Last Updated on March 30, 2023
It’s almost winter, but in many areas, October weather brings the worst flies. In the never-ending search for comfort and relief from insects, we have found some of the best fly masks for horses on the market.
Purpose of Fly Masks
Flies and other biting insects are a nuisance, especially in your horse’s face. However, fly control goes beyond comfort issues as biting insects can carry dangerous or even lethal diseases. Flies tend to flock towards horses’ inner eyes to drink the fluid that accumulates in the corner, causing discomfort and annoyance. This often results in excessive face rubbing to try and remove the sensation the flies leave. You can learn more about the types of flies and their effects here. Fly masks are a simple and non-chemical method of fly control for a horse’s face and sensitive eye area.
Fly masks are intended for day-use only due to low visibility in dark lighting. Water can also bead up and block vision in mesh masks. Therefore, masks should not be used with rain or heavy fog in the forecast to keep optimal visibility. Some owners mask their horses daily in the pasture, or for turnout during the day. Some owners also mask during rides to prevent discomfort or excessive head-shaking during the ride.
Read more about Fly Boots for Horses
Features of The Best Fly Masks For Horses
Although the general purpose remains the same, masks have huge variations in price due to materials and features.
The standard Durvet and Farnam masks available at commercial feed stores offer protection and relief from flies. However, these masks are considered economy masks due to the material, fit, and lack of “extras”.
As an example, higher-end masks are going to have a finer mesh that offers more comfort for the horse. Although softer to the touch, a quality mesh will retain its shape after heavy use to prevent sagging and possibly making contact with the eyes. Some mesh masks will also have a higher visibility for the horse, especially if masks can’t be removed promptly by sunset. The highest contact point on the mask will be the outside edges, so it is important to pay attention to the material used here. Some materials can cause friction spots, heat (you’ll see sweat marks), or itchiness. For pink-skinned horses, it is also desirable to have a degree of sun protection in the material.
As a standard, most masks use Velcro closures. But have you ever heard of a “Houdini” horse? They have magical abilities to get out of their turnout blankets and masks. Most horse owners who use fly masks on a regular basis can recall walking the turnout or pasture searching for a mask. (We love bright colors for this very reason!) Some masks will offer a single Velcro closure, while others have multiple straps or layered Velcro for an added degree of difficulty. In poor quality masks, the Velcro is likely the first area to tear and give out due to weak stitching or improper placement. Slinky masks are also used, with both single stretch and zipper options are now on the market. You will notice detachable-nose masks did not make the list due to the increased likelihood of separation and frequent pasture removal.
Here’s our list of the 6 Best Fly Masks For Horses
Cashel hit a home run with this mask collection. These are top sellers in tack stores nationwide, and an equestrian favorite year after year. In fact, if your horse is even moderately tolerant of fly masks, the Crusader will last year after year! The Crusader has a soft and extremely comfortable mesh that holds its shape off and away from your horse’s delicate eye area. Soft and slightly padded edging provides breathable comfort. They have a layered Velcro strap for easy fastening (vs juggling two) but added security to keep the mask in place. The micro-mesh also offers 70% UV protection.
Our favorite feature is the forelock hole! No more sweaty foreheads from mashed hair, or concern about vision blockage from long forelocks. This hole also helps keep the mask in place and prevent any shifting or “Houdini” nonsense. We also like the non-detachable nose piece for the long-nose edition. It won’t get lost in a pasture!
The Crusader collection has a multitude of options and sizes, ranging from foal to large drafts! They even have donkey-specific masks! Choosing your mask can feel like an almost custom experience with so many options. Masks are available with or without long noses, with or without ears, and any combination. They offer a base color selection and come out with fun limited edition prints each year. The hottest mask for 2020 was their Crusader cheetah print edition!
- Many variations
- Comfort-soft ear material is not durable
Kensington takes fly protection seriously. The UViator uses a specialty Textilene Solar Screen mesh to block up to 90% of UV rays. It features a double latching system for increased security, and it is available in three adjustable sizes. This mask is also one of a kind with CatchMask Fasteners to double as a halter!
- Excellent fit
- Extreme quality
- Fun colorful paid colors
- High UV protection
- Very expensive
Shires yet again deliver quality and moderately priced products, featuring 60% UV protection. The mesh veil extends over the full face with air stream fabric on the ears for optimal comfort. This mask has fleece padding on the outer edge and double Velcro straps. The fleece provides a soft edge but also reduces any gapping or openings for insects or debris. Although the mesh is slightly thicker than other “fine mesh” masks, it is extremely durable and holds up well when being washed.
- Quality at a moderate price
- 60% UV protection
- Soft ears are not durable
- Mask is easily removed by “Houdini” horses
Like the coordinating Bucas Buzz Off fly sheet, this mask features the same zebra pattern. Zebra stripes confuse flies and deter them from landing, adding another level of protection. The soft 1000D durable material offers UV protection and reflects the sun. It uses a single chin strap with a hook and loop closure and is suitable for hot weather due to the breathability.
