Being a zen cowgirl, there's nothing I like better than cooking up homemade remedies and natural horse care products at the kitchen table. One of my favorites is an old-time cowboy remedy people around here (western Colorado) use to keep flies away from their horses.
Are you ready for this? It's a super-duper rancher secret. Here goes:
Yup, I do mean bacon grease, poured straight from the frying pan into an aluminum can after you're done making breakfast. I accumulate three or four giant soup cans' worth of bacon grease at a time, especially during the winter, and then use it lavishly in the spring, summer, and fall to keep the horses happy and free of flies. I keep it in the refrigerator or freezer between uses.
How to Use Bacon Grease to Keep Flies Off Horses
Using this grease is simple, if a bit messy. Just take the can of bacon grease out of the fridge and let it warm up a bit, until it's a little gooey and runny. Then apply it around your horse's eyes, ears, and face. Slather it down your horse's midline, top and bottom. That includes your horse's throat, chest, belly, and the area behind the hind legs. On top, apply it on the midline from the withers to the tail head. If your horse has an itchy tail, you might put a little bit on the tail head as well.
Unlike ordinary fly sprays, which are only good for a few hours, bacon grease will repel flies for up to a week. These include regular flies, giant horse flies, mosquitoes, and even "no-see-ums," those tiny bugs that you can hardly see but bite nonetheless.
I know the bacon grease works because I have two horses that are super-reactive to fly and mosquito bites. My quarter horse gelding, Walker, will literally buck and run around like a mad-man if a giant horse fly lands on him. When he's wearing the grease, he rarely reacts this way in pasture. The other sensitive horse, my mustang mare Samantha, develops welts and swellings from fly bites. She also rarely shows signs of these swellings when I apply bacon grease regularly.
Repelling Flies from the Inside Out
Bacon grease works great to keep the flies away from horses, especially if you don't mind smelling like a short-order cook after you're done. For horses with sensitive skin that are reactive to fly bites, I've also found that certain nutritional supplements help repel flies from the inside out. Two that work well are high-quality mangosteen juice and apple cider vinegar.
I feed my horses an ounce of XanGo mangosteen juice daily, either in their feed or simply by squirting it in their mouths with a syringe. The mare who develops welts from fly bites is much less prone to skin swellings when taking the juice, and the gelding doesn't seem to attract as many flies. Before I discovered the mangosteen juice, I fed the horses 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar twice a day with their feed. I have also used apple cider vinegar topically, usually mixed with water and Avon's Skin So Soft, to keep flies away.
Over time I have found that the best combination of home remedies to keep the flies away from my horses is to slather bacon grease on the outside and feed the XanGo mangosteen juice or apple cider vinegar internally. Together they work like a treat to keep my horses happy and relatively free of flies -- naturally!