Natural Fly Spray Recipe for Horses

A reader emailed in, asking if I had a recipe for natural insect spray for horses? Well, let me tell you, when my purebred Andalusian mare, Zorra, first arrived in Vancouver, Canada, all the way from New Jersey, she was not prepared for the biting insects we have here. Her whole body erupted in lumps and bumps and she was clearly miserable.

Zorra 2015 (c) Linda Bickerton-Ross

In a way you could term this an ‘allergic reaction to bug bites’. I prefer to view things holistically, so my view was that her body was being bombarded by all kinds of insects and substances it had never encountered before. Her body and immune system hadn’t learned how to handle these particular critters, and so it needed some time to adjust.

The best thing I could do for her was to support her immune system and give her some added protection to reduce the load, until her body adjusted and was able to handle the marauders. I had the supplements to boost her immune system and help with insect susceptibility… but how was I going to physically reduce the number of bites she was getting?

Needless to say, she gave me sufficient motivation to devise a natural insect repellent that would keep away all the varieties of flies and mosquitoes that were attacking her.

I started out spraying it directly onto her coat, but then discovered she preferred it if I sprayed a fly sheet, and then covered her with the fly sheet. She wasn’t afraid of being sprayed; that was just her preference.

So here are two versions of the fly spray we used. The first version you can spray directly on the skin/coat, and the second version is sticky so that it will adhere to a fly sheet or ear coverings (do not spray near the eyes or nose).

Zorra’s Biting Bug Repellent

60 ml extra virgin olive oil
15 ml rosemary essential oil
15 ml geranium essential oil
15 ml cedar essential oil
3.5 ml citronella essential oil
135 drops eucalyptus essential oil
30 drops lavender essential oil
35 drops wild oregano oil
20 drops peppermint essential oil
750 ml (3 cups) water

  • Add all oil ingredients together in a large spray bottle (1000 ml or 4 cup size) and shake well.
  • Then add water and shake again vigorously.
  • Be sure and shake well before every application.

Zorra’s Biting Bug Repellent – Fly Sheet Recipe

If you want the bug spray to be sticky, for spraying onto a fly sheet or ear gloves:

60 ml extra virgin olive oil
15 ml rosemary essential oil
15 ml geranium essential oil
15 ml cedar essential oil
3.5 ml citronella essential oil
135 drops eucalyptus essential oil
30 drops lavender essential oil
35 drops wild oregano oil
20 drops peppermint essential oil
250 ml (1 cup) water
250 ml (1 cup) witch hazel
250 ml (1 cup) vegetable glycerin

  • Add all oil ingredients together in a large spray bottle (1000 ml or 4 cup size) and shake well.
  • Then add water, witch hazel and vegetable glycerin and shake again vigorously.
  • Be sure and shake well before every application.

One thing you may notice about my recipes, if you’ve experimented with equine bug sprays before – is that my versions contain WAY more essential oils than most others, or than commercial sprays. This is because Zorra didn’t live with me. She was a half hour drive away, so I only saw her once per day. I had to make a horse insect repellent that was strong enough to last and provide some actual relief.

In the beginning I applied the spray when I arrived and then 3 hours later when I left. If your horses live with you and you see them multiple times per day, then you could reduce the amounts of essential oil used (sure would be cheaper!) and your horse would no doubt enjoy a less intense smell.

How & When do I Spray my Horse?

This insect repellent has a very strong smell – it has to, in order to work effectively. But consider the fact that an equine’s sense of smell is over a thousand times stronger than ours!

So you’ve really got to let your horse decide how much he wants to be sprayed, and how often.

In the beginning, Zorra was in such torment from the bug bites, that she wanted to be sprayed twice per day and have the sprayed fly sheet left on all night.

Zorra (c) Linda Bickerton-Ross

However, as her body began to adjust to our region’s insects, she didn’t want the repellent sprayed directly on her coat. She only wanted it sprayed on the fly sheet; so I would hang the fly sheet over the fence, spray it thoroughly on the outside (not the layer next to her coat), and then put the fly sheet on her. As the cool night air came in, she wanted the fly sheet taken off, so she wasn’t stuck with the smell all night long!

After a few weeks, she no longer wanted the fly sheet and only wanted her legs and underside of her belly sprayed once per day.

It makes perfect sense that no one would want to be enveloped in such a strong scent 24/7 – it would probably give you a headache.

None of the wildies ever wanted to be sprayed with this natural insect repellent – a case of “the cure is worse than the disease” and they would move far away as soon as they saw the spray bottle come out, so they wouldn’t have to inhale it. But none of them was ever in the torment Zorra was in.

The only insect repellent my wilder horses have ever wanted was diluted wild oregano oil. Applied directly to bites, or to the sheath/udder area.

If you have an equine bug spray recipe that you love and has worked well for your crew, please share it below 🙂

Natural Fly Spray Recipe for Horses

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