Fly Rugs and Masks Buyer's Guide
The Ultimate Guide to Fly Rugs and Masks
Does Your Horse Need A Fly Sheet Or Fly Mask?
Will your horse be ready to deal with the flies and midges that come with the warm weather of spring and summer? Are you looking for a way to keep him comfortable without needing to use chemical fly repellents?
Adding a fly mask and fly rug to your horse’s spring/summer wardrobe will give him protection from the aggravation and discomfort of biting and pestering insects. So, he can enjoy being outside grazing and relaxing without stress.
But does your horse really need a fly rug?
This guide explains the benefits for dressing your horse in a fly rug and fly mask and what options to consider.
There is also some practical advice on how to fit and look after your fly rug and fly mask to ensure it provides summer time protection and comfort for your horse for as long as possible.
DOES YOUR HORSE NEED A FLY RUG?
Fly rugs are primarily used in summer to protect your horse from biting flies and other annoying insects.
Whether they bite or not, flies, midges and other insects can make the most beautiful spring or summer day a misery for your horse when he is outside.
A fly rug relieves your horse of that irritation when he is turned out and helps him to relax and graze in comfort.
Horses can become agitated by these pests relentlessly bothering them and making their turn out time into a misery. Some horses are so distressed by biting insects that they pace or run the fence. That behaviour can lead to injury or overheating as well as causing damage to the paddock.
Bites from insects can cause allergic reactions in some horses. Putting on a fly rug can help to prevent unsightly and uncomfortable bumps, welts, rashes or other skin irritations caused by biting flies and midges.
Of even more concern is that certain insects are carriers of diseases that are harmful to horses. Again, a fly rug decreases this risk to your horse and gives you more piece of mind about your horse’s well being.
And, there is still another problem for horses during the warm summer months. That is harmful UV rays from the summer sun.
The coats of dark coloured horses – bays, blacks and browns – become bleached and dry. Because their dark coats absorb the sun’s heat, these horses can more easily overheat.
Horses with lighter coloured or thin coats, or light coloured skin have a greater risk of experiencing sunburn and of the sun damaging their skin.
Fortunately, there are fly rugs that have the added feature of providing UV protection and reflecting those damaging sun rays away from your horse’s coat.
Turning your horse out in a breathable, fly rug with UV protection can enhance your horse’s overall well being.
Whilst you may worry about putting a rug on your horse during hot weather, a fly rug should not make the horse sweat or overheat.
The best fly rugs are constructed of light weight breathable fabrics like mesh or net or combined with a polycotton blend. (E.g. Weatherbeeta ComFiTec 600D/Mesh Combo Neck Summer Rug)
If you want your horse to enjoy his summer turnout without being harassed by flies and other biting insects, while avoiding potential skin problems, allergic reactions, and sun damaged coat or skin, including a fly rug in his wardrobe is a smart investment.
Key Features On Fly Rugs
- Chest Buckles
- Tailored Shoulder Gussets,
- Adjustable Lower Surcingles
- Fillet Strings
- Detachable Leg Straps
- Anti-Rub Chest Lining
- Standard Neck – the classic style that ends at the withers and is good for warmer weather
- High Neck – finishes above the withers preventing pressure points on the withers
- Full Neck – extends the full length of the neck providing protection to the neck and shoulders
- Detachable Neck – can be added or removed from the rug according to temperature and weather conditions
- Tail Flap – covers the top of the tail giving added protection
- UV Protection
Does Your Horse Need A Fly Mask?
From mid-spring to mid-autumn, face flies are a real nuisance for horses. But, they really are more than an annoying aggravation.
These flies feed on the mucous secretions from the eyes and noses of horses and can cause eye irritation and infections (like pink eye).
Sun light can also create serious problems for some horses. Whether your horse has an existing eye condition (eg. Moon blindness) or is recovering from an eye injury or infection, his eyes need protection from bright sunlight.
A fly mask, especially one with UV protection, works almost like a pair of sunglasses – preventing bright sunlight from causing more discomfort or damage.
Sunburn is also an issue for many horses on bright, summer days – especially horse’s with light or pink skin around their eyes, nose and muzzle.
The Comfitech Airflow Mesh Mask made by Weatherbeeta provides your horse with all of this protection. Made in soft, lightweight and durable polyester mesh, it protects eyes and ears from insects and against 70% of UV rays.
A fly mask is an invaluable piece of your horse’s summer turn out wear. They reduce the impact pests, dust and damaging sun have your horse’s over all well-being by providing essential protection to his most sensitive areas – the eyes, ears, nose and muzzle.
- Made of fabric or plastic mesh, this style of mask covers and protects the horse’s face without diminishing vision or hearing. With fleece padded edges and an adjustable hook and loop closure, the mask can be worn comfortably and stay in place for several hours.
Fly masks are designed in a variety of styles:
â–ª Eye coverage only
â–ª Eye and ear coverage
â–ª Full Face - Eye, ear and muzzle coverage
A full-face fly mask with UV protection is the best way to protect your horse’s sensitive eyes, ears, nose and muzzle from flying insects and the damaging sun’s rays.
This style of fly mask is particularly beneficial for pink skinned horses who suffer sunburn on the exposed areas around their eyes, noses and muzzles.
- Look for these features in a fly mask for your horse:
- UV protection
- Breathable plastic or fabric mesh
- Machine or hand washable
- Fleece covering the nose and poll
- Loop and hook fastenings for optimum fit
With the help of effective pest control attire as part of your horse’s summer wear, your horse will be happier and more relaxed. And, you can spend less time worrying about flies and more time enjoying the company of your horse.
