This time of year is delightful for riding. The horses are losing their winter coats and the longer days mean that one can spend more time in the saddle.
There is one drawback of spring and summer: bugs! These include mosquitoes, flies and midges. The good news is that you can discourage these simply by planting a few of the plants on this list:
- Basil (Ocimum basilicum): This can be boiled and added to a fly spray to increase the latter’s efficacy.
- Bee balm (Monarda spp): This beautiful flowering plant, which attracts bees, is a highly effective mosquito repellent. Crush to release the fragrance, then add a handful to your horse’s bedding.
- Catnip (Nepeta cataria): Catnip contains nepetalactone, which has been found to be 10 times stronger than even diethyltoluamide (DEET), the most common active ingredient in insect repellents. An effective non-toxic alternative to traditional chemical sprays.
- Cedars (Thuja spp): Cedar shavings added to bedding last up to a week. The oil also rubs off onto your horse while it sleeps.
- Citronella grass (Cymbopogon nardus): The oil released by the plant when crushed can be applied to the skin as a mosquito repellent. This can also be added to your horse’s bedding.
- Clove (Syzygium aromaticum): Plant around the yard or use the oil from the clove to repel mosquitoes.
- Flossflower (Ageratum houstonianum): This secretes coumarin, which mosquitoes find very offensive. It is best grown in partial or full sun.
- Garlic (Allium sativum): I cut up the garlic and sprinkle it around the outdoor living areas. A potent yard spray can also be made by crushing a clove of garlic and boiling it in water.
- Lavender (Lavandula genus): Humans love the smell, mosquitoes don’t. It can be planted in gardens or made into oil and applied to the skin or mixed with other oils to keep mosquitoes away.
- Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis): Make a mosquito repellent by crushing a handful of leaves and rubbing on your exposed skin. Horses predisposed to colic will benefit from eating lemon balm, which relaxes the digestive system.
- Lemon-scented geranium (Pelargonium crispum): This easy-to-grow endemic can be planted as an insect deterrent. Scatter the crushed leaves around your feed room, stables and home to keep mosquitoes at bay.
- Marigold (Tagetes lucida): Grow marigolds in your yard or keep the flowers in your home to repel mosquitoes. I harvest the seeds annually and store them in a cool dry place.
- Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus spp): Eucalyptus oil repels insects such as mosquitoes, sandflies, ticks, midges and stable flies.
- Wormwood (Artemisia spp): Crush up wormwood leaves and distribute around your outdoor living areas to keep mosquitoes away. It also helps to control intestinal parasites and can be mixed with tansy (Tanacetum vulgare), which has the same function.
- Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis): Plant around a lunge arena or stable wall to control mosquitoes.
Kim Dyson breeds Arabians and Lusitanos, and has 22 years’ experience in holistic equine and human body work.