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Demystifying Fly Spray Ingredients

With so many fly care options available, it can be challenging to determine the best options for your horse. Let us help demystify the many different ingredients and formulations of fly repellents available to horse owners today. And remember, you don’t have to stick to just one method. Sometimes you will get the best effectiveness by using a few different products.


This natural insecticide is derived from the extract of plants from the daisy plant (chrysanthemum) family. It works quickly on insects, but it does break down easily in sunlight, so it needs to be reapplied frequently. This is the key ingredient in a number of tried and true fly care products, including Tri-Tec 14 Fly Repellent and Swat Fly Repellent Ointment, both from Farnam.


This synthetic chemical imitates the extracts of the chrysanthemum flower. It is slightly less effective than pyrethrin. It also does not break down as easily when exposed to sunlight, making it longer lasting for most horse owners. This is the key ingredient in products like Absorbine UltraShield Red, Durvet TURN OUT Sweat & Waterproof Fly Spray, and more.


Essential Oils

Citronella Oil

Citronella oil is a naturally occurring repellent from two grass varieties. It’s made up of citronellol, citronellal, and geraniol. Citronella oil is a minimum risk pesticide with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and it has been in use since 1948. This is a popular ingredient in conventional and all-natural formulations, including Zephyr’s Garden Pure & Simple Fly RepellentFarnam EquiCare Flysect Citronella Spray, and more.

Neem Oil

Growing in popularity in recent years, this natural ingredient fights flies in a variety of formulations including the popular Equiderma fly sprays.

Cedarwood Oil

A key ingredient in Wondercide fly sprays, cedarwood oil kills and repels pests naturally. It also has calming aromatherapeutic qualities.


Oil-Based v. Water-Based

It’s also important to consider whether the products you choose are oil-based or water-based, which will be indicated on the product label. Oil-based sprays are much more effective for longer periods, including rainy conditions, but they will leave a residue on your horse’s coat. Water-based sprays won’t feel as greasy on the coat, and they won’t accumulate debris as much as an oil-based spray, although they will not last as long.


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