- Two levels of protection
- UV protection
- Quality material
- Hook and loop closure
- Lacks an anatomical fit
- Short ear allowance
Like their sheets, Weatherbeeta delivers a quality fly mask capable of lasting multiple seasons. It features a fine mesh and comfortable contoured fit with a stretch material over the poll. The binding is sleek but has a soft fleece finish. The mask is available in multiple variations including the long nose, short, and with or without ears. Like the Cashel, it has individual ear slots as opposed to a singular gap. This helps keep the mask in place and adds a degree of difficulty for Houdini horses. Although durable, it is only a standard double strap under the jaw.
- Durable at a moderate price
- Comfortable fit
- Stretch mesh forehead
- Many sizes
- Easily removed in the pasture
- Soft ears are not durable
Although stretch masks may not be for everyone, this is our favorite hood-style mask on the market. The Eye Saver comes in pony, cob, and full sizes in multiple colors. It is a full stretch mask with an ultra-lightweight raised mesh for the eyes and ears. This one made our list due to the single-mesh pocket design. Unlike other stretch masks with two mesh pockets above the eyes, this offers an unobstructed vision. Some owners have explained the traditional two-pockets can completely block vision in an eye when shifted, creating a possibly dangerous situation. This mask is also a good option for senior horses that may have some vision issues but still require a mask due to the high visibility mesh.
- Easy to get on
- Moderately priced
- Excellent visibility
- A safer option than dual eye pocket masks
- Tears/rips easily
- Easily removed by the horse
- Can be hot/sweaty
Honorable Mention: Cashel Quiet Ride Horse Fly Mask
Although this isn’t a mask intended for pasture use, it’s a great option for under-saddle. Although regular masks can be used during work, the Quiet Ride offers extremely sheer mesh for optimal vision. Impaired vision is always dangerous, but especially with a rider and in an unknown area. This mask is easy to put on over a bridle or halter and is available in multiple options. If you are looking for insect and sun protection without visibility concerns, check out the Cashel Quiet Ride. It has the same basic design as the Crusader listed above!
- Meant for riding/work
- High visibility
- Not durable for pasture use
- No color selection
Fly protection is an important aspect of owning horses or livestock. Masks can be an excellent way to offer protection without the use of chemicals near the eyes, nose, and mouth. If you are in the market for a new mask or making a spring shopping list for the barn- be sure to check out some of the fly masks above. If you are looking for a full fly sheet for additional coverage, be sure to check out our top picks here.
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Can a horse wear a fly mask in the rain?
It is important to protect your horse from flies, mosquitoes and other biting insects as they can cause irritation and even transmit diseases. But it’s also important to know that a fly mask is best suited for dry conditions. You should be aware that a fly mask when used in rain or wet conditions soaks up quite some water and becomes heavy for your horse. That can make your horse feel uncomfortable wearing it.
Some horses also enjoy rolling in the mud when it’s wet outside. If that is the case with your horse it’s better to remove the fly masks as mud can get caught in the mask, block the mesh material and the horse’s vision.
How do you clean a horse fly mask?
You can clean your horse’s fly mask by placing the mask in a bucket of water and let it soak. Use a hose and a stiff brush to remove excess dirt, then hand wash it with mild soap. You can also wash it in washing machine but use cold water (maximum 30 degrees Celsius) and a gentle cycle to avoid damaging the material. Flay masks should never be put in a tumble drier.
Can you leave a fly mask on a horse?
It’s recommended to remove fly masks at least at night. Unless there is a medical reason to keep them on, it’s safer to remove it from your horse’s head as he won’t need it over night. In this way you also prevent dirt and debris collected the mask during the day falling from the mask into your horse’s eyes and causing irritation or even skin infections. Keep in mind that horse fly masks need to be cleaned on a regular basis as they can become quite dirty with everyday use.
Can horses see with fly masks on?
Yes, fly masks were designed with this question in mind. They are made of semi-transparent mesh that doesn’t interfere with horse’s vision while wearing it. They also don’t affect horse’s hearing. Fly masks are most commonly made of black or white mesh but you can also find them with colorful designs or patterns on them. However, these patterns and colors do not obstruct the horse’s vision.
Do horses really need fly masks?
A fly mask is simply a head cover that keeps the horse’s head protected from biting insects. A good quality fly mask will have a mesh that covers the eyes and mouth, a hood for the neck and ears, a nose cover and sometimes a back cover.
If you’re looking for a cheap and easy way to protect your horse from insects, fly masks are a great way to do it. A fly mask is used to prevent flies from landing on the horse’s face and possibly causing irritation and infection. It is a great idea to use when working with horses in areas where there is a high risk of being bitten by flies. Fly masks should be used as a preventative measure as opposed to a treatment.
Equestrian, Marine Corps vet, and Morgan horse enthusiast.