Why Do Horses Wear Masks?

A horse fly mask covers the eyes, jaw, and sometimes the ears and head of a horse. They are primarily used to protect horses from flies and other biting insects. These bites can really irritate your horse, and potentially cause infections, too.

Why do horses need fly masks?

Fly masks protect a horse’s eyes, ears and face from fly and insect bites in summer.

Some horse masks can also protect eyes from UV rays, or from snow glare in winter. A fly mask can also be worn in winter as the gusting wind can pick up particles of dust and dirt which irritate the eyes.

benefits of a horse fly mask

Why do flies bother horses?

There are plenty of species of insects and flies out there that thrive and survive specifically off horses.

The ones that are particularly bothersome in the summertime are face flies and blackflies.

Face flies target a horse’s face, and they directly feed on the moisture at the corner of a horse’s eye. While this act isn’t directly harmful, the defecation they leave behind is, and can eventually lead to infection if enough builds up.

Blackflies, on the other hand, are after blood. They target the inner ear of horses, biting for blood, which is painful. It can also cause infections if left untreated.

Horse fly masks can help solve this issue by creating a physical barrier between the horse’s head and incoming flies.

Do horse fly masks annoy horses?

Although they might look strange, horse fly masks are absolutely vital in helping keep flies and other bugs away. They don’t cause irritation.

Fly masks are also made of a fine mesh material, so although it might appear that a horse has been blindfolded, they are actually able to see through the gaps, similar to a veil or a beekeeper suit.

This also allows enough air to get to their skin, so they won’t become sweaty.

Does a horse wear a fly mask overnight?

It is generally best to remove a fly mask overnight unless advised by a vet to keep it on. The threat from flies and other bugs is minimal.

Vets may advise keeping a mask on if your horse is recovering from an eye or ear infection, and further irritants will make the issue worse.

Are fly masks the same as horse hoods?

You may also see that you can purchase horse hoods. These are slightly different to fly masks.

Fly masks are designed to cover the eyes of a horse to avoid bites and irritation from flies. Horse hoods, on the other hand, cover a horse’s head and ears, while leaving holes which allow them to see.

Horse hoods are usually used in racing, eventing and other busy areas, for the benefit of horses who are nervous about loud noises and crowds. There is often padding on the ears to dampen down the noise.

This helps with nerves rather than concentration. They’re commonly seen on racing horses.

Does my horse need a fly mask?

Generally, we would advise giving your horse a fly mask if they spend long periods of time in stalls or pens during summer, as these can often be hotbeds of fly activity.

If they are out on the field unsupervised, a fly mask can also be essential, especially if you are in the countryside.

Horse fly masks are also a good tool for riders and owners who want their horse to compete in eventing, dressage or other horse riding endeavours, unbothered.

This is because even if your horse seems to be immune from infection, bites and irritation, flies are also very good at affecting another aspect of a horse’s life – their concentration and attention.

should i get a fly mask for my horse

But, whether your horse actually needs a fly mask or not is completely dependent on how they seem to manage throughout the summer months.

In the wild, herds of horses use their tails to swat away another member’s fly problems, but if your horse is alone, this isn’t a possibility.

Even if your horse doesn’t appear to be suffering from any infections or serious issues during a difficult heatwave period, if you’re noticing a lot of flies lingering around them, they’re likely silently suffering from some discomfort.

A fly mask would help prevent this discomfort from evolving into distress or a more serious physical problem.

Can I just use fly repellant?

While horse fly repellant spray might help avoid bites to other sensitive areas such as the body and the legs, it’s obviously not wise to spray strong solutions near the face and eyes, which is why a mask is a better option for protecting this area.

In conclusion, horse fly masks are not mandatory pieces of kit, but as long as your horse doesn’t find them uncomfortable to wear, they can offer invaluable protection.

After all, one horse mask is certainly a lot cheaper than a series of veterinary bills!