As you finish storing away your horse’s winter blankets, you will find that pesky insects are coming back out, indicating that it is soon time to offer your horse a different layer of protection. Black flies, horse flies, deer flies, mosquitoes, and gnats are attracted to the fluids in a horse’s eyes and nose. As a result, they often torment horses out in the pasture, leading many owners and riders to the decision to purchase a fly mask. Fortunately, we broke down all the features and benefits of fly masks, so you can determine how they may help your horse this season

What is a Fly Mask

What is a Horse Fly Mask?

A horse fly mask is a mesh cover that protects your horse’s face and eyes from biting insects, such as flies, mosquitoes, and gnats. This layer of protection also shields horses from harmful UV rays and blocks out dirt, tall grass, or other debris that may irritate their eyes. Applying insect repellent on your horse’s face can be difficult, so fly masks are a more convenient option in providing a physical barrier that keeps flies out. Many masks include ear coverage, too, perfect for adding another barrier that prevents flies from irritating your horse. Horses typically wear fly masks during turnout during the summer months, when bugs are out the most. Some horses wear fly masks year-round if they have an eye or skin condition that needs to be protected.

Features of a Good Fly Mask

  1. Coverage- fly masks should at least cover your horse’s eyes and most of their face. Depending on your horse’s needs and preferences, you might need to opt for a mask with ears or a longer nose.

  2. Breathability- every fly mask should grant plenty of airflow so your horse does not overheat in the harsh sun.

  3. Durability- since most horses are turned out wearing fly masks, find one that will hold up to your horse’s play routine, including if they enjoy rolling in the dirt or itching their head.

  4. Visibility- most fly masks are made with mesh that is easy for your horse to see through.

  5. Secure fit- ensure your horse’s fly mask fits closely on their head. You do not want it to be too tight, resulting in painful rubs, but you do not want your horse to easily itch the mask off and lose it in the pasture.

  6. UV protection- depending on your horse’s needs, how much shelter they have, and your climate, you should find a fly mask that provides a UV protection rating.

  7. Easy to clean- you will be much more motivated to wash your horse’s fly mask if you can easily throw it in some cold water with equine-safe detergent.

Overall, a good fly mask should offer coverage, UV protection, and a secure fit that will withstand daily use.

Benefits of Using a Fly Mask

Benefits of Using a Fly Mask

There are many benefits to outfitting your horse in a fly mask, such as protection from flies and UV rays, reduced risk of eye injections or injuries, and reduced stress levels from irritating insects. Below, we go over each benefit in more detail.

Protection from flies and other insects

Since fly masks are generally designed with a breathable mesh material, they keep flies and other pesky insects from biting your horse’s face, decreasing the risk eye irritation, diseases, or irritation caused by flies.

Protection from harmful UV rays

Just like us, horses need protection from the sun to prevent cancer and eye damage. Unfortunately, they cannot borrow our sunglasses and visor. With the use of fly masks, though, our horse’s eyes and skin are blocked from the sun’s damaging rays while they are turned out for the day. If your horse has a white face, they are more susceptible to painful sunburns, so they will not want to leave the barn without a protective fly mask.

Reduced risk of eye infections and injuries

Similar to how a fly mask keeps bugs out, it can also obstruct dirt, debris, and other objects that may result in eye injections or injuries. If your horse has access to tall grass, their eyes can get irritated from the blades of grass making contact. Similarly, if your horse is ridden in a dusty arena or turned out in a dry pasture, dirt will get into the eyes. With a fly mask, your horse’s eyes are safely covered. In the event that your horse needs an extra layer to protect against a facial injury, a fly mask can be placed over bandages as well.

Reduced stress levels for horses

Flies, dirt, and debris can easily bother your horse, adding stress to their daily life. If you equip them with a fly mask to go for rides or spend time out in the pasture, your horse is likely to feel tormented or distracted by pesky flies or get dirt stuck in their eyes. Fly masks can help them feel ready to focus under the saddle and relaxed during turnout.