How To Get The Correct Fit
How To Fit Horse Rugs
A correctly fitting fly rug will protect your horse from insects and the sun, allow air flow to prevent overheating or sweating, and allow him move comfortably and naturally without creating any pressure points or rubs.
An ill fitting rug is not only uncomfortable, but can cause an injury if it slips or your horse gets a leg caught in it.
If you have never put on a horse rug or your horse has never worn one, get help from your coach or other experienced horse person.
- Fold the rug in half bringing the tail end up towards the neck.
- Place the folded rug over your horse’s back with the chest straps over the shoulders.
- Do up the chest straps ensuring you can slide your hand down the neck of the rug.
- Check that the fit in the wither and shoulders is not tight, but allows your horse to move freely without the rug slipping back.
- Unfold the rug gently sliding into place along his back so that his coat lies flat.
- The end of the rug or, if it has a tail flap, the seam where the tail flap joins, should sit just past the top of your horse’s tail. If it sits below that point, the blanket may be too big.
- Low surcingles should cross in the centre of your horse’s tummy – well forward of his stifle. There should be a hand’s width between the straps and the horse’s body.
- If the rug has leg straps, pass the left leg strap between the hind legs and fasten to the D-ring at the back edge on the left side.
- Pass the right leg strap between the hind legs, through the loop of the left leg strap, and fasten to the D-ring at the back edge on the right side.
- Crossing the leg straps in this way prevents rubbing and helps keep the rug in place.
- To allow freedom of movement, adjust the leg straps until there is room for the width of one hand (approximately 4 – 5 inches) between the leg straps and your horse’s thigh.
Remove your horse’s rugs daily to check for any sign of rubbing, letting in moisture or signs of skin problems as well as for changes in weight (gain or loss).
Rugged horses need to be groomed thoroughly and regularly to get prevent the build up of oils, dirt and loose hair.
How To Measure Your Horse For A Fly Rug
Different manufacturers may have different sizing recommendations. So be sure to check the specific brand’s website before purchasing your horse rug.
Use the following steps as a guide to measuring your horse for the best fit:
- Enlist a friend to help with the measurements.
- Place a soft tape measure at the centre of your horse’s chest level with the widest part of his shoulder.
- Take the tape along one side of his body to the widest part of his hindquarter (where you expect the rug to end).
- Fly rugs are usually sized in 3 inch increments (e.g. 69”, 72”, 75”, etc.) If your horse is between sizes, choose the smaller size.
How To Fit Fly Masks
- Because a fly mask is worn for several hours a day, the correct fit is a must to ensure your horse’s comfort and safety. Poorly fitting masks can not only cause uncomfortable rubs, but also possibly scratch the horse’s eyes leading to corneal ulcers
- Choose a well-fitting style that features darts in a firm plastic mesh on the face portion lift the mask off the face preventing contact with the eyes or eyelashes while encouraging cooling air flow. The horse should be able to blink freely with the mask on.
- When fitting your horse’s fly mask, make sure it fits securely around the jowls without creating pressure on the poll or pressing on the eyes or lashes.
- If the mask has ears, ensure there is enough room to allow the horse to comfortably move his ears forwards, backwards and to the side without restriction. A little bit of space in the ear coverings also prevents skin irritations due to excessive rubbing.
- Softer mesh fabric on the cheeks and poll areas prevent rubbing. Hook and loop closures allow for a custom fit.
If the fly mask has soft elastic binding, ensure that it is snug enough to keep insects out but not so tight as to cause uncomfortable pressure.
Do not leave a fly mask on your horse at night unless there is a medical reason to keep it on.
How To Care For Fly Rugs And Fly Masks
Caring For Fly Rugs
Horse rugs are subject to wear and tear from regular use throughout a season. A good maintenance routine will help extend the life of your fly rug. No matter the quality or cost of your rugs, they are still made from lightweight fabric and are likely to experience damage at some stage, no matter how 'rug friendly' your horse is.
Regardless of how well made, no fly rug is completely indestructible. It is inevitable that your horse’s rug will suffer some wear and tear.
Check for small tears in the fabric and the condition of buckles, surcingles and leg straps frequently. Having small damages repaired as soon as you notice them will extend the life of your rugs.
A good rug repair service can replace broken straps and buckles and mend rips and tears.
Before storing your rugs at the end of the season:
- gently brush off any dirt on the outside of the rug and spot clean
- use a curry comb or vacuum to remove hair from the lining of the rug
- follow the manufacturer’s washing instructions or take to a professional rug washing serviceable
- give a good airing out and ensure it is dried well before putting into storage
- check the leg straps, buckles, surcingles, fillet strings as well as any D-rings for wear and tear and have any damaged areas repaired or replaced
Keep your rugs clean and ready for next by season by storing them in an air tight, rodent proof bin.
Caring For Fly Masks
Horse fly masks can become grimy when not cleaned on a regular basis. Dirt and debris accumulates in the mesh and can fall into the horse’s eyes causing possible eye or skin infections.
Oils and dirt can damage the fleece or felt covered edges causing unsightly and uncomfortable rubs on the skin.
Clean your horse fly mask regularly. Simply rinsing with clean water can remove small amounts of dirt and grime. When the mask is very dirty, wash with soap and water either by hand or machine according to the manufacturer’s directions.
Check the fly mask regularly for signs of wear and tear. Damaged fleece or felt edging and hook and loop closures can often be repaired by hand sewing yourself or by a local blanket repair service.
It’s a good idea to keep an extra fly mask on hand so your horse does not go without protection when one mask is being cleaned or repaired.
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