Monthly Archives: March 2010

Got flies? Get some non-toxic weapons

Most barns have an arsenal of weapons to try to beat back the fly population including fly strips, sprays and traps. A lot of these tools work but they don’t last and they add to an already heavy workload.

Strips are more expensive than sprays and have to be replaced all season long. There is nothing uglier than a fly-encrusted pest strip but somebody has to take the old one down and put the new one up. And there are usually three or four strips in every barn. Changing out the strips is a dirty task and it takes time.

Every horse has to be sprayed before going out in the field, when they come in and before each ride, every time. Spraying one horse may only take 3 minutes a day but if you have 10 or 15 horses in the barn, that’s 30 minutes a day and more than three hours a week spent spraying horses to control flies.

Fly traps can work but before you spend a dime on them, make sure you are getting the right trap for the fly you are trying to catch. You might catch house flies with one but not catch the object of your attention — biting stable flies. Stable flies are attracted to light and fly low so traps have to be in the right place to catch them. Odor traps work on flies too but flies will travel up to a quarter of a mile to get to them. Put odor traps inside your barn and all you are doing is attracting flies from the whole neighborhood.

Workload isn’t the only thing affected by fly control.  If you live in the country, you probably have well water and so do your neighbors. Logically, every chemical that you use goes downstream and ends up in your neighbor’s water.  Your neighbor may be doing the same thing to your water supply.

What if you could find natural solutions that last longer and are not chemically based?

Horse Fly Nets
Horse fly nets get hung up once and last for ten years. Hung over entryways and windows in barns and run in sheds, Horse Fly Nets are made of the same material that tennis court nets are made of – polyester with a fine coating of vinyl. Resistant to rain, rot and ultra violet (UV) rays, they are environmentally safe, durable and made to order.

How do they work? Owner and inventor Karleen Hubley says it’s all in the angle of the sun. “The horse fly net creates shade at an angle based on where the sun strikes.” Behind the net, Hubley says, there is a, “…cool, dark space that the horses like but the flies don’t.”

The nets don’t touch the ground so a few flies may fly under the net but that means that hundreds of flies are on one side of the net and the horses are on the other. Keeping the net off the ground has the added benefit of keeping it from being trampled or pulled down and keeps it from getting muddy.

Standard sizes are available but Horse Fly Nets also sells custom nets. Both are reasonably priced and can be ordered on the Internet, paid for with credit card or check and delivered in less than 10 days.
For more information, visit  Hubley’s website or email her at

Fly Predators
Most people rely on sprays and strips but rising slowly through the ranks of fly control is a slightly different product — beneficial insects. Organic gardeners have been using beneficial for years to control predatory bugs. Now these warriors are being put to use in barns across the country to help control flies.

Fly predators are not new. Tom Spalding’s family has been making and selling Fly Predators™ for more than 30 years.  “This is a different approach — biological control. You put out the bugs before you have flies and you won’t have flies all summer,” says Spalding, who is President of Spalding Labs.

Created at Spalding Labs early in the 1970’s, Fly Predators™ uses beneficials to kill the larvae. Fly predators keep flies from hatching rather than trying to kill them so you may still have to use fly strips and sprays while you get control over your fly population.

Some of the biggest names in the equine industry use Spalding’s product. Darren Chiacchia, Olympic Medalist, Tyler Magnus, nine-time NFR competitor, and Julie Goodnight, host of Horse Master on RFD-TV are just a few of Spalding Labs’ customers.

If you want to learn more about flies and fly control, visit Spalding Labs.   Spalding gives away a fly control guide that shares three decades of knowledge on how to use or buy the least amount of our product and spend the least amount of money to have the best control.

Zip-Loc Bags
If you are up for an experiment in fly control, another unproven but non toxic approach involves Zip-Loc bags and water!

First mentioned in 2003 by San Francisco Chronicle columnist, Richard Fagerlund, the method is simple. Fill a sandwich-size Ziploc bag about half full of water. Tape the top of the bag to the outside of the barn entrances. Add more water as needed. There is no scientific proof that this works but Fagerlund claimed that mail from his readers ran 9 to 1 that it did.

Why would flies avoid bags filled with water? Another mystery but the possible answer is they scare flies. So if you feel like experimenting and don’t feel like spraying yet another chemical, give them a try. You might get some relief from flies this summer and, at the very least, you’ll might a laugh or two from friends or boarders.


Filed under Equestrian Articles, Mid-Atlantic Horse Stories

Gray Dapple Thoroughbreds Rescued by Actress and Former A Circuit Rider

Anyone who owns horses knows just how much the current economic downturn hurts. In fact, The Unwanted Horse Coalition conducted a survey to find out just how deep this issue runs and learned that the recession is hitting horse owners hard; it is also hitting horse rescues hard.

Up until a few months ago, acclaimed Hollywood actor and Broadway star, Paul Sorvino was able to fund one Pennsylvania-based horse rescue pretty much singlehandedly. That’s because Gray Dapple, which currently has 18 horses in care, is run by his daughter, Amanda Sorvino.

But the recession has cut her father’s ability to cover all the costs. “At the ranch, Dad wrote the checks and I brought in horses and we had a staff – a barn manager and my boyfriend and me. It was a family operation,” says Amanda Sorvino.

