Research at the Institute for Hygiene and Biotechnology at the Hohenstein Institutes, in Bönnigheim, carried out under the direction of Dr Timo Hammer in conjunction with HKM Sports Equipment GmbH, in Neuenhaus has resulted in development of a light fabric horse cover that provides protection against biting insects.
The blanket is also designed to deliver natural repellents, providing two-way protection for horses. Hammer said there were two options for protecting animals and humans from insect bites - applying repellents and providing mechanical protection through a barrier such as a textile.
The aim of the project was to develop a blanket that would combine both principles, mechanical and chemical.
The textile needs to be as resistant as possible to puncturing by as many different types of insects, from tiny mosquitoes to large horseflies.
As well as providing a mechanical protective effect, the blanket should be comfortable for the horse to wear and the repellent needs to be skin-friendly.
Another requirement of the textile is that the animals do not sweat under it and that no toxicological substances are absorbed through licking the insect protection blanket.
The result of the research project is a blanket which protects the horse using an extremely light spacer fabric and optimised fit and which is also pleasant to wear.
The light material used for the blanket means that the animals don't suffer any build up of heat, even in the height of summer. The textile also has good moisture vapour transmission, which means that sweat evaporating from the animal causes no problem.
The protective blanket can be equipped with replaceable delivery systems for the active repellent substances. This means that the animal is protected against insects by natural active substances for several weeks.
The blanket is also wash-resistant and weatherproof, making it suitable for long-term use.
Another bug-repelling fly sheet using permethrin, a synthetic version of a repellant derived from chrysantemums is now also on the market. The repellant is bound to the sheet's fabric and is EPA-registered to repel mosquitoes, ticks, and flies.
The repellent won't rub off on you or your horse and remains effective through numerous washings, says the maker. A built-in belly band and removable neck cover offer added protection.