Sight-hunting fly control while driving?

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Abby P

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Nov 29, 2020
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New England
Looking ahead to spring: does anyone have recommendations for keeping sight-hunting flies (deer flies, horse flies, greenheads, etc.) off while driving? For turnout for my big horses I had the Buca's Zebra fly sheets which were magical at keeping those flies off - they didn't just keep them from biting, the zebra pattern causes them to leave the area entirely. We have a thriving population of these flies in summer and you are mobbed the moment you enter the woods. I'd rather not drench Rowan in chemicals every time I go out, and sprays don't work well at all on these bugs anyway. I'll already be using Equispot for tick prevention. Would it be realistic to make some sort of rump drape out of zebra-patterned fabric, if it was cut in such a way as not to interfere with the harness? They do make the zebra fly masks in mini sizes, not sure that alone would be enough to keep the flies away from the entire horse or not.

All suggestions welcome!
The Cashel fly masks are my favorite. The ears are HUGE on the mini horse size but they are still the best masks I've found for my little equines.

For the body... Fly spray is the only thing I've found that works especially in harness. Fly sheets just don't breath well enough for a horse to wear while working imo.
I know what you mean about constant fly sprays, but I don't know what else to do. I never heard of zebra pattern discouraging the flies, but that is an interesting idea. If your pony is clipped in the summer I don't see why you couldn't use a fly sheet, but I think it would be pretty awkward with a harness. There are other New England drivers here; maybe they will have some ideas.
The oil based fly sprays are the only ones that work for me. I'm actually using it right now, spritzed onto their chests, for ticks in the tall grass.
This is going to sound weird and I haven't needed to try it but know people who swear by it. Get a plastic dragon fly(they come on a wire and sit above the horse) from one of the gardening stores and clip it in your harness/crownpiece. The dragonfly is a natural predator and the shape keeps the horseflies away.
Thanks! I NEVER would have thought of a plastic dragonfly. I do agree the Cashel masks are great - they were the only ones I ever found that didn't touch my Arabian's prominent eyes.

The zebra pattern confuses the navigation of these flies - it's really totally amazing. When I first got the Buca's sheets for my big horses, it was high summer and they were surrounded by horseflies in the pasture. I pulled the sheet out of the package, unfolded it, and the flies immediately left the area, before I even put it on the horse!

I was thinking a square of zebra-patterned material over the rump might be enough. It wouldn't need to cover the horse, just be a large enough area of the pattern to disrupt the flies. If I attached it to the saddle and maybe secured it somehow to the breeching on each side to keep it from slipping, maybe it would be OK? That way it wouldn't interfere with the lines or be underneath any of the straps. Some light fabric like thin cotton or Lycra. But maybe I'll try the dragonfly first - it's certainly more likely to succeed than me trying to sew anything. 😂

Has anyone found a spray that actually works on these bigger flies? All the ones I've tried seem only to work for stable flies and such, deer flies and horse flies still bite.

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