Choosing the Right Horse Fly Mask

Choosing the Right Fly Mask for Your Horse

When looking for a fly mask, consider your horse’s individual needs and preferences. Depending on your climate, certain materials are better suited for your horse’s needs, but you always want to ensure that they are comfortable and protected.

Considerations for selecting a fly mask

  • Mesh vs. Lycra: mesh fly masks are best for horses who live in hot, humid climates or for horses who overheat easily since the material provides ample airflow. Lycra is also breathable and lightweight, but it is a better option for horses who have sensitive skin.

  • With vs. without ears: if your horse does not mind their ears being covered, opt for a mask with breathable mesh ears for added fly protection.

  • Nose coverage: if your horse has pink or sensitive skin, fly masks that fully cover their nose are the safest choice. Your horse’s nose will be fully protected from flies and the harsh sun.

  • Forelock savers: horses with long forelocks might appreciate a mask that features a hole for their hair to be pulled through, preventing their forelock from getting in their eyes.

  • Pull-on, zippers, or hook and loop closures: depending on the type of fit your horse needs, you will need to decide whether your horse would be most comfortable in a pull-on, zippered, or velcro mask. Whichever option your horse prefers, check that there are no rubs or pinched skin.

  • Different materials for different purposes (fly, uv, etc.): fly masks are designed with all kinds of helpful features, depending on what every horse needs for under saddle or in the pasture. For example, if your horse lives in an environment with significant sun, they may need a mask with a high UV protection rating. If your horse lives in an environment full of mosquitoes or other small bugs, masks with extra fine “window screen” are most effective.

The Different Fly Mask Materials

Mosqutio Mesh Fly Mask

Mosquito Mesh Fly Masks

Mosquito mesh fly masks are best for insect protection. The 350D extra-fine “window screen” mesh material is optimal for keeping pesky flies, gnats, and mosquitoes out. Not only do these masks provide the best insect protection, but they offer a 60% UV protection rating and exceptional airflow. Plus, these masks are durable enough for your playful horse.

Dura-Mesh Fly Mask

Dura-Mesh Fly Masks

If your horse enjoys playing hard out in the pasture, Dura-Mesh Fly Masks are a great option for them. These super durable masks are designed with rugged 1000D vinyl-coated mesh that protects from medium to large flies, such as deer flies, greenheads, and horse flies. Dura-Mesh Fly Masks also block up to 70% of the sun’s UV rays and grant exceptional airflow.

Ripstop Nylon Mesh Fly Mask

Ripstop Nylon Mesh Fly Masks

If your horse lives in a hot, humid climate, outfit them in a Ripstop Nylon Mesh Fly Mask. Its 300D soft, shiny, and reflective nylon mesh provides optimal airflow and a 65% UV protection rating, keeping your horse cool in the hot weather. This mask shields from small insects as well, like gnats and flies, and holds up to light play in the pasture.

Mosqutio Mesh Hybrid Fly Mask

Mosquito Mesh Hybrid Fly Masks

Get the best of both worlds with a Mosquito Mesh Hybrid Fly Mask that provides the best dual protection from biting insects and UV rays. Your horse will be protected from small to medium-sized biting insects, such as flies, gnats, and mosquitoes. The material consists of 350D mosquito mesh and 450D soft mesh at the ears, which will hold up to light play, and has a 70% UV protection rating.

UltraFlex Fly Mask

UltraFlex Fly Masks

If your horse easily rubs their mask off or loses it when playing out in the pasture with their friends, an UltraFlex Fly Mask is the right choice. It is the most secure-fitting fly mask with a 4-way stretch lycra material that does not sacrifice airflow. You’ll find this mask is best at protecting your horse from small biting insects, like gnats and small flies. Plus, it has an exceptional UV protection rating of 95%!

X-Spand Fly Mask

X-Spand® Mosquito Mesh Fly Masks

The X-Spand® Mosquito Mesh Fly Mask is perfect for all-day comfort and insect protection. The material is made from our popular 350D extra-fine “window screen” Mosquito Mesh but with an added lycra jowl that eliminates any gaps that flies might try to enter. This mask has a 60% UV protection rating and offers light play durability and good airflow for moderate climates.

