This year has already been particularly bad for flies and midges due to the damp ground and warm weather, which is highly inconvenient for sweet itch sufferers.
Sweet itch is an uncomfortable condition caused by an allergy to the saliva of midges for which there is currently no cure. Furthermore, once a horse or pony develops this they are often plagued by it throughout their life and each spring, summer and autumn can turn out to be a rather distressing time for both equine and owner alike.
Knowing how to manage sweet itch is extremely important and key to making sure your animal is as comfortable as possible. There are two basic elements to consider; environment and protection.
Ensuring your horse or pony is kept in the best possible conditions is essential. Try to avoid marshy, boggy fields and make sure pastures are well drained and away from rotting vegetation like muck heaps, old hay and rotting leaves. If possible move them to a more exposed and windy plot, such as bare hillsides or a coastal site with a good onshore breeze. Alternatively, try to aim for chalk-based grassland rather than heavy clay pastures as this will have much fewer midges.
Stabling your horse during dusk and dawn helps to protect them during the peak feeding time for midges. Closing doors, windows and installing a ceiling fan will help to deter them further, however, this unfortunately won’t stop them completely.
To further protect your horse, dress them in a sweet itch or fly rug – a denser fabric will act as a thicker barrier. Sweet itch rugs tend to be a full combo, with ear holes to maximise coverage, they also usually have a full belly strap to cover this susceptible area and a large tail flap like our Sweet-Itch Bug Stoppa Rug here.
Fly rugs, alternatively, tend to be made of mesh with a looser weave to protect against biting insects. Bridleway’s Edmonton Fly Rug is sturdy but still lightweight, encouraging air to circulate and keep your horse cool. When shopping for a fly rug always take your horses shape into consideration as a broader horse may require shoulder darts. Measure from the centre of the chest to the point of their bum. If you’ve got a mischievous horse that tends to ruin their rugs then it’s best to look for a thicker mesh.
By taking this into consideration it will allow you to manage sweet itch to the best of your abilities and leave you with a happy horse or pony despite this uncomfortable condition.
Carolyn Barton, Wadswick Country Store