It is still a family operation but funding is tight.  Some people think because she is the daughter of a famous actor, Amanda’s rescue doesn’t need donations. But with 18 horses in care right now and more sure to turn up, Amanda says costs are going up because of the kind of horses she rescues.

“Some horses are not going to be adoptable. They are young but they are lame, injured. We tend to have horses that have special needs. And some will never leave my rescue.”

An A Circuit rider in her childhood, Amanda got into the rescue business because of one horse – Pastel. “…probably the most beautiful horse I have ever seen. But Pastel was not going to make it in the circuit,” Amanda pauses to collect herself. “We purchased another horse for me. We kept Pastel for awhile but she was just forgotten. I never really knew what happened to her. I looked for her for years but never did find her.”

Pastel inspired the name for her rescue – – but New Holland was what really got Amanda started on the path to rescue. “I have been rescuing for more than 4 years, after my first visit to New Holland. I was shocked that a kill buyer could buy show horses and ship them to slaughter.”

Rescuing horses also led Amanda to begin finding, investigating and exposing illegal slaughterhouses in the mid-Atlantic region. “I grew up in an actor’s family and on movie sets. A lot of life is acting so when I went undercover to investigate the Bravo operation, – I was playing a role. I never had any fear while I was doing this.”

But Amanda has paid for her activism, receiving death threats and unable to disclose where her rescued horses are being kept. “Because of all my undercover work, I don’t like to give the location out. I have exposed so many kill buyers and there have been threats made,” explains Amanda. “The horses are now in three boarding operations.”

Amanda relies on volunteers to help her recover, rehabilitate, retrain and adopt out the horses she rescues and like other rescue operations, she is always looking for funding. “Because we are boarding all the horses right now, we need to get something back for all of the money we put out when we rescue and rehabilitate.”

She has horses available for adoption and uses fees to help defray costs but adopting one of her horses is not easy. “The application is really restrictive; we charge a non refundable adoption fee.” Once you adopt one of Amanda’s horses, you can’t, “…re-sell, give away or trade the horse. The horses come back to me.,” Sorvino laughs. “It’s not really a rescue. We are a rescue in spirit, a combined rescue and sanctuary.”

Even with adoption fees, there is never enough to cover costs. Amanda makes it easy for people to donate to her rescue, accepting checks, major credit cards and PayPal.

“When we rescue a horse from slaughter we make that horse a promise that life will be wonderful from her on in.”


Filed under Equestrian Articles, Freelance Writing, Mid-Atlantic Horse Stories, Writing About Horses

Saving horses – one at a time – Manes and Tails has horses available, now

Manes and Tales is a New Jersey-based, horse rescue that rehabilitates, retrains, and re-homes the most commonly slaughtered breeds of horses – Quarterhorses, Thoroughbreds, and Standardbreds. Started informally in 1995 by Ellen Cathryn Nash, this rescue operation didn’t incorporate until 2004 when Nash set it up as a New Jersey 501 (c) 3 non profit.

Manes and tales were all that Ellen Cathryn Nash had left of two beloved horses she leased and lost in a tragic accident. “One was a Seattle Slew son and the other was an Arabian. They had to go together because they were so bonded,” says Nash.

Always careful about whom she leases to, Nash did her homework before releasing Bullie and Sahlih to their new caretaker. “…a girl at Cornell University, a really experienced horse person. I had her stay with me for a week or two,” explains Nash. “I drove up there and I checked out the place,. I liked the place and the owner.”

The farm and the person leasing the horses checked out but no one could have predicted the outcome. “Somebody forgot to turn on the electric fence. They hopped out and raced along the road, ran down a mile long drive that ended up on a highway,” Nash pauses. “They died together. All I have left of them is their manes and tails.”

That’s how she came up with the name of the horse rescue and rehabilitation operation she has been running for more than 5 years.

Manes and Tails is a small equine rescue with a unique twist. “I don’t sell horses; I don’t take horses that are healthy. I rescue horses and I free lease them. People don’t pay me anything,” says Nash, quietly. “I wanted to keep the horses safe and retain ownership. I will always take a horse back so that horse will never go to a killer, ever.”

There are no fees for leasing one of Nash’s horses, just the usual costs of board and upkeep. People who lease horses from Manes and Tails are getting a good deal – rehabilitated, healthy and happy horses.

Nash has been rescuing horses, one at a time, since 1995. Her quiet courage and her determination have helped to keep her operation going but today, she is facing her most serious challenge.

“…getting donations to take care of my horses. I don’t have any money but I pay to get them done myself,” she explains quietly. “I have gotten donations but not in the last couple of months because of the recession. It is tough.”

Nash tries to make it easy for people to support her rescue. Manes and Tails accepts checks that can be mailed right to Nash. And she accepts PayPal payments on her site. Nash says no amount is too small. “If you are thinking $25 isn’t much, it will pay for a trim or go into a fund for supplements. People have sent me donations of $5.00, any amount is good.”

Rescuing horses, bringing them back to health and fighting for donations keeps Nash pretty busy but she still finds time to help other rescues. Nash is a Vice President of Gray Dapple Rescue, another small, Pennsylvania-based horse rescue run by Amanda Sorvino. Nash and Sorvino also went after and are trying to shut down Bravo Packing, a horse slaughter operation in Salem, New Jersey. A look at Sorvino’s operation is next for saving horses, one at a time.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized