I bought Otis a new fly mask this season. Well, two actually. I can`t believe the number available, in numerous sizes; some with fluffy padding, some providing UV protection, some with ears covers, and some with nose nets. Then of course comes the range of colours and the material.
The first fly mask Otis had this year has ear covers, mainly because a couple of years ago he got bitten inside his ear and it abscessed – not at all pleasant. So I like to keep the flies away from his sensitive lugholes. However, the downside to these ear covers is that if your horse has ears that fill the covers the stitching and excess material on the inside can rub the tips of the ears. Debris also collects there, so as well as washing the mask I also need to turn the ears inside out. The little rubs on the tips of his ears have caused me to purchase another fly mask without ears, with the idea that a couple of weeks break from the ear covers will allow his ears to heal and then I can revert to the original fly mask.
The original fly mask is well shaped, with a fairly rigid mesh because I don`t like the idea of the mask lying too close to the eyes, which is why I opted for one with more contours and not such a soft, floppy material. I’m sure it damages the sensitive eye whiskers, and can`t be that comfortable for the horse. At the other end of the scale the stiff mesh fly masks don’t contour to the horse`s facial shape and are more likely to rub because the material is not as forgiving. It`s personal preference, but fly masks are now made of far more superior materials than the ones the first graced the market a couple of decades ago.
I never looked for a nose net for fly masks for Otis because although he has a small patch of white on his lip, he doesn`t suffer from sun burn, but this mask I bought earlier this season happened to have a nose net. It doesn’t cause a problem for Otis, but some horses don`t like the feel of a net around their muzzle. The nets also collect dust, from grazing and from their nose so need cleaning frequently.
Some masks, and they tend to be at the higher end of the market, have UV protection, which is a must if your horse suffers from uveitis, blue eyes, or has sensitive, pink skin because this could still get sunburnt with a normal mask. Do these masks come with UV nose nets because I assume that horses requiring UV protection to their face are likely to need similar protection on their muzzle.
Another accessory on fly masks is padding; if your horse has sensitive skin then it`s another thing to consider. Some have discreet fleece over the stitching and edges of the mask, whilst others have more elaborate padding. Again, this is down to personal preference. If your horse needs the padding to prevent rubbing then it is definitely worth considering, however the padding makes the mask warmer so you may get into trouble on hot days. I find the discreet fleece edging an attractive option.
Finally, you want to consider the fastening for the mask. One strap or two straps? Double Velcro? If you have a horse who plays with his field mates then a secure fastening is the most important aspect, however it also needs to be quick and easy to put on, either in the gateway or around the headcollar on the yard. I also prefer the masks to fit quite snugly around the jaw because I worry that the ones that are a little loose in their fit can allow flies up inside the mask, which would be torturous for a more horse and potentially cause a bad accident.
I`ll start off with a picture of Otis in his bug-like fly mask, but lets see your horses sporting their summer head wear too, with a bit of blurb about the type of mask you chose.