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Fly Repellent Buying Guide

Posted on 22 June 2017 by Kim

Fly repellent buying guide

What's the best fly repellent for my horse?

For many horse owners, finding the best horse fly repellent is a matter of trial and error. If you've been through this, you'll know how frustrating the exercise can be. You end up spending a lot of money on different sprays and put in time and effort too. And for what? Nothing as oftens the result is not encouraging at all. To help eliminate this trial and error routine, we’ve put together a buying guide just for you.

How this guide is structured

This buying guide tells you everything you need to know about fly repellents including what ingredients they contain, how you can apply them to your horse, which repellents are approved for competition use, along with which are the best you can buy, and more.

Be sure to bookmark this page as we'll update it from time-to-time so it's always got the latest information you need to make the right choice for you and your horse.

How to use this guide

You can either read it from top to bottom or click on the links below to go straight to the section you want. At the end of each section is a handy link that'll bring you back to the top. Know what you're looking for? Shop our full range of fly repellents here and remember, we offer free UK delivery on all orders at EQUUS, with no minimum spend.

Ingredients. Find out about what goes into a fly repellent.
Applications. Read about the different ways fly repellents can be applied.
FEI Approved List. Find out which repellents are approved for use in competitions.
Award Winners. A list of those fly repellents that have won awards.
Natural Ingredients. Know which repellents contain natural ingredients only.
Long Lasting. Here is a list of fly repellents that'll give your horse long-lasting protection.
For Damaged Skin. Fly repellents for horses with damaged skin.
Great Smell. If you prefer a nice smelling fly repellent, try this section.
Next Generation. Looking for the newest fly repellents? Here's a list of new fly repellents for 2018.

Key ingredients

There are a few well known ingredients to look out for. Below is a short summary about these along with some links to the fly repellents we offer with those ingredients.

Benzyl Benzoate

Benzyl benzoate is an organic compound with the formula C6H5CH2O2CC6H5. Any chemists reading this may know that it’s the ester of benzyl alcohol and benzoic acid. Produced industrially by the reaction of sodium benzoate with benzyl alcohol, it’s often used as a repellent against biting flies.

Benzyl Benzoate comes as a lotion.

Find all our fly repellents that contain Benzyl Benzoate here.


Citronella oil is one of the essential oils obtained from the leaves and stems of different species of Cymbopogon or commonly known as Lemongrass. Whilst it’s used extensively in soap, candles and perfumery products throughout the world, it’s also a plant-based insect repellent and has been registered for this use by the United States since 1948.

Cintronella comes in spray, gel, shampoo, lotion and oil.

Find all our fly repellents that contain Citronella here.


What is DEET anyway? It sounds so mysterious, but it isn’t! DEET is simply the common name for N,N-Diethyl-m-toluamide.

We found some interesting facts out about it and we thought we’d share them with you in this buying guide. See if you can work out which of the myths are true…or not!

Myth... ...Fact
DEET kills mosquitoes. DEET doesn’t kill mosquitoes. It deters and repels them.
DEET is only effective against mosquitoes. DEET provides long-lasting protection from more than mosquitoes.
It’s the smell of DEET that repels mosquitos. DEET makes it hard for mosquitoes to land on you and bite you. There are several theories on how DEET works to repel mosquitoes. When applied correctly, DEET forms a vapor barrier at the skin surface that deters mosquitoes from landing on the skin.
DEET is a relatively new synthetic chemical. DEET was developed by the U.S. army in 1946. It was first registered decades ago, in 1957, after first being developed for use by military personnel in insect-infested areas.
The higher the percentage of DEET, the better protected you are. The amount or percentage of DEET in repellent only determines how long the protection lasts.

DEET interferes with neurons and receptors located on the mosquito’s antennae and mouth-parts that detect chemicals such as lactic acid and carbon dioxide.

Deet comes as a spray, roll-on, cream and liquid.

Find all our fly repellents that contain DEET here.

Neem and all it’s benefits

Prized for generations as an all-purpose Ayurvedic remedy, neem is an evergreen plant indigenous to the Indian sub-continent. Neem Oil, derived from the seeds of the Neem fruit, has been part of traditional remedies some of which date back almost 5000 years.

Whilst it has many benefits, those most relevant to horses where flies are concerned, are that It provides a nontoxic, environmentally friendly option to chemical fly repellents and the plant-derived anti-histamines in it are effective in treating itching skin for conditions such as Sweet Itch.

The beauty of Neem is that it can be used on your horse and you!

Find all our fly repellents that contain Neem here.


