If you're a regular reader of this blog, firstly, thank you! But secondly, you should know by know that 18-year-old Dorado is a giant weenie: He vigorously objects to cold and snow, reacts to little bumps and scrapes like you'd expect a horse to react to a broken leg, firmly believes that he must go in his box for at least part of the day … basically, he'd be dead in five minutes if he was forced to live like his wild ancestors did.

He might look like a giant blueberry, but Dorado stays comfortable as his fly sheet helps keep the irritating bugs away.

Photo: Erica Larson

One of the things that make him reach a whole new level of weenie-ness is dealing with flies and other insects--although I can't say I blame him for it. And his attitude and behavior aside, I do think he's gotten more sensitive to those tiny pests as he's aged.

When I first met Dorado he was 12 and living in a large pasture with a herd on horses. At that point, we could successfully control the flies by simply applying a long-lasting fly spray every other day or so. He never came in with welts, rubbed patches, or anything else that looked like a reaction to flies. And, he never seemed to object to the flies when he was outside—a tail swish now and then was the only reaction we saw.

And for the first two years I owned him the protocol was similar, aside from the fact that he got a fly mask and we applied a home-made fly spray each day.

It wasn't until Dorado was 15 that we really started noticing him having trouble with the flies. It started with a more severe reaction to the Culicoides on the midline of his underbelly, and soon after he started pacing and trotting around, swishing his tail and shaking his head, to try to get relief from the flies. We tried changing fly sprays, which didn't help a bit. So we tried a fly sheet. Lo and behold, he quieted down the minute we turned him out wearing it.

Since then, he's worn a fly sheet and mask when he's been outside (at night during the summer), and we've been very successful in keeping him comfortable. But then, last fall, I learned why having belly bands is so important on fly sheets.

Upon returning from my honeymoon I found that the Culicoides had once again attacked Dorado's midline, paying no attention to the straps that secured his sheet on. The poor guy was so itchy, and his skin in the area was totally raw. After getting him cleaned up, I went home, ordered, and overnighted a fly sheet with a wide, mesh bell band to cover his sensitive midline. He's been wearing that, along with a fly mask and repellent on his legs, during turnout ever since (even if he does look like a giant blueberry in it) and we've yet to have an insect problem. And as an added, unintended perk, his dark coat stays deep in color all summer long!

Do you think your senior horses have grown more sensitive to flies as they've aged? And what do you do to keep the bugs from bothering your horses? Share your experiences below!