Whether your horses are out in the field, hacking or competing, flies are a summer nuisance at best and can make life a misery for horses and their riders.
Mike and I have tried just about every fly product on the market and we’ve made our own using different blends of essential oils, which undoubtedly work but not for very long. Our main test pony, Rupert, is a prima donna. A horse fly to him is more than a mere nuisance, it’s a horse eating monster! We needed to find a solution so looked at the human market for some much needed ideas.
We found one of the main ingredients used in human repellent products was icaridin, a molecule that is modelled on piperidin that occurs naturally in black pepper. Substances that confuse the senses of insects like mosquitoes are being developed for use in humans, especially for using for mosquitoes in malarial areas, and in agriculture for crop pests. Many of these are inspired by plants or natural pheromones to confuse rather than kill insects so have none of the toxic properties associated with insecticides.
Further research showed us that control was comparable to DEET but without some of the nastier properties, in fact the World Health Organisation have icaridin down as a human friendly product. When we discovered that the Australian army also used icaridin for mosquitoes, perhaps this was something we needed to try on Rupert!
So how does icaridin work? Many biting insects are attracted to their ‘prey’ by carbon dioxide. Icaridin works by hiding your horse from them and we are finding with our own horses, that even though flies may still buzz around them, they don’t land. Even horse flies!
Both Mike and I are sensitive to insecticides and personally I don’t like the smell of citrodiol from lemon eucalyptus which is in most natural based products. It leaves a funny taste in my mouth. Hedgewitch icaridin is odourless and we usually put a dab on ourselves before riding to make us invisible too!
To truly make your horse invisible you have to make sure every single bit of him is covered with the spray and then reapply when he gets hot and especially after washing off.
We reckon if icaridin is good enough for humans, then it must be good enough for Rupert!