Welcome back to part 2 of Build A No-Fly-Zone. Here, you’ll learn more about the flies that are bothering your horse and find out what problems they can cause.
When your horse is outside, you’ve got two solutions that can help on top of a feed-through supplement: fly spray, which helps ward off insects, and physical barriers like fly masks, fly sheets, and fly boots, which deny insects access to your horse. Last month we discussed Fly spray & repellents. This month we will look at physical barriers.
A fly mask is the perfect way to keep the bugs away from your horse’s sensitive face, eyes, and ears when he’s in turnout.
How to Choose a Fly Mask for Your Horse
Just like anything else in the horse world, not all fly masks are created equal. When you’re choosing a fly mask for your horse, consider the following key features:
Material: Most fly masks are made from lightweight, breathable mesh that will protect your horse’s face while still allowing air to pass through. If your horse is sensitive and get rubs easily, look for a mask that offers fleece lining along the seams to help keep him comfortable.
Ear Coverage: The most basic fly mask provides coverage just for your horse’s face and has holes for your horse’s ears to poke through. Other fly masks offer protection for your horse’s ears. If your horse is particularly sensitive or you keep your horse’s ears clipped, you should consider getting a fly mask with ears to ensure that they stay protected.
Nose Coverage: Fly masks are available both with protection for your horse’s nose and without. Depending on the particular style, the nose coverage may be removable, or it may be permanently attached to the rest of the fly mask. If your horse is particularly sensitive or has a white nose that tends to get sunburnt, he may benefit from the extra protection of a fly mask with nose coverage.
Eye Darts: Eye darts allow the mask to “tent” over your horse’s eyes, preventing rubbing and irritation. This is especially useful if you’re using a fly mask to help a horse cope with an eye injury, as many veterinarians will often recommend.
Uv Protection: If your horse has white markings on his face that tend to get sunburnt or you’re concerned about his coat color fading, be sure to look for a fly mask that offers UV protection. Look for the phrase “UV protection” in description of the fly mask you’re looking at. It’s usually accompanied by a percentage, which refers to the amount of the sun’s rays that it blocks. The higher the percentage, the more protection it provides!
How to Measure Your Horse for a Fly Mask
Fly masks are sized like halters, where the size corresponds to your horse’s size or breed. In general, you can select the size that most closely matches your horse’s description and get the right fit. But keep in mind that every horse is different, so you may need to size up or down depending on your individual horse. The most common sizes you’ll see include:
- Small Pony/Weanling
- Large Pony/Yearling
Some fly mask brands offer detailed size charts with instructions on how to measure your horse to find the perfect size. Though it varies from brand to brand, you’ll typically need to measure your horse in these three areas:
- Down the center of the face from the poll to mid-face
- Around the throat
- Around the head at mid-face
Once you have your three measurements, you can then match them to the measurements listed on the fly mask’s size chart to find the appropriate size for your horse.
Using a fly sheet is a smart way to give your horse a full-body physical barrier against biting pests. Plus, they’re not only great for blocking bugs – they can be great for blocking sun, too!
How to Choose a Fly Sheet for Your Horse
The number of fly sheets available may make choosing the right one for your horse seem impossible, but we’re here to help! Here, we’ll walk you through the key factors you should consider when choosing a fly sheet.
Amount of Coverage
One feature that differentiates one fly sheet from another is the amount of coverage it provides. When you’re evaluating how much coverage a fly sheet will offer your horse, look for the following features:
Neck Cover: Just like with your horse’s turnout blankets, fly sheets are available with neck covers. Some neck covers are permanently attached to the fly sheet while others can be removed. If you want to have the option to leave your horse’s neck uncovered or keep it covered, be sure to look for a fly sheet that has a detachable neck cover.
Belly Wrap: A belly wrap is a wide piece of fabric that, as the name suggests, wraps under your horse’s belly. Along with providing extra coverage for your horse in that sensitive area, it helps keep the fly sheet securely on your horse.
Oversized Or Full-Wrap Tail Flap: Some fly sheets offer an oversized tail flap for extra protection. Others have a full-wrap tail flap, which means that it is completely attached to the sheet. This prevents bugs from sneaking in through the gap that is created when the sides of the tail flap aren’t attached to the sheet.
Length: There are fly sheets that are intentionally cut long to provide extra leg protection. If you’d like to provide coverage in this area, look for styles that have an extra “drop” at the front and hind legs. You’ll typically find this feature in Rambo and Amigo fly sheets.
Most fly sheets are made from lightweight, breathable fabric to prevent insects from landing on your horse without causing your horse to overheat. You’ll most commonly find fly sheets made from polyester, but keep in mind that not all fabrics are created equal. If you have a horse that tends to be hard on his clothes, look for a fly sheet made from PVC coated polyester mesh, polyester/polypropylene, Textilene, or nylon mesh, because these fabrics are designed for durability. Some fly sheet fabrics are treated with insect repellent, so keep an eye out for that option if you want to provide the ultimate protection.
The sun’s rays aren’t just harmful for you – they can negatively impact your horse, too! Too much exposure to the sun can cause your horse’s coat color to fade, especially if you have a dark-colored horse. Many fly sheets offer UV protection to help prevent sun-bleaching, so your horse can show off his true colors no matter what time of year it is. Look for fly sheets that tout a percentage of “UV protection” as one of the benefits and keep in mind that the higher the percentage listed, the more blockage it provides.
Other Basic Features
Along with the three key features described above, there are other basic features that differentiate one fly sheet from another. If you’re torn between a few different fly sheets that meet all of your requirements for coverage, material, and UV protection, consider using these basic features to break the tie:
Front Closures: Similar to other types of horse blankets, there are a variety of types of front closures to choose from. The most common types include:
- Buckle-Front – Just like a regular belt buckle, usually nylon straps with a metal buckle. This option offers a lot of adjustability.
- Surcingle – Also known as “T-locks”, surcingle closures on the front of the fly sheet will function just like the belly surcingles, with two metal pieces that interlock to keep the fly sheet closed.
- Quick-Clip – Any metal snap or clip fastener that you can open and close with one hand. This type of fastener is really “handy” to have if you’re taking fly sheets on and off repeatedly.
- V-Front – Usually cut a little higher on the neck, V-Front fly sheets fasten lower on the chest, eliminating pressure when the horse has his head down.
These allow the sheet to offer a bit more “give” in the shoulder area, allowing for greater freedom of movement. If your horse tends to spend his time outside on the move, a fly sheet with shoulder gussets is a smart choice.
Surcingles are the straps that cross under your horse’s belly, securing the fly sheet in place. More surcingles equals a more secure fit, so look for sheets that offer two or three surcingles if your horse is going to be wearing his fly sheet when he’s turned out.
Nylon or elastic leg straps help prevent shifting and keep the fly sheet secure on your horse.
Some fly sheet styles offer a tail cord instead of leg straps. A tail cord clips from one side of the sheet to the other underneath your horse’s tail. Like leg straps, it will help keep the fly sheet in place. Some tail cords are covered in PVC or rubber, which makes them super easy to clean!
How to Measure Your Horse for a Fly Sheet
An ill-fitting fly sheet can restrict your horse’s movement, cause rubs, shift, or even get tangled. Like with any other blanket, finding the perfect fit in a fly sheet starts with knowing your horse’s size. Fly sheets are sized like your horse’s other sheets and blankets, so if you already know your horse’s blanket size, you’re already one step ahead of the game! If you’re not sure what size blankets your horse wears, you’ll want to start by measuring him.
To measure your horse, start at the center of your horse’s chest and run a cloth tape measure along his side to the point of the buttocks where the “cheek” meets the tail. Include the widest part of his shoulder and keep the tape measure level and taut (we suggest having a friend help you). The number of inches is your horse’s true size (note: some brands run a little large or small, so we recommend checking out the hundreds and hundreds of product reviews left by horse owners like you!).
How to Evaluate Your Horse’s Fly Sheet Fit
Since your horse will be wearing his fly sheet in turnout, you want to be sure that he’s comfortable in it while he’s moving around. Test the fit of your horse’s new fly sheet by watching him walk and graze in it, because these natural movements will highlight flaws in the fit. You’ll want to pay special attention to the fit in three key areas:
Shoulders: The top of the front closure should line up with the point of your horse’s shoulder, and the neckline should lie smoothly above his shoulder without pulling.
Withers: A fly sheet that’s pulled tight across your horse’s withers is a recipe for rubs. You should be able to slide one hand between the blanket and your horse’s withers.
Length: A fly sheet shouldn’t look like a mini-skirt or a bed skirt. Ideally your horse’s blanket should cover your horse’s barrel entirely, ending just below his elbow and stifle, unless it’s specifically designed to drop lower over the legs. If that’s the case, the belly is the easiest place to confirm whether your fly sheet is the proper length.
We know that you want to be sure that your horse’s fly sheet is the perfect fit, so SmartPak offers free return shipping on all sized items, including fly sheets. That means that if you don’t get the perfect fit the first time, you can exchange it for free!
If your horse spends his time outside stomping, consider protecting his legs from the pests with a set of fly boots.
How to Choose Fly Boots for Your Horse
Just like fly masks and fly sheets, there are a few key features that you can consider when you’re trying to choose between different fly boot styles, including:
Material: Fly boots are typically made from a mesh material, which allows for maximum airflow so that your horse’s legs stay both cool and protected from biting flies. If your horse is sensitive and prone to rubs, look for boots that have a fleece trim for extra comfort.
Closures: Most fly boots are fastened with Velcro straps, which makes them easy to take on and off. Just like with blankets, more straps equal a more secure fit, so look for boots that offer three straps to ensure they stay in place.
How to Measure Your Horse for Fly Boots
Poorly fitting fly boots could slide down on your horse’s legs or cause uncomfortable rubs, so it’s important to find the right fit for your horse. Sizing can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, but fly boots are often sized by horse type and size, such as “Pony,” “Cob,” and “Horse,” or simply as “Small,” “Medium,” and “Large.”
If you’re not sure which size will be right for your horse, you can measure your horse and then match the measurement you get to the appropriate size on the size chart for the fly boot you’re interested in purchasing. Fly boots are typically designed to cover your horse’s front legs from the top of his hoof to just below his knees and his hind legs from the top of his hoof to just below his hocks, so you’ll want to measure the length of your horse’s legs between those key points.
Because sizing can vary, be sure to check out the size chart for the style that you’re interested in to ensure that you get the perfect fit.
Ring & Trail
Bugs aren’t just a bother for your horse when they’re in turnout – they can make riding less enjoyable, too! In addition to using your favorite fly spray before you mount up, consider getting fly gear that’s designed to help your horse beat the bugs when you’re riding, whether you’re in the ring or out on the trails.
If you want to keep the bugs away from your horse’s ears while you’re in the saddle, consider getting an ear net. Also called ear bonnets or fly veils, ear nets are designed to prevent bugs from getting into your horse’s ears. The “ears” of an ear net are typically made from a stretchy material like lycra or spandex mesh for a comfortable fit. Ear nets come in a variety of styles and colors, so you can choose the perfect one to show off your horse’s style. You can even get them rhinestones or crystals to add a little extra sparkle to your ride!
Fly masks aren’t just for turnout – there are fly masks designed specifically for riding, too! If you’re looking to eliminate insect-driven head tossing out on the trails, consider getting a fly mask designed for riding, like the Cashel Quiet Ride Fly Mask. This fly mask is made from a soft, lightweight mesh and it fastens quickly and easily over most bridles without affecting your horse’s vision.
Perimeter of Barns & Fields
Even if you’re using Fly Stoppers to prevent flies from developing on your property, it’s likely that you’ll still get unwelcome visitors from your neighbors. That’s why it’s a smart idea to stock up on fly control solutions for the perimeter of your barn and fields.
Fly traps are designed to catch flies before they get near your horse. Because they attract flies, you shouldn’t hang them too close to your barn and horses. Instead, hang them outside the barn and on your property’s perimeter to trap invaders from neighboring properties. Be sure to check them throughout fly season and replace them when they get full for maximum effect.
Inside The Barn
If you have your own farm and are looking for the ultimate protection for inside the barn, consider a fly control system. This system dispenses an insect repellent in the form of a very fine mist through spray nozzles. It’s automatically timed to spray at specific intervals, which means you can set it up and stop worrying about flies!
Now you are ready to build the ultimate no-fly-zone for your horse and farm!
Courtesy of SmartPak