5 Ways To Improve Sweet Itch Management

Sweet Itch Management
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5 Ways To Improve Sweet Itch Management

Horse Health :: Everything Horse :: Written by Abby Dickinson

Sweet Itch causes significant distress and discomfort to our horses, year on year. Taking steps to improve sweet itch management can only boost benefits by minimising the risk and effects the condition inflicts on equines. From wearable fly repellents to strategic fly repellent use, we’ve investigated some great ways to keep on top of the condition!

Act early against sweet itch, as prevention is better than cure!


What Is Sweet Itch?

Sweet itch is one of the most common allergic skin condition in horses, affecting around 5% of the population. The medical skin condition is caused by bites from midges of the Culicoides spp. type, and normally begins to affect horses from 4-years-old. With symptoms showing from early spring to late autumn, the condition affects horses for a large proportion of the year. Additionally, with age comes an increased severity of sweet itch, often meaning the condition needs increased vigilance and improved management.

Improving Sweet Itch Management

When tackling flies, all horse owners can think of a selection of great ways to beat the bites. However, can you go one-step further to improve your horse’s protection?

1. All Round Protection

Tackling flies on long, sweltering days can be a hard task. Without travelling to the yard multiple times to top up repellents, potency can reduce, and sweet itch symptoms can flair up.


Therefore, it is wise to begin using wearable fly repellents to maintain fly protection all day long. Fly-Off protective bands attach around your horse’s leg, while pockets can be attached to head collars or rugs with clips. These can then be filled with repellent tablets of your choice, boasting 3-in-1 technology impregnate and diffuse to create a strong adjust strength.

Fly-Off's Multi-Clip can be attached to rugs, head collars and even bridles
Fly-Off’s Multi-Clip can be attached to rugs, head collars and even bridles

2. Use Repellents Wisely

Using a fly repellent is one step that all owner’s take to tackle the flies, however, are you using them to their full efficacy?

Application of fly repellents should be completed routinely, ideally every few hours. This is because, especially on warmer days, the ingredient will evaporate away from your horse’s skin and effects will dwindle. If you’re short on time, add a wearable fly repellent to your routine as this provides all-day protection without the to-and-fro!

Wearable fly repellants are great for all day protection against flies
Wearable fly repellants are great for all day protection against flies

Be sure to apply fly repellent to dry skin as after bathing (or when your horse is wet), key ingredients are more likely to again, evaporate quickly. Apply generously, to all areas of the body, including the face and legs. This may mean having to apply your fly repellent to a brush first.

3. Keep Cool

With sweat causing further irritation to broken skin and sensitive areas, keeping your horse cool in the heat can reduce the severity of sweet itch symptoms, when used alongside other fly management protocols.

Taking to the shade, moving your horse’s turnout to a windy hillside, or even installing a ceiling fan in your stable can all help with keeping your horse cool, as well as reducing the build-up of insects surrounding your horse.

4. Know What You’re Using

When choosing the best repellent to tackle flies, it can be hard to decipher the ingredients which are most potent to ward off swarms.

For sweet itch sufferers, we recommend products including Neem Oil. This Indian evergreen plant extract has been prized as an all-purpose remedy throughout history. Now used as a non-toxic, environmentally friendly fly repellent, Neem also boast antihistamine effects which will help reduce the allergic reaction from fly bites.

Neem Oil boasts antihistamine propertoes - perfect for sweet itch
Neem Oil boasts antihistamine properties – perfect for sweet itch

Combine other great ingredients such as Citronella and DEET for full protection. Citronella, one of the most popular ingredients in equine fly repellents, uses its citrusy scent to ward off flies. Meanwhile, DEET deters bugs by creating a repelling vapour barrier around the skin’s surface. Although there has been some concern for potentially toxic effects of DEET, commercial fly products do not contain level which would harm your horse.

Mix and match combinations of wearable fly repellents using DEET, Citro and Neem inserts from Fly-Off, and experiment on which combination is best for your horse – Fly Off’s Horse and Rider Starter set is a great place to start, at just £30 for 9 repellent inserts, 2 horse legs bands and 1 multi-clip.

5. Protect Yourself

It’s all well and good protecting your horse from the flies, but whilst riding and caring for your horse you may be a major source of attraction to the bugs too.

All rider’s and owners should wear appropriate fly protection to ward off bugs from their horse’s surroundings, keeping both horse and rider protected, thus assisting in prevention and/or tackling sweet itch.

For more information, please visit www.fly-off.co.uk.

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