Deer Flies – The Bane Of Our Existence

By Terry Golson

Just when the weather gets good, the horse flies come out. There are big nasty ones, but the bane of our existence are the smaller deer flies.


They are golden, buzzing, dive bombers. Attracted to movement and to dark coats, they see Tonka coming and go in for the blood. They are as annoying as heck, and their bites are painful and raise welts. Deer flies prefer the shade of the woods, but on humid days will seek us out in the middle of the hay field. Grazing sessions are cut short.


A long tail for swishing, a fly net over the ears, and a coating of bug spray don’t protect us.


Some days I can get fifteen minutes of riding in before the deer flies find us. Sometimes it’s only five minutes.


We try to trail ride in the open, and even then wear head and neck netting. I’m thinking of getting this bug chest guard. Does anyone use it?


The season starts at the beginning of July and ends mid-August. Until then, we’re taking refuge in the indoor.

What’s the bane of your existence and what do you do about it?

9 thoughts on “Deer Flies – The Bane Of Our Existence

  • Laura Allemand

    We do have all kinds of annoying flies here in California, but I haven’t seen those! Creepy! Our problem is the heat! While it’s always hot here, it’s been well over 100 degrees quite a bit this summer, and my limit for riding is about 95! I can’t wait for autumn!!!

  • Judy Marvelli

    I hate them they attack on my morning walk my Great Danes ears are all chewed up. Ready for fall

  • LynnT

    Growing up in Rochester NY, we used to break a leafy tree branch and put it under the bridle’s crown-piece to keep the deer flies out of the horse’s face; the horse’s head-nod at the walk would brush away the flies. This was long before fly bonnets were a thing. Horses were conflicted about allowing their rider that close to a tree, because of course sometimes we were breaking a branch to use as a switch.

    • Terry Golson Post author

      I’ve used a leafy branch as a swisher. Tonka knows that it gives him relief and waits patiently for me to break off a branch. I’ve never hit him with a stick, so no conflict 🙂

  • Gin

    I agree those deer flies are horrible. Now we have the big horse flies and the deer flies. You neck net looks interesting. Is that one piece with your mask that covers Tonks’s ears? We put a burlap sack tied to the back of our saddles to cover the horses rump and keep the horse flies off that part at least. We usually cut a leafy limb and stick it under the top of the bridle and arrange the leaves to cover ears and part of the neck.
    What is kind of interesting is that when riding with several others, the deer flies swarm the lead horse and don’t bother the followers near as much, so we usually switch off to give the lead horse (and rider) a break. The horse flies don’t care, they attack everyone.

    • Terry Golson Post author

      Yes, the first horse gets the brunt of the deer flies. The netting that I have on Tonka is no longer available – it’s great, though, with the head and neck in one piece. I lucked out and found it at a resale shop.

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