What are some reasons to use fly masks? Can I use one all year?
Yes, and in some cases they can make the difference between comfort and not so comfortable, even in winter when the flies are few and far between. I use fly masks year round for a variety of reasons:
I keep a fly mask handy on the halter hook, so no one at the barn needs to go digging for one. I also have a spare handy, if the original needs a wash or it "disappears" into the pasture abyss.
- Insect control. You can keep bugs out of eyes and ears, thus improving your horse’s comfort level and possibly even prevent injury and maybe even some infections. Many horses will shake their heads violently around insects, and some insects are suspected to be involved with aural plaques. If your horse has any type of wound, a fly mask can help keep pests away.
- Sunscreen. Horses with clipped faces, ears, and muzzles will need some extra protection while in the sun. Even if you don’t clip those areas on your horse, the sunshine (year round) can burn pink skinned horses. This is common for horses with extensive white facial markings that also include the muzzle.
- Glare protection. The winter sun is angled in such a way that can be very irritating, and when you add snow (which is like a mirror), the brightness can be hard to tolerate. This is especially true for photosensitive horses. I like to consider fly masks more like “sunglasses”.
How do you choose a fly mask? Well, there are tons of styles, with many options.
- Ears. Many style have covered ears, which is great for bug protection. Make sure your horse’s ears are not rubbing the inside of the tip, as this can create some hair loss. You may need one size larger, or you can snip off the very tip if you like. Some horses will not tolerate their ears being covered, so you may need to experiment here.
- Noses. Some fly masks cover the nose, which is great for the bug control. Be sure to monitor the inside of the nose cover daily, as horses eat, snort, and drink, the bottom of the mask can become quite dirty and gross.
- Forelock openings. Most fly masks have a small opening so that you can pull the forelock through. I recommend using this opening, so that any forelock hairs are not squashed onto the eyes.
Fly masks are amazing for eye injuries - I was able to tape up this mask for Comet when he scratched his cornea and needed to "wear a patch" for a few days.
- Fabric. Some masks are super fine and thin, to be worn during riding. (This is common for head shakers.) Others are more durable, designed for turnout. Some are super stiff, which is good as you can “mold” them to stay far away from the eyes. These types typically have darts in them around the eyes for this very reason. Please be sure to notice if the weave is starting to break, as the stiff fabrics can create eye-pokey-out pieces when torn.
- Color. You name it, it exists.
What else should you know about fly masks?
- I don’t suggest leaving them on at night unless totally necessary.
- Most can be washed in the laundry with the rest of your horse stuff.
- Please watch for dirt, especially on areas around the ears that can cause sores or irritations.
- Don’t go by temperature to decide if you should use one that day, go by insects, sun amount, and brightness.
What have been your experiences with fly masks?