They are not choosy. They will bite me and my family too, given half the chance.

Their proper name is Tabanidae and it’s only the females that suck blood as this helps them to reproduce. In a bid to stop these flying pests, this time of year you can find an abundance of different types of horse fly repellent spray for sale - which all claim to do the job.

I think I’ve tried all of the major brands over the years, and spent a few quid in the process. One bottle costs on average ten pounds or more and trust me when I say these bottles don’t last the summer. A horse is a whole lot of animal to cover with spray every day!

So, do the more expensive lotions and potions work as well as the cheaper variety? Well, in all honesty I’d say not. This year I’ve decided to use up my current bottle of shop bought-spray and then make my own.

I know a few of my friends have made their own sprays and have said it works just as well but with the added bonus of costing a lot less in the long run. So, always up for saving a few pounds, I asked for their recipes.

Unfortunately for me, a lot of the home-made ones contain tea which I can’t use on a coloured horse - it may stain her white areas - but I’ve managed to find some which don’t - thanks to the horsey Facebook community.

I’m planning on recycling my current fly spray bottle once this is used up but I notice Torne Valley in Epworth sells empty spray bottles.

In addition to fly sprays, April is kitted out with a fly mask, which covers her ears and attaches under her face with velcro. It’s lasted me three summers so far and was well worth the money. I don’t need to use a fly rug until August, as that’s when the flies hit our field.

Sometimes April roams about and looks over the five bar gate at people walking around the market place, heading to the post office or walking the dog as she likes to see what’s happening, but with a black face mask on she’s been known to freak a few of the locals out popping up looking like a bank robber.

If the homemade recipe is any good, or as good as the shop-bought brands I’ll share it. Right now I’m buzzing off to order my citronella online, adding Dettol to this week’s shopping list and will be scouring the streets of Ferry for an Avon lady.

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