Have you heard of PMD? Do you know what it is? To most of us it’s simply known by this chemical acronym. Otherwise known as p-Menthane-3,8-diol or para-menthane-3,8-diol or even menthoglycol! Still the non-the-wiser?

PMD is found in small quantities in the essential oil from the leaves of Corymbia citriodora, formerly known as Eucalyptus citriodora. This tree is native to Australia, but is now cultivated in many warm places around the world. When refined to increase its PMD content, the oil is used in insect repellents. In the United States this is known as oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) or by its tradename Citriodiol. Some commercial PMD products are not made from C. citriodora oil, but rather from synthetic citronellal.

A 2006 study showed that PMD is as effective as DEET when used in like quantities.

Find all our fly repellents that contain PMD here.

Permethrin and Cypermethrin

Permethrin and cypermethrin are examples of “pyrethroid” insecticides. The term pyrethroid refers to a class of synthetic insecticides whose chemical structure is similar to natural pyrethrum. Pyrethrum is a natural insecticide made from the flowers of certain species of chrysanthemum.

About 200 years ago someone living in central Asia discovered that dried, crushed flowers of certain chrysanthemums were toxic to insects. During the Napoleonic Wars (1804-1815) this "insect powder" was used to control flea and body lice infestations by French soldiers. Since then, pyrethrum has been used in many forms for effective, low toxicity insect control.

First registered with the United States Environmental Protection Agency in 1979 and then again in 2006, Permethrin is an insecticide in the pyrethroid family. Pyrethroids are synthetic chemicals that act like natural extracts from the chrysanthemum flower.

Used in a number of ways to control insects, it can affect them if they eat it or touch it, resulting in fatal consequences. More toxic to insects than it is to people because insects can't break it down as quickly as people.

Find all our fly repellents that contain Permethrin here

All our fly repllents that contain Cypermethrin are here.

Pros and Cons of DEET vs Permethrin

There are pros and cons to each product. We are inundated with DEET repellents but not so many with Permethrin. See what you make of the list below. Permethrin looks like it wins hands down.

DEET needs to be applied regularly and can only work as it is starts to evaporate. Permethrin works for weeks after it has been applied and dried.

DEET has a detectable odour. Permethrin smells only until it dries.

DEET only repels flies. Permethrin works instantly and is extremely effective. It’s the repellent of choice by the military.

DEET products are easy to find. Permethrin is hard to find and more expensive.

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Fly Repellent Applications: can you believe it?

Did you know that fly repellents for horses come in a whopping great big 9 different types of application? So, whatever your horse’s disposition, you should be able to find something that’ll be suitable for him:

  • Spray
  • Cream
  • Lotion
  • Gel
  • Liquid
  • Roll on
  • Wipes
  • Shampoo
  • Soap

A Spray

Sprays tend to be the favourite choice of applicator for convenience and value. Plus the beauty of a spray is that it can be used on you, your horse, his fly mask or fly rug. However they can actually be quite wasteful if not used carefully and are notorious for not being put on evenly. Also it might not be yours or your horse's favourite. Happily though, there’s always an alternative below that will hopefully work for you.

Find all our spray fly repellents here.

A cream

Lotions, creams and ointments are similar applications or "emulsions" as they are known. Emulsions are a mixture of oil and water.   As you know, oil and water don’t mix well, so ingredients called emulsifiers are added to keep them “mixed up.”   The difference between the three types of products is the composition of the oil and water mixture. Ointments are made of 70% or more oil and lotions are made of 70% or more of water. Creams are in between the two.

A cream fly repellent is ideal when you need to control exactly where it goes and be confident that it has been absorbed by the area it is applied to, ie base of the tail. Creams penetrate the skin and provide a barrier that helps to prevent moisture loss. However they do tend to be greasier. As cream is thicker, it tends to be sold in a tub or jar container.

Find all our cream fly repellents here.

A Lotion

A lotion is not as heavy as a cream and is more readily absorbed by the skin. It usually has a higher water content than cream and the liquid can be poured out from the bottle it comes in. Lotion is good for skin that is not excessively dry or when it is preferable not to have a sticky, greasy feeling.

Find all our lotion fly repellents here.

A Gel

The benefit of gel is that it can be applied directly to those hard to reach areas. Another of the benefits is that often it’s gentle enough to be applied to broken skin and furthermore it can actually  bring comfort to broken skin, such as NAF D-itch Ointment. Do bear in mind that gels tend to be a bit messy. So, if there’s nowhere to wash your hands after you’ve applied it, you may find a roll on or a wipe is more suitable.

