by Brenda Ammons
Oh yes, it's spring. I love spring when the trees and grass turn to green. The air is clean and fresh. The mules have a good time running and playing in the warm weather.
Spring is in the air and so are flies! I really hate to put a damper on your spring excitement but I really have to. Any time you have mules you are going to have flies.
There are reasons to control the fly population. First and most important: flies carry several diseases. Some are as simple as a red whelp on your mule’s skin, to diseases that can be fatal to your mule friend. Spring is also an excellent time to pay a visit to your local equine vet for yearly vaccinations.
Flies can also be the indirect source of injury to your mule. Early one morning Bob and I were getting everything ready to pull out and go to South Dakota for a two week ride. I went ahead and caught Molly Shakespear and Libby and put halters on them and then turned them back out in the round pen to wait for a couple of hours until we could get the final loading done for our trip. Every so often I would look out at the mules to make sure everything looked OK. On one of my checks, Molly Shakespear was lying down. I was not concerned by this because both of our mules lay down to sleep. Another hour or so went by and I checked on the mules again. Molly was still laying down. Alarms started to sound off in my head. She had been down too long. Sure enough when Bob and I walked out to check on Molly she must have been scratching a fly off of her face using her back hoof. She got her shoe hung in her halter causing her to go down. Having a back hoof hung in a halter is grounds for disaster. Lucky for us and Molly she didn't lay there very long before we rescued her. Being a mule was also in our favor because unlike a horse, Molly did not panic. She was perfectly still while her halter was cut off.
Another possible injury can be caused when the flies are around the lower legs and hoofs. The mules will stomp their hooves in an attempt to get the flies off. All the stomping can cause injury to the mules hooves and lower legs. Stomping may also cause the shoes to loosen. I hope you always clean your mules hooves and check shoes before leaving out on the trail. Shoes that become loose when mules are out on the trail or in the pasture can cause some serious hoof damage.
There are several ways to help with fly problems. (Notice I said help, not prevent fly problems). One way is to keep your mule clean. Mules like to lay down and there is just not much of a way for them to lay down without getting manure on them, thus attracting flies. Your mule needs to be trained to stand for a bath using a good equine shampoo that guards against flies, ticks and mosquitoes. Your mule will also need to be sprayed for flies. There are several brands of fly spray for your mule. I have never found one to be any better than the others. There are also homemade fly sprays that some people believe are the answer to the fly problem. Again, I have not found one better than the other, so just keep trying them all until you find what works best for your mule. Just be sure to read the labels on the bottles and use as directed.
I like to use a fly mask on Molly Shakespear to keep the flies away from her eyes. Flies are so irritating to your mules eyes. I have also found it helpful to use an ear protector called "Ear Me Now." These ear protectors can be found on Facebook. I love the "Ear Me Now" protection, plus it makes mules and little donkeys so cute, and I know all of you guys want your mule to be cute. OK, well they come in "manly" looks too. Best of all this type of ear protectors are inexpensive.
Keep your mule’s pen clean. Be sure to keep the corral area and stalls clean of manure. Manure is the perfect host for breeding flies. Once I have cleaned the mules living area I like to spray the area with bleach. Bleach will kill the fly larva. Be sure that your mule has clean fresh water at all times. Again, standing stagnate water is a breeding ground for flies and mosquitoes. I also like to keep a fan blowing on the stall area for the mules. The circulating air keeps the mules dry and the flies moving.
There are many more fly preventions out there, it's just a matter of finding which works best for you and your mule. --Safe & Happy Trails, Brenda Ammons, Molly Shakespear, and Starr Doe
Safe Fly Control for Mules
1 cup Avon Skin-So-Soft Body Oil
2 cups white vinegar
1 Tbsp. Eucalyptus Oil or Citronella (found in health food stores)
1 to 3 cups water (3 cups to repel flies)
Shake well, cap tightly, spray on as needed. Great for the trail riding season!