Mosquitoes aren't just nasty pests landing on your horse—they carry potentially fatal viruses, including the West Nile virus and equine encephalitis. Although you should vaccinate your horse against these diseases, you also want to protect him against bites. Using a combination of methods helps keep mosquito bites to a minimum.
Perhaps the easiest way to prevent mosquitoes from biting your horse is by using a good-quality repellent on your animal. These are available in spray, wipe and pour-on versions; read the label carefully before application and follow directions. Before putting the product all over your horse, apply a small amount on him to make sure there's no allergic reaction.
Mosquitoes are most active from dusk to dawn. If possible, keep your horses in the barn at night during mosquito season, screening stable windows. You can also install automatic spraying systems in the barn for bug control. The downside is that flies are most active during the day, so if your horses avoid mosquitoes during daytime turnout they're subject to bites from other pests. If your horses are out in the dark, replace standard lighting that stays on all night and attracts mosquitoes with motion-sensor lighting.
Lightweight fly sheets, masks and boots also keep mosquitoes off your horse. You can purchase fly sheets designed strictly for stabled horses, or sheets with extra straps to stay on horses out in the field. Keep in mind that in very hot weather, even these thin mesh sheets will make your horse uncomfortable and cause him to sweat and overheat.
Mosquito Breeding Sites
Mosquitoes lay eggs in standing water. Eliminating their breeding sites on your property cuts down on the number of mosquitoes bothering you and your horses. Get rid of any puddles or other stagnant water. Take a good look around your barn and get rid of unwanted water collectors, such as old containers or tires. If you water your horses in troughs, drain and clean them regularly. You can also purchase mosquito fish to place in the troughs. These fish eat mosquito larvae.
Mosquito Control Commission
Your community or county likely has a mosquito control commission. Often officials from this agency will visit your property for free or a nominal fee and advise you on ways to reduce or eliminate the mosquito population.
- University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine: West Nile Virus Information for Horse Owners and Veterinarians [PDF]
- University of Florida Extension: Protecting Florida Horses from Mosquitoes [PDF]
- San Luis Obisbo County Health Agency: Protect Your Horse from West Nile Virus [PDF]
- Infovets: Fly and Mosquito Protection
- Digital Vision/Digital Vision/Getty Images