Properly Fit a Fly Mask

How to Properly Fit a Fly Mask

There are several easy steps to properly fitting a fly mask to your horse, ensuring they are both comfortable and protected.

Importance of a good fit

A properly fitted fly mask is key in providing maximum protection from annoying bugs, the harsh sun, and debris. If a fly mask does not fit your horse well, it can easily rub or pull off, which is both uncomfortable and ineffective. You do not want your horse to get bitten by flies or experience eye damage. Plus, it can be hard to find your horse’s lost mask if it was removed in tall grass.

How to measure your horse for fly mask

To properly measure your horse for a fly mask follow these steps:

  1. Measure Nose Circumference: Start by locating the area on your horse's face where a standard cavesson noseband would sit (about 2 fingers below the cheekbone). With a flexible measuring tape, measure your horse all the way around their nose to find the circumference.

  2. Measure Throatlatch: Measure the circumference of your horse's throat area by measuring all around their throat, starting at the poll going down and over the throat, and back to the top of their poll.

  3. Measure from their Poll to their Nose: Measure the distance from their poll to the end of their nose.

  4. Additional Measurements: In addition to these measurements, obtain any product-specific measurements of your horse's head to verify that you order the correct size.

Tips for fitting a fly mask properly

When the mask is on your horse, the end of the top portion of the mask should fall about 2 inches below the horse's cheekbone. In the throat latch area, you should be able to fit about 2 fingers in between their throat and the fabric of the mask. Your horse's ear protectors should slip onto their ears without sagging or feeling too tight. They should be loose enough for your horse to move their ears comfortably without displacing the rest of the mask. Additionally, the eye protectors should not touch your horse's eyes at any point. To double-check, move the mask around to make sure there is no angle that it could come in contact with your horse's eyes. All other areas of the fly mask should fit snugly and you should easily be able to slide a finger underneath all areas that come in contact with the horse's face.

Fly Mask

Maintenance and Care for Fly Masks

Since fly masks are typically made from durable mesh materials, caring for them is pretty simple. Your horse should have on a fly mask only when necessary in order to prevent rubs, irritation, and avoidable wear and tear. You should also only wash your horse’s mask as needed to further prevent loss of integrity in the material and any velcro or zippers.

Cleaning and washing instructions

  1. To clean your horse’s fly mask, fasten all closures before laundering so they do not catch or get tangled on anything. Be sure to wash with cold water and a non-irritating soap or detergent, like this Schneiders Blanket Wash.
  2. If you put the fly mask in a washing machine, put it on a gentle cycle. You can also soak and handwash fly masks in a bucket. Do not use a dryer.
  3. Once all mud and dirt are washed off, allow the fly mask plenty of time to air dry.
  4. Store fly masks in a breathable zippered storage bag in a dry, temperature-controlled environment to keep them clean and mold-free.

Fly Mask

Common Questions About Horse Fly Masks

If you have never outfitted your horse in a fly mask, let us help you answer a few common questions!

Can horses see through fly masks?

Yes, horses can see through fly masks. Although horses can see better without fly masks, the mesh material is not solid, allowing your horse to navigate around their pasture and during light rides.

Can horses wear fly masks at night?

Yes, horses can wear fly masks at night, but the lack of light may limit their visibility. Some horses wear fly masks at night if they are turned out during these hours and need protection from mosquitoes. If your horse does not encounter many mosquitoes or comes into the barn at dark, they probably do not need a fly mask during the night.

Do horse fly masks actually work?

Yes, fly masks are effective in providing protection from insects and UV rays. If your horse does not live in an area where bugs are everywhere, and the sun is not too intense, they might not need a mask. For most horses, though, the physical barrier that a fly mask offers are effective in keeping your horse comfortable and flies off.

While outfitting your horse in a fly mask is one more thing to add to your to-do list upon turnout, this layer of protection is essential to ensure your horse remains comfortable and protected throughout the warmer months. A well-fitted fly mask prevents irritation from flies, the sun, and debris. With so many options available, you are sure to find one that keeps your horse happy as they relax and play out in the pasture!