How do I protect my horse from blood-sucking insects?

In summer, not only we humans but also our beloved horses are affected by blood-sucking insects. Here are some tips on how we can make life a little easier for our horses.

insect repellent

There are a variety of insect repellents and repellents available from specialist retailers. These products fall into two categories: insecticides, which are intended to kill the insects, and masking agents, which are intended to mask the horses' own odor and thus make them invisible to bloodsuckers. Most of these products contain essential oils as a base for their fragrance blends. Before using such products, please test them first as essential oils can cause skin irritation. The products offered in specialist retailers, both chemical and herbal versions, are generally well tolerated by horses and can be used without hesitation.

Vinegar water as a natural option

A completely safe option is to use vinegar water, which can be used to wash the horse. This can relieve existing stitches.

Duration of effect

It is important to note that most insect repellents do not work indefinitely. After a few hours, their effectiveness wears off and the insects may no longer be repelled. Advertising claims about the protective effect should be viewed realistically in everyday use, as the values ​​stated in the advertisements were often achieved under laboratory conditions that do not exist in the pasture. This should always be kept in mind.


There are several steps you can take to be preventive. To be effective, it is important to take a closer look at the habitats and habits of different insect species.


Horseflies prefer warm and moist environments, especially sunny or partially shaded areas protected from the wind. The warmer and more humid it gets, the more aggressive they become. Bites from horseflies can cause swelling, itching and the transmission of diseases such as Lyme disease, anthrax or infectious anemia.


Woodflies do not bite, but lay their eggs in the horse's fur. This causes itching, and the horse often tries to work the affected area with its teeth. The egg is released from the fur by the saliva, the larva hatches and penetrates the oral cavity, from where it enters the gastrointestinal tract. In early summer of the next year, the larvae are excreted in the feces and pupate in the soil.


With rising temperatures and less wind, gels rise higher and higher into the air (up to 100 meters). When it rains or has strong winds, however, they stay in areas close to the ground. Gelsenids are mainly active at night and their bites can cause itching, allergic reactions and, in massive infestations, even cardiovascular failure. They can also transmit various viruses, including Lyme disease.

biting midges

Biting midges are particularly active in the morning and evening hours and live near bodies of water. They attack in swarms, but the effects of their bites are less severe than black flies. The bites of biting midges cause severe itching and can lead to sweet itch.


Black flies attack grazing animals in large swarms and pose a significant danger. They prefer habitats along flowing water and areas protected from the wind. Horses are mainly stung by these insects in areas with little hair, such as the ears, belly seam, udder or scrotum. The bites can lead to bruising, skin irritation, allergic reactions, summer eczema or colic. In some cases, toxic shock can even occur, leading to cardiovascular failure and fatal consequences.


Now that we know about the behavior of most blood-sucking insects, we can take targeted countermeasures based on their habits:

  • Install insect screens or similar devices in front of stable windows and doors.

  • Avoid grazing near forests, water, or swampy areas.

  • Pastures with a pleasant draft are ideal.

  • Encourage beneficial insects that eat insects, such as spiders, bats or swallows.

  • Keep the coop as clean as possible, as insect eggs are often laid in manure or other organic matter. This significantly reduces the number of insects.

  • Supplements containing garlic and/or black cumin can also be helpful in deterring some horses from insects.

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