“Why is that horse wearing a blindfold?”
“It’s so hot, why is that horse in a blanket?”
Unfortunately for barn managers, equine fly apparel isn’t really understood by the general public. The idea that items can block biting insects, yet still be see-through, tough, and cool is a relatively new concept… so new, in fact, that there are advances every year in what is available to protect your horse from pesky insects and the sun’s coat-bleaching rays.
1. Fly Masks
Every time my horse spooks at something that is as big as a fly, I wish that perhaps fly masks would blindfold him. But alas, we want fly masks to block annoying flies, while hindering vision as little as possible.
Things to consider. Are you riding in the mask, or just turning out? Riding masks need to have fine mesh for the best visibility. Does your horse have sensitive skin? Padding and extended coverage can help, but can also lead to sweating/itching. Does your horse need ear protection? Sometimes the ear coverage is appreciated, and sometimes it leads to mask removal because they rub it off.
Masks like the HUGS Brow-Lift Fly Mask provide comfortable padding for the horse, have coverage for both eyes and ears, and can even be ridden in! For horses with sensitive noses (or light-colored skin), might need a bit more coverage, like the Cashel Crusader Fly Mask with Long Nose (also available without ear coverage). For horses that don’t need as much sun protection for a light-colored nose, but are sensitive to insects, there is the Shires Fine Mesh Fly Mask with Nose Fringe. And the science of what colors/designs attract flies has influenced some designs, like the Bucas Buzz Off Zebra Fly Mask, which features a black/white striped design that helps to repel flies.
2. Fly Boots
Horses may be able to pretend that they cannot feel our leg go on when we want them to go faster, however they sure do feel those tiny flies on their legs. Stomping flies is a recipe for chipped hooves, loose shoes, and injuries, and we can help prevent these with fly boots. One of the products giving horse owners a leg-up on leg protection is the Shoofly Horse Leggins. These appear less like boots and more like waders, however they are designed to not sag down, are breathable, and come brightly colored for those horses who like to undress themselves and hide their clothing. More traditional type boots conform more to the leg, like the Shires Airflow Turnout Socks, and provide protection while still being breathable with lightweight mesh.
3. Fly Sheets
Fly sheets provide protection for varying degrees of protection for the rest of the horse.
Things to consider. How much protection do you need? Neck coverage, belly bands, extended leg coverage, and tail flaps all offer different protection depending on the need. How durable does it need to be? Horses that play hard need apparel that is designed to hold up to shenanigans. How hot do they get? Some sheets offer more breathability, while others are designed for use for more moderate climates.
Horses that are sun sensitive and/or have fly allergies need maximum coverage while staying cool, like the Rambo Protector offers protection and coverage against both sun and bugs, while the fabric is designed to stand up against enthusiastic pasture behavior. Just like their fly masks, the Buzz Off Zebra Fly Sheet From Bucas provides the protection of a fly sheet, plus the fly-behavior technology of a zebra stripe that discourages insects from landing on your horse. For an economic optio, the Gatsby Cool-Mesh Fly Sheet provides quality protection, with the option to buy the neck covering separately for those sensitive horses who need more coverage.
With so many options, outfitting your horse in fly protection can seem daunting. Clearly map out what your priorities are, and it will be simple to keep your horse happy and healthy this summer with the help of Horseloverz.