Find all our gel-based fly repellents here.

A Liquid

‘Pour on’ solutions were used before sprays were invented. These are still incredibly popular today and mean that you can control precisely how much is applied to a certain spot, like the base of a tail for example if you’re treating sweet itch. Pour on Liquids are not as messy as gels but sometimes require gloves to be worn.

Find all our liquid-based fly repellents here.

A Roll On

A Roll on is best for ‘hitting the spot’, i.e. when you need to apply fly repellent to a certain spot such as the face where it’s often not possible to use a spray. It’s accurate application and convenience make it an increasingly popular choice especially as there’s no mess and dirty hands. Ideal if you’re out and about, e.g. competing.

Find all our roll-on fly repellents here.


Wipes are a convenient and quick way to apply repellent and come in a small handy tub that you can take out to shows. Each wipe contains enough repellent to cover a fairly large horse, despite being quite small. The effects are strong enough to provide instant relief from flies without irritating the skin.

Find all our fly repellent wipes here.

A Shampoo

Shampoos with fly repellent in them are a great way to “build up” protection. This 2-in-1 product is a great idea especially when used in conjunction with a topical spray.

Find all our shampoo fly repellents here.

A Soap

There’s a very limited choice of soaps. The Kevin Bacon's Active Soap is a reliable choice for those looking for a soap.

Find our soap-based fly repellents here.

An Oil

The purpose of an oil is that it can be used to produce a “home-made” fly repellent. Some horse owners really love to do this and many often believe their recipe is the best and the most effective! 

Find out oil-based fly repellents here.

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Anything else

We’ve put together a few other thoughts for you about repellents based on what we think may be important to you.

Competition Compliant

If you’re looking for a repellent that you can use under competition conditions the following repellents contain no listed FEI banned substances, so they’re safe for you to use:

Barrier Super Plus Fly Repellent Spray

Fly Away Max Strength Repellent

Fly Away Max Strength Fly & Midge Gel


  Fly Away Max Strength Repellent Fly Away Max Strength Fly Midge Gel


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Award Winners

If you’re persuaded by products that have won awards, the Barrier Super Plus Fly Repellent Spray was an award winner in both “Your Horse” and “Horse” magazine. While NAF Off Deet Power was the winner of the “Horse & Rider Magazine” 'Best in Test' 2016 award.

Barrier Super Plus Fly Repellent Spray NAF Off Deet Power

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Natural Ingredients

If you prefer to use completely natural products on your horse, there are many fly repellents to choose from, such as Barrier Super Plus Fly Repellent Spray or Leovet Fly Be Gone (Tam Tam Vet) Spray.

You can also find all our natural ingredient fly sprays here.

Barrier Super Plus Fly Repellent Spray Leovet Fly Be Gone Tam Tam Vet Spray

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Long Lasting

If your horse needs long lasting protection:

Bremsen Long Acting Fly Repellent is effective for up to 36 hours. It may not be the best smelling fly repellent but it’s certainly one of the most popular with EQUUS customers.

Bremsen Long Acting Fly Repellent

Leovet Fly Be Gone (Tam Tam Vet) Spray contains natural plant ingredients from geranium oil and eucalyptus citriodora oil that have been produced in such a way that makes it last up to four times longer than other sprays.

Leovet Fly Be Gone Tam Tam Vet Spray

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For damaged skin

If your horse has damaged skin, perhaps as a result of Sweet Itch, Ultimate 2-in-1 Fly Repellent & Skin Tonic is a good choice.

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Smells great

If you’re looking for something that smells nice as well as being a fly repellent, try Ultimate 2-in-1 Fly Repellent & Skin Tonic.

Ultimate 2-in-1 Fly Repellent & Skin Tonic

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New fly repellents for 2018 - next generation

If you’re looking for the latest repellent on the market, Leovet Power Phaser Spray is it. It keeps on working even when the horse perspires and there is only a minimal loss in effectiveness.

Leovet Power Phaser Spray

Equimins Fly Repellent Gel 3535 contains 15% ethyl butylacetylaminoproionate, or IR3535 - a newly developed repellent that is incredibly effective and lasts longer than more traditional active ingredients.

Equimins Fly Repellent Gel 3535

Free UK Delivery on All Fly Repellents

If you're looking for a fly repellent for your horse, remember we offer free UK delivery on ALL orders at EQUUS, with no minimum spend. Shop our full range of fly repellents here.

Buy horse fly repellents online

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Kim Horton

Co-Founder of EQUUS and a keen equestrian, when Kim's not at her desk she's with her horse, Waldo.

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