A look at some common myths about fly masks and how caretakers can ensure their horse’s protection and comfort.
When it comes to fly masks, many horse caretakers overlook the importance of size and quality, and assume that they can just “strap it on and leave it”. But that couldn’t be further from the truth! Here’s the reality behind some common fly mask myths.
Myth #1 – Fly masks are “one size fits all”
For a fly mask to be effective, it needs to fit the horse correctly in all areas – the back of the ears, the jowls, the cheeks and the nose. When shopping for a mask, look for a lightweight option that has individual measurements in all of these sections.
According to Debbie Straker from Great British Equinery, improper fit is one of the worst mistakes a horse caretaker can make when it comes to fly masks. “If the mask doesn’t fit correctly your horse will do all it can to get the mask off,” she says. “You can look for the breed on a fitting guide but ideally you need to take measurements yourself.” Debbie recommends purchasing a mask that provides a choice of sizes, such as the Harrison Howard Fly Masks. They fit four different sizes and offer both a nose flap and ear options.
Myth #2 – Quality doesn’t matter much, as long as it does the job
Quality does matter – but price shouldn’t. In fact, Debbie recommends spending a little bit more on a mask that’s “above average”. It’ll last longer, and you can rest easy knowing your horse has the best of the best. “Your horse needs to have a fly mask that provides a soft and comfortable fit, good vision and no sharp edges,” she says.
Bonus features are also something to look for. An inexpensive mask might cover the basics, but if you’re able to pay a bit more, you’ll get a mask that boasts a few “extras”. Fleece lining, for instance, will provide your horse with more comfort, while masks with UV and eye protection add an extra level of safety.
Myth #3 – A mask should fit tightly to the horse’s face so he can see better
It might seem like a snugly-fitting fly mask will allow your horse to see with more ease, but this isn’t true. Not only will a tight mask hinder his vision – it’ll also be extremely uncomfortable.
“When fitting a fly mask, look at the eyes first and ensure the horse’s eyelashes aren’t touching the mesh,” says Debbie. “Then run your finger under the nose band to ensure there’s just enough room to fit your finger, but that it’s not too tight. Next, check the fit around the back of the ears and under the jowls, then the nose flap if applicable.”
Myth #4 – Horses that wear fly masks don’t need bug spray
Flies and other insects tend to spend most of their time buzzing around horse’s faces – one reason why fly masks are so handy. But this doesn’t mean they ignore the rest of your equine companion’s body! Even if you’ve bought the best mask money can buy, it’s not going to keep the bugs off his back, belly, legs and rump. To protect these areas, invest in a trusted bug spray.
Myth #5 –Fly masks are just for “bug season”
Do you pack your mask away from fall to spring? Consider keeping it out this year! Although the main purpose of a fly mask is to keep flies away from your horse’s face, a good fly mask will also provide a plethora of other benefits. “We actually refer to our fly masks as face shields,” says Debbie. “They’re there to keep out the flies as well as provide sun protection, but due to the fine mesh construction, they also prevent injury to the eye and keep out debris.” If your horse’s fly mask is made of high-quality material and fits him well (like it should), you can use it all year round for turnout, stall time, trailering and trail riding!
Questions about fly masks? Visit or greatbritishequinery.com or contact Debbie at firstname.lastname@example.org.