If you’ve ever seen a horse wearing a fly mask, we’re sure you’ll agree, it’s quite an odd sight.
Akin to placing a blindfold over their head, fly masks may even look cruel to those who don’t know what it is.
However, fly masks are an invaluable tool for horses, especially if they suffer from insect attacks in the summer.
So if you know a poor pony who is really struggling with the swarms, it might be time to bite the bullet and invest, as a quality horse fly mask could prove a little lifesaver…
Why do horses need fly masks?
Fly masks are primarily concerned with protecting a horse’s eyes, ears and face from fly and insect bites.
But why are flies such a problem for horses? After all, it’s not like we humans have to go out wearing huge mosquito net hats… so why should they?
Well, unfortunately for horses, they aren’t as lucky as us and there are plenty of species of insects and flies out there that thrive and survive specifically off their health.
The ones that are particularly bothersome for your steed in the summertime are face flies and blackflies.
Face flies are the nasty little bugs that 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’ve decided that the inside of a horse’s ear is the best place to get it. To secrete this, they have no qualms in biting down on a horse’s ear, which of course, can be quite painful.
Naturally, the biting and number of flies that can swarm around these areas cause a lot of annoyance at a minimum, with the constant threat of the issue developing into more problematic infections and distress for your horse.
Horse fly masks can help solve this issue by creating a physical barrier between the horse’s sensitive areas and incoming flies, meaning your steed can spend the summer in peace!
So although they might look strange, they’re absolutely vital in helping a horse rid itself of irritation rather than causing it. They’re also made of a fine mesh material, so although it might appear that a horse has been blindfolded, they are actually able to see quite easily 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 or irritable.
As an added bonus, some horse fly masks also provide UV protection for horses who suffer from sunlight sensitivity or snow glare.
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, they can also be essential, especially if you are in the countryside.
But, whether your horse actually needs a fly mask or not is completely dependent on how they seem to manage throughout the summer months.
Whereas we humans have the luxury of hands that can swat away circling flies, horses obviously aren’t able to do the same, hence why they are often so picked on. 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.
Keeping flies at bay is also not as easy as just buying some horse fly repellant either. While such products might help stave away 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.
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.
Think about it, if you’re attempting to train your horse in a certain activity that requires a lot of skill and thought on their part, it’s going to be a lot more difficult for them to follow instructions if they’ve got a load of flies buzzing in their face!
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!