During the summer months flies are an annoyance to horses and their bites can be a major irritation. Fly rugs can provide relief and there are also a variety of fly repellents sold in equestrian stores but there are also fly repellent remedies that can be made at home.

Common recipes often involve a combination of essential oils, available from many chemists and health food outlets. Such oils include eucalyptus, tea tree, lavender and sandalwood, the first three being the most useful. These are most commonly mixed with water in a spray bottle and sprayed on as required.

Other fly repellent recipes involve garlic, probably the most powerful natural fly repellent there is, although spray-on garlic-based fly repellents tend to be rather unpleasant smelling especially when combined with the likes of lavender oil.

'Internal' fly repellent have the effect of either causing the horse's body to secrete oils that will repel flies (garlic), or raise the pH (acidity level) of the horse's blood enough to put flies off from biting. Such repellents take time to produce an effect so combining these with a fly repellent spray initially is recommended.

Below are some of the more popular home-made fly repellents.

  • White wine vinegar, water and any combination of eucalyptus, lavender, sandalwood or tea tree oils. Mix a few drops of each essential oil into a little washing-up liquid and add to the vinegar and water. Put the resultant mixture into a spray bottle and shake well before using. Variations include the addition of strong, cold tea instead of water, crushed garlic (although this can clogs the 'spray' mechanism of the bottle), meths, and Dettol.

  • Take a large lemon with a thick rind and slice thinly. Place in a bowl with a few sprigs of rosemary and cover both in boiling water. Allow to steep overnight and strain the mixture the following morning. Pour the mixture into a spray bottle and shake before applying. A similar response seems to be had by doing the same with leaves, stems and flowers from Elder bushes. (Slipping flowering elder twigs through your horse's browband can also act as a fly repellent.)

  • Mix one part crushed garlic to five parts water. Shake the mixture and leave overnight. Strain and pour liquid into a spray bottle.

  • An internal fly repellent. The addition of garlic to a horse's feed causes the skin to secrete garlic-scented oils that deter flies. Garlic powder can be bought from most saddleries and feed merchants.

  • An internal fly repellent. Adding a little vinegar or cider vinegar to a horses water raises the pH of the horse's blood sufficiently to put flies off from biting.