What's Bugging you?
Trail riding during those wonderful lazy, hazy days of summer can be rendered hideous by those nasty flies and mosquitoes that thrive by biting both you and your horse.
Besides the immediate pain and annoyance experienced, these insects can carry and transmit a variety of diseases and conditions that cause distress to your animal and in some cases can be lethal.
Western Equine Encephalitis , West Nile Virus, and Eastern Equine Encephalitis are the three main diseases to be concerned about. Because these viruses are maintained in nature through a Mosquito -bird cycle. (a mosquito infects a bird, the disease incubates; another mosquito bites the bird and then becomes a carrier and the cycle goes on), the amount of virus found in nature increases throughout the summer as more birds and more mosquitoes become infected.
The best defense, of course, is prevention. Placing your horse on a regular vaccination schedule can save both you and your animal a lot of grief since 75–90% of the horses infected with Encephalitis die from the disease.
Besides mosquitoes, horseflies, deer flies, stable flies and horn flies are the most common flying insects that attack horses. When these six-legged vampires bite to ingest blood, the bites are not only painful, but they open the way for screwworm attacks and infection.
Fly repellents, which are designed to keep flies from biting and feeding on your horse are good options; especially while riding. Since some insects feed on the secretions of the horse's eyes and nose, simply covering these areas with fly masks and leg netting will do much to lend comfort.
Good stable management can do much to cut down on the breeding of flies. Frequently disposing of soiled bedding and droppings, as well as standing water is essential to controlling the fly, as well as the mosquito, population. Since blood sucking flies are particularly drawn to cattle, stabling horses away from cattle is another way to keep flies at bay.
Botflies, too, can be a real problem. While they don't bite your horse, the larvae of these insects are true parasites. The adult botfly lays its eggs on the insides of a horse's front legs. These eggs look like small, yellow drops of paint. When a horse rubs its nose on its legs, the eggs are transferred to the mouth. Once ingested, the larvae grow and attach themselves to the stomach's lining or they pass into the small intestine and attach there.
Click here for a more in depth discussion of fly control.