Is there anything better than a leisurely hack through the woods with your horse? Many equestrians, regardless of their goals in the saddle, have found themselves enjoying a trail ride on many occasions. Whether you primarily trail ride or use it as a form of equine cross-training for the body and mind, you know that biting insects can turn an incredible ride into a torturous event in a hurry.
Fortunately for you, it doesn’t need to be that way. With the right products and a well-rounded approach to insect control, you can tell those pesky critters to “bug off!”
Spray It On
The first step in many insect control plans utilizes one of the more popular products on the market, fly spray. There is a plethora of fly sprays on the market, with a number of different ingredients. To learn more about the specific ingredients like Pyrethrin, Permethrin, and Citronella, check out our blog post: Demystifying Fly Spray Ingredients.
One particular feature to take note of when shopping for fly spray that you intend to trail ride with is whether the spray is oil- or water-based. Oil-based sprays traditionally last longer and are much more likely to be “sweatproof.” The Farnam Endure Sweat-Resistant Fly Repellent bonds to the hair shaft, remaining effective even in wet or humid conditions.
One caveat of oil based sprays is that they tend to attract dust. If you prefer a water-based spray, look for long lasting sprays, such as Absorbine UltraShield Sport Insecticide & Repellent, to ensure that your fly repellent will endure the duration of your trail ride.
One of the most effective ways to control biting insects on the trail is to place a physical barrier between your horse and the flies. Gnats and stable flies tend to congregate around your horse’s eyes and ears, which can be quite the distraction!
Minimize head shaking and keep your horse thinking about you (not the bugs!) with an ear net such as the Cashel Comfort Ears or the Eskadron Crochet Fly Net with Ears. These convenient nets are designed to be put under your horse’s bridle and are held on by the crown piece. If you are riding through a densely wooded area with an overabundance of insects, consider a bit more coverage. The Cashel Crusader Quiet Ride Fly Mask covers your horse’s eyes and face during your ride.
Horse flies and deer flies don’t just flock to your horse’s head, however. For a full-fledged approach, the Cashel Quiet Ride Bug Armor and the Horseware Amigo Fly Rider are fly sheets that are designed to be worn by your horse while being ridden. They will not affect the fit of your saddle in any way, but they will make a big difference in the amount of bug bites that your horse endures! We especially love these sheets for highly sensitive horses that may react to applications of fly spray, or horses that respond to bites with large welts.
Two Tails are Better Than One
When you watch horses in the pasture, they often stand head to tail during the fly filled heat of the day. While it may not be feasible bring your horse’s buddy on the trail ride with you, you can bring the second best thing… a fly whisk!
Manufactured from genuine horse hair, the County Horse Hair Fly Whisk and the Exselle Fly Whisk allow you to brush flies off of your horse’s ears, head, and body. To really keep biting insects at bay, try spraying your whisk with fly spray before you head out on your ride. If you are familiar with carrying a crop in the arena, you can easily carry a whisk on the trail; the leather strap ensures that you can keep the whisk securely in your hand and not accidentally drop it in the woods.
Enjoy the Ride
Now that you have surrounded your horse from every angle, it’s time to turn the focus to you! After all, not only do we owe it to ourselves to avoid painful and potentially dangerous insect bites, but bugs swarming around us can bother our horses as well.
We recommend that you use a high quality fly repellent in order to deter the flies. If you are sensitive to sprays, consider spraying your clothing, gloves, and helmet. Many of our customers like the Farnam Dual Defense Insect Repellent for Horse & Rider, which can be used on both their horses and themselves – this is a double duty heavy hitter!
Just as with your horse, flies can’t bite the areas that they can’t get to. The Rider Bug Net protects your head and neck, without reducing the effectiveness of your helmet. The light fabric is also easy to see through and does not impede the vision of the rider.
It may not sound like fun to wear long sleeves in the heat of the summer, but it is a trail riding must. Not only will long sleeves discourage horse flies and mosquitoes, they also provide protection against ticks, which potentially carry Lyme Disease. Fortunately, there are a number of innovative technical fabrics that will keep you cool as cucumber despite covering your arms. The Tailored Sportsman Icefil Zip Top Shirt is breathable and lightweight, helping your body efficiently evaporate sweat. It also offers SPF protection from the sun as an added benefit!
With the proper insect control protocol, both you and your horse can enjoy your next trail ride to the fullest. This summer, we want to help you get out of the ring and hit the trails. If you have any questions about equipment or proper use of products, please reach out to our friendly sales staff who have years of experience in the saddle.