Last Updated on February 28, 2023
Why do race horses wear masks? Why do some horses wear masks in the paddock? Are blinders the same as masks? If you’re new to the world of horses, seeing a horse with a mask on can be a very odd sight indeed! However, masks play several important roles when it comes to horses, and many of us would be lost without them.
Horses wear different types of masks that serve different purposes. This can depend on the type of work they are doing, and what the purpose of the mask is meant to be.
Let’s find out everything you need to know about masks and blinders in horses!
Why Do Horses Wear Masks?
You will see horses wearing masks in many different situations – out in the paddock, traveling in a trailer, out on a trail ride, or at many different types of equestrian events. But why are they wearing them?
There are two types of masks for horses. The first is face masks, or fly masks, which are worn while the horse is out at pasture or during ridden work. The second category is a type of mask called horse blinders or blinkers, which serve a very different purpose to face masks.
Why do horses wear blinders in pasture?
If you ever drive past horses in a pasture during summer, you will likely see some of them wearing a horse head cover. These masks are generally made up of a mesh material and cover most of a horse’s face. This is commonly referred to as a face mask or fly mask, and can be worn for several reasons:
- Fly Protection
Fly masks are used to protect horses’ faces, ears, and eyes from flies. Horses often wear them in spring and summer, when flies are the worst. Also, fly masks work as a barrier between the horse and flies to keep the horse from getting irritating bites.
Fly masks are a safe and easy way to protect a horse’s face, ears, and eyes from flies and other bugs. Fly sprays can be harmful to horses if it is ingested or if it gets in their eyes, so it is best to keep them away from their face and rely on fly masks instead.
Fly masks for horses generally are made of mesh that is finely woven together and they sometimes have a soft fleece lining to provide comfort for the horse. Though it may appear that a horse wouldn’t be able to see while wearing a fly mask, they can see just fine. The fly mask is designed to protect while still allowing a horse to see.
Fly masks can come with or without ear protection that completely covers the ears. This protects the ears from pesky bugs getting in. However, some horses do not like having things on their ears, so they do not like wearing fly masks with ear covers.
If a horse has a cut on its face, it is important to treat it and then put a fly mask on your horse before they go outside. Flies are attracted to cuts and wounds, so it is necessary to keep any injuries covered up to prevent your horse from getting bothered by flies or getting an infection.
Fly masks are also great for protecting against gnats, mosquitos, and ticks too. Horses that are in pastures with long grass are more prone to getting ticks. A fly mask can stop pesky ticks from latching on to a horse, as they like to burrow in the horse’s forelocks.
- UV Protection
In addition to protecting from flies, some horse fly mask also provides UV protection from the sun. Light-colored horses are more prone to sunburn and skin cancer, so a fly mask with UV protection is very beneficial, as the sun’s rays can be harmful to horses. This type of mask can also help horses that suffer from eye problems, such as uveitis.
- Dust Protection
Many horses are very sensitive to airborne pathogens such as dust and pollen, which can cause breathing issues and sore eyes. A mask that covers the eyes and nostrils can help protect the delicate mucous membranes against dust and pollen, reducing the severity of allergic reactions.
How to use a face mask on your horse
Horses generally just wear fly masks when they are outside in the pasture. Sometimes people will put a fly mask on their horses when they are being ridden or driven outside. A fly mask can also be used if a horse is recovering from a face or eye injury, as it will help protect the injury from further damage and help it heal.
It is important to make sure you get the proper size fly mask for your horse. Sizes range from mini to draft, so you can get the right size for your horse. It is essential to have the correct size fly mask so your horse doesn’t accidentally take it off while rubbing its head or so it doesn’t get caught on something.
What Are Horse Blinders?
Horse blinders, also known as blinkers, are a form of masks that are used to partially or fully cover a horse’s eyes. They can be used for training purposes or to help a horse recovering from an eye injury. The most common time you will see blinkers is on racehorses.
Both riding and driving horses can wear blinders. It is common for trainers to put horses in blinders while they are working to help them stay focused and prevent them from getting distracted.
Driving horses have blinkers attached to their bridles. This helps prevent them from getting sidetracked by any people, vehicles, animals, or other distractions they may come across while driving. Not only is this safer for the horse, but also for the driver, as it can prevent the horse from getting spooked, which could lead to an accident.
Blinders come in blind cups, full/half cups, three-fourths cups, and quarter cups. Blind cup blinders are commonly used to help heal eye injuries. Some eye injuries cannot be exposed to direct light, so blind cup blinkers can help in the healing process.
Blind cup blinders can also be used by experienced trainers while riding in some circumstances when training. This allows the horse to only pay attention to what the trainer is doing.
When were horse blinders invented?
Although horse blinders are not used as commonly these days, in the past it was completely normal to see most horses wearing blinders. The origins of horse blinders can be linked back to the Ancient Egyptians, where horses used to pull chariots and were thought to have worn blinkers.
The use of blinders has varied over the centuries – at some points, they were highly fashionable, such as in the 1800s when the gentry traveled by horse-drawn carriage. Nowadays, blinders are seen as an accessory more than an essential piece of tack and are only used as a training aid.
Why Do Race Horses Wear Masks?
Racehorses wear blinkers to allow them to focus on racing and what their jockey is telling them. A racecourse is full of distractions such as people and loud noises, that could easily spook or distract a horse.
Blinders for horses are often used in races or during training. They prevent the horse from seeing to the rear and sometimes the side. This allows the horses to focus on their work and not get distracted or spooked by things around them.
The type of blinkers or blinders that can be worn by racehorses is determined by the horse racing authorities. Some types are only permitted for the training, and cannot be used in official races. The most common type you will see is an elasticated hood that fits snugly over the head of the horse.
Why do you cover horses’ eyes when traveling?
Many horse owners prefer to use a face mask to cover their horse’s eyes when traveling. The purpose of this is to protect the horse’s eyes from dust and debris that can injure the horse’s eyes. It can also help protect the horse’s face from bumps and grazes that can easily happen during a trailer ride.
Another type of mask used when traveling is a titanium mask for horses. These have a natural calming effect on the horse, helping to relieve anxiety during stressful periods such as traveling and competition.
When some people see fly masks or blinkers, they often assume that the horse cannot see out of them and that they are cruel to the horse. However, it is quite the opposite – fly masks can protect a horse from annoying bugs and dust, and a blinker hood can help them from getting distracted.
Though they may look weird to non-equestrians, fly masks and blinkers provide many benefits to a horse. They do not blind the horse or hurt them in any way, and they help to protect the horse against flies, dust, and UV light. Horses may look goofy wearing them, but there is no need to worry.
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Michael Dehaan is a passionate horse owner, horse rider, and lover of all things equine. He has been around horses since he was a child, and has grown to become an expert in the field. He has owned and ridden a variety of horses of different breeds, and has trained many to compete in shows and competitions. He is an experienced horseman, having worked with and competed many horses, including his own. He is an active member of the equestrian community, participating in events and teaching riding lessons.