Gnats and horses – what you can do!


Gnat is a very broad term for a tiny little fly. They hang out in groups, and they love to swarm around faces and generally be annoying and irritating. They can also cause severe allergic reactions in horses, leading to sweet itch. For more on sweet itch, this article’s for you.

Because there are so many types of gnat flies, this is very general info, but fairly applicable across all types of gnats and midges and no-see-ums.


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gnats in sunlight

The typical gnat swarm.


Gnats are really fond of tails and mane crests. Also, faces.


  • First, gnats love body heat and moisture.


  • They also love smells – from sunscreen, to wound sprays, to face cream, to perfume.  


  • You might be interested to know that two of their favorite scents are honey and vinegar. So all of those vinegar fly remedies might actually be bringing the gnats over.  


fly spraying the belly of a horse

Some fly sprays may help where the gnats like to swarm.


Gnats also love to live around damp areas


  • Damp areas at the barn might include land near creeks and ponds, wet shavings in stalls, muddy areas in paddocks, and wet compost bins.  Gnats love standing water, be it puddles, in buckets, in low-lying areas. Think mosquito control techniques here. Incidentally, gnats and mosquitos are “cousins” in the flying bug world.


  • However, gnats rarely eat as adults, and as larvae, they like fungi, algae, and plants.


How to repel gnats


  • Repelling gnats can line up nicely with fly control measures you already have at the barn.


  • Keep things dry (when you can), use fans, remove manure several times a day, and provide shade or a dark stall/run-in shed for your horses.


  • Use a fly repellent that is fatty acid-based to confuse the gnats and camouflage your horse.


fly mask hanging on a hook

Fly masks make for a gnat-free face.


  • Fly masks are also super, providing a physical barrier between gnats and horses. A fly sheet with a tail cover will help keep the upper tail protected.


  • If you have a horse that suffers from sweet itch, look for a special sweet itch sheet that covers the belly, neck, and face. These usually have velcro around the tops of the legs to create a seal.



Luckily, the gnat season is short. And they are little. And chock full of protein when you accidentally inhale several of them.


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For the war on gnats, I suggest these great weapons. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases, which is zippo extra cost to you and a little commission to me. For which I’m eternally grateful!

This fly spray is weird but also great for certain types of flies

Fly traps, in case you want to buy them instead of making them.


A popular fly spray


Cashel Crusader Horse Fly Mask with Ears and Long Nose – select size


Cashel Quiet Ride Standard Horse Fly Mask with Ears for riding


Another style of long-nose fly mask for horses


How about some fringe?

                                                     This fly mask is also great for use under grazing muzzles to prevent rubs. 



Cashel Quiet Ride Bug Armor – 2 Piece Set

Amigo Mio Fly sheet – I love this one, the extra long tail prevents bugs up the butt, and the neckpiece is great. It’s also super light, which means it tears easily.

                                                                                  Zebra prints are said to confuse flies.


Fly sheet belly guard

horse wearing sox for horses on mat

Sox for Horses – for any skin funk, fly problems, summer sore, stomping, etc.




Thank you!

gnats and horses