Why Horses Wear Masks? Purposes and Benefits
Humans are not the only ones masking up, horses can wear masks too. But before you’d jump to any conclusions, let me just put this out there — horses wear masks for different reasons compared to us humans.
Plus, horses use different types of masks for different purposes. I’m going to cover the types of masks available for horses, their purposes, and their benefits.
Horses have an arsenal of tack and equipment including masks, which can be a useful tool in managing stressful situations or keeping away pesky insects.
Let’s see which mask serves which purpose and what are the benefits of using them.
Types of Horse Masks
There are two types of masks used for the protection of horses: fly masks and blinder masks. Fly masks are commonly used for all types of horses, while blinders are usually limited to racehorses or work horses.
As their name suggests, fly masks are used to protect horses from annoying flies, while blinder masks are used to narrow the field of vision of horses to what’s in front of them.
But here’s a more nuanced analysis of these masks:
– Fly Mask
Fly masks are the most common type of masks worn by horses. They serve a protective role in that they keep flies and other insects away from sensitive areas such as the eyes, ears and the face of your horse.
Although in some regions a fly mask would be needed all year round, in other regions they’re used mostly in summer and spring, when insects are most active.
Fly masks are most commonly made from a semi-transparent mesh material that reduces the visibility of horses. Some fly masks afford more visibility but usually at the expense of complete protection against insects.
Because a horse’s visibility is reduced while wearing a fly mask, you must be careful of the circumstances in which your horse is wearing such a mask to prevent accidents.
– Blinder Mask
A blinder mask serves a completely different role compared to a fly mask. Blinder masks are also more common in racehorses and their purpose is to focus the horse’s attention on the racetrack.
While a blinder mask looks a lot like a mask at first glance, it’s actually more like a cup of sorts attached to the bridle. Because of its position and shape, it obstructs the horse’s peripheral vision.
Each mask has its benefits to your horse, but some drawbacks as well. This makes it important to know how to use them correctly and the situations in which they’re needed the most.
Benefits of Fly Mask for Your Horse
The most obvious benefit of a fly mask is to prevent bites and annoyances caused by flies and various other insects. But there are several other benefits to a fly mask, including:
– Reduces Stress
I don’t know anyone who doesn’t get angry or annoyed if bitten by insects, mosquitoes or flies. Horses may often be in a situation where they get attacked by insects and can’t do much to escape the situation.
This causes them unnecessary stress and frustration because of the potential itching and discomfort.
A fly mask will go a long way in easing the discomfort of your horse and in reducing the stress associated with being attacked by pesky insects.
– Offers UV Protection
Although your horse should have other ways to protect itself from the strong rays of the sun shining down on it — like the shade of trees or a run-in shed — fly masks can serve the double purpose of protecting from UV exposure and from insect bites.
Of course, not all fly masks offer protection against UV light, but many are created with UV protection in mind as well.
Therefore, if your horse is light-skinned and you’re worried about UV exposure, it’s wise to invest in a fly mask that also offers UV protection.
But as I mentioned, don’t let the mask be the only protection for your horse against strong sun. Trees or a run-in shed are also needed.
– Protects Against Infections and Diseases
Many diseases and infections can be borne by mosquitos and insect bites. But a fly mask also protects potential wounds that are already on your horse’s face from becoming infected by flies potentially introducing bacteria into the wounds.
Therefore, a fly mask is a good way to speed up the healing process of wounds and scrapes and prevent them from becoming infected.
– Works Better Than Insect Repellents
Insect repellent sprays need frequent applications to maintain their efficacy and even then, they may still not be as efficient as a fly mask.
Insect control methods should still be used in the barns and stalls of horses and other areas where horses are kept.
Benefits of Blinder Mask for Your Horse
A blinder mask is useful for horses that easily get spooked, especially at races or other athletic competitions when a lot is riding on a horse’s ability to stay calm and focused.
The risk of potential injuries because a horse becomes restless or gets spooked is also reduced by obstructing the horse’s peripheral vision.
Blinder masks help horses focus on certain tasks and stay at ease in unexpected or unfamiliar situations by blocking out things that would be caught by the horse’s peripheral vision.
Therefore, unlike fly masks that are used to protect against insect bites, blinder masks have a more functional role, helping horses stay calm in unexpected or stressful situations.
They’re useful in keeping both the horse and rider safe should an unexpected situation arise.
Working horses such as those that pull carriages or those that work in agriculture may also be wearing blinders for much of the same reasons why a racehorse would — to prevent them from getting distracted or spooked.
Can You Ride Your Horse with a Fly Mask?
Fly masks that aren’t see-through or not designed specifically to be used while riding should not be used on a horse that you plan to take out for a ride.
Because fly masks may reduce a horse’s vision or alter its depth perception, accidents are likely to occur, putting you and your horse at risk of injury.
Although fly masks that are designed to be used also while riding may not provide a good enough protection compared to traditional fly masks, you should still use them/
You can use insect repellent sprays as well to make sure your equine companion isn’t annoyed by pesky insects.
Insects can be a real nuisance for humans too, let alone horses, so helping out your horse with a fly mask will go a long way in easing its frustration, especially in areas plagued by insects.
Can You Leave Fly Mask on Your Horse at Night?
Fly masks should be removed at night. For starters, insects, and flies especially, are much less active at night, plus horses may not see much at night if you leave their fly mask on.
Likewise, regardless of whether it’s day or night, you should remove your horse’s fly mask in areas where insects are not a concern or when your horse is indoors.
Because there are different types of fly masks with different types of coverage, you should strive to use the one that offers the best protection with the least amount of inconvenience for your horse.
And another important thing — don’t dismiss other insect control methods just because your horse is wearing a fly mask. For best results, use fly masks in addition to other insect control methods.
The need for fly masks during the night is not as pressing as during the day, so don’t leave it on your horse, especially if there’s a risk of accidents because of the reduced vision.
Can Horses Still See With Fly Mask?
Wearing a fly mask does not make a horse completely unable to see. They see well enough through a mask, but their depth perception may be altered, and their vision can be limited.
Therefore, a fly mask should only be worn in situations when your horse is not required to be alert or engaged such as when they’re grazing.
They’re also different types of fly masks based on their comfort level. Some masks offer full protection from ears to mouth, others cover only half of the horse’s face, others will not cover the ears.
If your horse is not accustomed to wearing a fly mask, you may want to start out with a partial mask and slowly transition to a full mask to familiarize your horse with it.
Masks are just another piece in the arsenal of horse tacks and equipment meant to keep them comfortable and safe.
Fly masks are really handy in areas plagued with insects that could bite, bother or pass on diseases to horses.
Blinders help horses stay focused in races or while doing other activities where getting scared or spooked could cause accidents and lead to injuries.
Regardless of the type of mask, make sure they properly fit your horse, they allow your horse to see, and that they’re not bothered by them even more than they would be by the insects they’re meant to keep away.