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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Fly Whisk

For *mostly* bug free riding

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Cashel Quiet Ride Horse Fly Mask with Long Nose and Ears

This style is great for riding!

02/20/2024 02:57 am GMT
Shires Sweet-Itch Combo Fly Sheet 69
$149.99 ($149.99 / Count)
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Shires Sweet-Itch Combo Fly Sheet 78
$149.99 ($149.99 / Count)
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Summit Mosquito Dunks
$7.07 ($3.54 / Count)
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