How to prevent pests infesting your stables

If you’ve owned horses for any given length of time, you’ll know that pests are a persistent problem to stay on top of. Not only are they an inconvenience, they can potentially spread diseases amongst the horses and cause problems such as digestive ailments and even stunted growth.

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Common stable pests

One of the most recurrent pests found in stables is the “stable fly”. Different from the common housefly, this particular species is known to cause bites that can be quite unpleasant and irritating for the horse as they can be found all over the body including the neck, belly and lower legs.

If allowed to settle in damp areas lacking sanitation, these flies can breed fairly quickly leading to a much bigger problem.

Rodents are another common pest found in horse stables and carry a variety of diseases that can spread through your livestock like wildfire.

They’re known to often eat and contaminate livestock food through urination, faeces and fur, making it unfit for consumption, leading to increased waste and feed costs.

Rats and mice also cause damage to wooden stable buildings by gnawing through timbers and even electrical cables, insulation and flooring. Before long, your prized stable block could be full of damage to the structure, electricals and the overall buildings hygiene.

Obvious signs of a rodent infestation are droppings, wood shreddings, sawdust, chewed wires and the sound of scurrying feet in the timber roofing structures and walls.

Any suspicion of a pest problem should be dealt with quickly.

Ways to prevent pest infestations

The most important way to prevent pests from invading your stables is to maintain high standards of sanitation and an environment that doesn’t attract them.

Where there are animals, there’s manure and this is the number one factor that attracts unwanted guests. Second is a good food source. If leftover feed is constantly present, pests will inevitable move in. Thirdly is damp conditions or poor drainage. Add all of these elements together and you have a recipe for disaster.

So to prevent pests from constantly taking up residence in your stables and causing problems, make sure you:

  • remove manure daily from stables
  • keep removed manure well away from the stables and ideally, spread across open sunlit fields or on a compost heap to dry out
  • clean up all spilt feed and water in stables
  • remove any leftover grains, hay or feed at the end of every day
  • ensure your stables have good drainage and ventilation to prevent moisture build-up
  • keep all areas clean and tidy of rubbish and debris
  • store food where it cannot be easily accessed by rodents such as metal or sealed containers
  • clean all feed barrows and containers after use
  • keep blankets and soft fabrics in storage to prevent rodents using it as nesting material

Other measures

If you have implemented the above regimes into your day-to-day stabling routine and still find you have a fly infestation especially during the warmer months, then you may need to explore additional remedies such as animal-safe pesticides.

Excess moisture tends to be the biggest cause of flies and pests entering stables so if your structures are clean and dry, you may need to try some of the following:

  • larvicides
  • animal sprays
  • residual premise sprays
  • space sprays

Natural remedies

Understandably, many horse owners are not keen on using chemical agents to deal with a persistent pest problem over concerns of the welfare of their animals.

Fortunately, there are some basic natural remedies that can help prevent pests although not entirely fool proof. Examples are:

  • setting traps to catch rodents and reduce the population
  • vinegar and water solution sprayed directly on your horses to deter flies and other insects (or alternatively, a water and apple cider vinegar solution instead)
  • citronella oil sprayed onto your horses every couple of days to repel flies
  • feeding horses apple cider vinegar and crushed garlic to change breathe odour which can deter flies

Unfortunately, there’s no 100% fail-safe solution to preventing pests as conditions and the environment where your horses reside can differ greatly from place to place.

The key is to maintain a clean and sanitised environment and to remove items such as manure and feed that typically attracts common pests.

Follow these best practices and you stand a much better chance of having to deal with regular occurrences of pest infestations.