Commercial sprays have their place, but also limitations, so farriers have found ways to provide relief from biting insects for themselves and their horses.

The Silver Lining

John Reynolds of North Jackson, Ohio, chooses to look on the bright side, knowing the pest problems could be workse. "Mosquitoes, flies and ticks are a big problem all over the Midwest, and I've had a few bee problems, but not much trouble with snakes, alligators and flying dragons."

Private Recipes For Relief

Farrier Brian Fitzgerald of Los Angeles has a request. “Flies are a huge problem,” he says. “I need a homemade fly spray recipe. The cost of a good fly spray in the tack shop is outrageous.”

That thought has occurred to other shoers, some of whom shared their insect repellent recipes with AFJ:

  • Barbara Culp of Minford, Ohio, repels insects with a homemade spray applied twice a day. Her blend includes 4 or 5 ounces of citronella oil, an ounce of Deep Woods Off and 1/2 ounce of permectrin, all mixed in 1 gallon of water.
  • Lamar Pockrandt of Webb Lake, Wis., offers two recipes. For controlling gnats, he recommends mixing a small bottle of flowers of sulfur, a yellow powder available at drug stores, with 1 pound of lard. “This paste will prevent gnats from landing on the horse and will heal sores,” he says.

    For controlling flies, Pockrandt suggests a spray made with a quart of Dawn dishwashing soap, a quart of dark apple cider vinegar and 1/2 gallon of water. Flies can’t live without their protective coating. This dissolves that coating and they die,” he says.
  • Joepaul Meyers of McAlester, Okla., uses apple cider vinegar as a base and adds witch hazel and Sea Breeze, which contains eucalyptus and peppermint oils. “It doesn’t stain your clothes, and you can spray the cuffs of your jeans to help keep the ticks from crawling up your legs,” he says.
  • Charles Burke of Franklin, Tenn., uses a formula containing four parts Endure fly spray, one part white vinegar and 1/4 of one part Avon’s Skin-So-Soft.
  • Lori Rumbolz, from Mitchell, S.D., owns a horse who is allergic to commercial fly sprays, and she herself has suffered nausea from the sprays, so she mixes her own. “I have not found that they work any better than commercial sprays, but I have never had a client’s horse react to it, and I feel okay at day’s end. The mixes usually contain Avon’s Skin So Soft, white vinegar, Ivory liquid soap and essential oils of eucalyptus, geranium and citronella.”
  • Bob Bergdorf of northeastern Ohio wards off mosquitoes with a blend of Avon Skin-So-Soft and 20% white vinegar.
  • Gary Pitts, who shoes across Central America and Columbia from a base in Costa Rica, notes that the locals deter insects with the dangerous practice of spraying the floor with diesel fuel. But, Pitts says, “I have an old lady make a wipe of camphor, garlic, lemon and some other jungle plant that really works.
  • Diana Graves of Catlett, Va., suggests using cotton balls soaked with permethrins, a synthetic insecticide, and scattering them along the edges of the fields. Mice line their nests with the cotton balls, and the permethrins kill larval insects that come in contact, she says.

Smoke 'Em Out

Gary Schwartz of the Robson Valley in north central British Columbia, Canada, has used smudge (smoke) in combination with fly spray to keep insects away. “It didn’t take long for the horses to figure out what the smoke was for, and they basically stood in the smoke to get relief,” he says.

Schwartz contains the fire within a metal ring about 3 feet in diameter and 1-1/2  feet high. The ring was cut from a culvert pipe. “I put it in a paddock that’s been eaten down so there is low risk of fire spreading,” he says. He uses readily available sawdust from area sawmills for fuel.

“The stuff I use is quite coarse, so it burns for quite a while. Once I get it burning, I’ll sprinkle it with water so it just smolders away,” he says.

“A wheelbarrow full of sawdust in the morning and one in the evening will keep it going 24 hours. If it gets too windy, I’ll just put it out and relight it when the wind dies down. Of course, the wind is good for keeping the bugs away too,” he says.

Tie Down The Horses

Farrier Martin Kenny of Carthage, N.C., says the area is home to “the largest damned horsefly (buzzard is more like it) you ever saw. It is about 2 inches across. No exaggeration. And I am not talking wingspan, I’m talking actual body size.

“I have actually heard these things come in for a landing as they flew past my head,” he adds. “I used to have a tractor that had a radiator cap that stuck up through the hood, and these things would land on the that radiator cap after I had been mowing in the 95-degree, sunlit day for over 4 hours. They would ride around for a while — kind of looked like a hood ornament. You would think they would get fried riding there. But no, they eventually just take off and fly away.”

Jeff Pauley of Raleigh, N.C., confirms the existence of the extra-large flies, noting, “We affectionately call them B-52s,” a reference to the U.S. Air Force’s heavy bomber.