What can I do about gnats at the barn? They drive me and the horses crazy!



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/midges/no-see-ums. 



The typical gnat swarm. 


Gnats are really fond of horse tails and horse mane crests.  Also, faces.  There are lots of attractive qualities that you and your horse have which makes gnats want to feast on you.  First, 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. 



A little of the fatty acid based Eco-Vet helps where the gnats like to swarm.


Gnats also love to live around damp areas, so the scenic creek is a great gnat magnet.  Same for 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 tend to like fungi, algae, and plants.  



Repelling gnats can line up nicely with fly control measures that you already have in place at the barn.  Keep things dry (when you can), use fans, remove manure several times a day, provide shade or a dark stall/run in shed, use a fly repellent that is fatty acid based to confuse the gnats and camouflage your horse.  



Fly masks make for a gnat free face. 


Fly masks are also super, as they provide a physical barrier between gnat and horse.  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.