Horse Fly Sheets, Fly Masks, and Fly Boots 101
In the summer months, pesky flies can be a major annoyance for your horse. Protective fly gear like horse fly sheets, horse fly masks, and horse fly boots can help to minimize your horse’s irritation. Horse fly sheets, masks, and boots are made of breathable materials and provide a thin layer of protection over your horse’s coat to prevent flies from landing on their skin. Fly gear is a great way to keep your horse protected and comfortable during the summer.
How can you tell if your horse needs to wear protective fly gear?
One strong indication that they would benefit from the use of fly sheets, masks, and boots is if your horse seems overly irritated by flies. If they are excessively swishing their tail and stamping their hooves, they could probably use some protective gear. Besides the annoyance, flies can actually cause your horse to damage their hooves from the frequent stamping. Fly sheets, masks, and boots will provide much needed relief for your horse. They are especially useful if you notice the bugs will not leave your horse alone, no matter how much fly spray you apply.
Fly Protection Also Can Mean UV Protection
Fly sheets, masks, and boots can also be used to shield lighter-skinned horses from the damaging effects of the sun. Protective fly gear often offers UV protection in addition to the other benefits. So even if your horse does not seem terribly bothered by flies, they might still need to wear a horse fly sheet, horse fly mask, and horse fly boots. UV protection also helps darker horses maintain their color, since their coats are more prone to bleaching in the sun.
Types of Fly Sheets
Horse fly protection comes in various configurations and coverage for your horse. Fly sheets can cover just the main body, body and neck, or full coverage gear covers the body, neck and head. Standard fly sheets, like the Kensington Surefit Protective Fly Sheet, cover the horses’ main body, from their shoulders to their rump. They do not come with a neck cover, but many have D rings or similar that will allow you to attach a neck cover later. The WeatherBeeta ComFiTec Ripshield Plus Detach-a-Neck Fly Sheet, cover their body and also have an attached neck cover that extends up the neck, and provides partial UV protection. Full coverage fly sheets, like the Rambo Flybuster Fly Sheet with No Fly Zone, cover their entire body, from their poll to their tail, with flaps that extend down to cover their upper legs.
Horse Fly Sheet Material and Construction
Fly sheets are typically made with fabric interwoven with nylon or polyester (for the “softer” fly sheets) or vinyl-covered threads (for the “stiffer” fly sheets). They are constructed in a mesh-like fashion for maximum breathability. The small holes in the mesh allow for sufficient airflow without letting flies get in contact with the horse’s skin. Fly sheets are not completely waterproof because of the mesh; however, they can withstand a good summer shower because the sheet dries quickly and does not retain water.
Beyond UV protection, many fly sheets have a lot of unique design features and technology available. Some fly sheets have special anti-insect technology to take fly protection a step further. For example, Rambo’s No Fly Zone fly sheets are treated with a special anti-insect formula that includes the active ingredient Permethrin. Rambo’s No Fly Zone technology is built to last up to 70 washes. Certain fly sheet patterns, like zebra print or Amigo’s CamoFly pattern, have also been proven to have insect repelling qualities.
How to Measure for a Fly Sheet
Measurements for fly sheets are exactly the same as blankets. So, if your horse wears a blanket in the winter, you should be able to order the same size. Otherwise, you can follow these instructions for measuring.
To determine what size fly sheet your horse needs, use a soft measuring tape and measure from the center of their chest to the center of their tail. Remove four inches from your measurement and refer to the table below to find out what size sheet is required. It is important to take accurate measurements to ensure an adequate fit. Poorly fit fly sheets can cause rubbing or irritation.
For more information on fly sheet sizing, visit this page.
Types of Fly Masks
Like fly sheets, there are many types of horse fly masks available. These include standard masks like the Kensington Draft Fly Mask, which do not cover the ears or muzzle. Another option is masks with ears such as WeatherBeeta Comfitec Deluxe and finally masks with ears and a nose flap like the Horze Zebra Fly Mask. Fly masks are made from the same mesh material as fly sheets, providing breathability and protection against flies and harmful UV rays. They typically have Velcro closures underneath the chin and jaw.
Fly masks with nose flaps like the Cashel Crusader are great for horses with pink skin because the UV protection helps prevent their muzzle from getting sunburn. You do not have to worry about your horse not being able to see in a fly mask, they have full scope of vision due to the holes in the mesh. Fly masks are helpful for horses with eye injuries, because it provides a layer of protection between their eye and the outside world. They can also help prevent abrasion or irritation to the eye when they are being trailered or are in a dusty environment.
How to Measure for a Fly Mask
Here is a handy guide to help measure your horse for a fly mask. Use a soft measuring tape to take three separate measurements: around the entire face and mid jaw (below their cheekbone), around their neck and mid jaw 2” behind their ears, and in a straight line in the center of their face from their poll to the middle of their nostrils. The size chart above is specific to Cashel brand fly masks, but it can be used as a guide to decide what size fly mask is best for your horse. Refer to the specific size chart for the fly mask of your choice before purchasing.
Horse fly boots are the last step to full coverage and protection from flies. These are also made of mesh with Velcro closures and cover the space from their coronet band to just below the knee. This provides extra protection for the leg where fly sheets cannot. Fly boots can help reduce stomping and therefore help protect their hooves from damage.
How to Measure for Fly Boots
To measure your horse for fly boots, use a soft measuring tape and take two measurements: around their leg to measure circumference, and down the length of their leg from the knee to the coronet band to measure length. The chart below is specific to Kensington brand fly boots but can be used as a guide. Fly boots are generally pretty adjustable and there is less size variation than in masks and sheets.