Some insect infestations can have devastating consequences, so make sure to provide your horse with the best possible protection. A fly hood, sometimes also called a fly mask or fly bonnet, is a very effective and simple way for you to help your horse or pony avoid flies and other bothersome insects, allowing them to have a peaceful and comfortable time in the pasture.
Why a Fly Hood is Important for Your Horse
For us humans, who don't spend as much time outdoors as horses do and aren't as attractive to insects, it can be difficult to understand how troublesome insects can be. When you have a fly buzzing around you, you can easily swat it away with your hand or, in the worst case, grab a fly swatter. Horses don't have the same means to get rid of flies and other insects. They can flick their tail, mane, and forelock, stomp their legs, and move their body, but they can't reach and shoo away flies as effectively as we can. Your horse likely has more than one fly to contend with.
Having flies crawling on them is just as uncomfortable for horses as it is for us, perhaps even more so. Flies feed on a horse's blood and tear duct secretions, so they often gather around the horse's eyes. It's not uncommon for horses to develop eye inflammations caused by bacteria and viruses carried by flies. Fly eggs are also frequently found around a horse's eyes. If your horse experiences any of these issues, you should rinse or dab their eyes with saline solution at least 4-5 times a day. However, it's best to prevent these issues from the start with the use of a fly hood.
Aside from protecting against flies and eye diseases, a fly hood provides protection against various other issues. It can reduce the risk of stings from ground wasps, which often sting grazing horses on the head and can cause respiratory problems. It also keeps horse flies and stable flies away from the face, which can deliver painful bites and cause significant discomfort. Additionally, it keeps midges away from the sensitive areas of the face. In swarms, midges can bite a horse to the point where their blood circulation is affected, leading to damage to the heart muscle, drops in blood pressure, and ultimately cardiac arrest.
Fly Hoods as Sun Protection
A fly hood not only protects against insects but also shields your horse from the sun's harmful rays. Strong sunlight can be irritating to a horse's eyes, and horses are also susceptible to sunburn. Horses with light, exposed skin, often found on the muzzle, are particularly vulnerable. In such cases, using a fly hood can offer additional protection. Some fly hoods even come with UV protection to further shield the horse from the sun's rays.
Fly Hood or Fly Bonnet – Which is Better?
A fly bonnet is a good addition for horses with thin or short manes but doesn't provide nearly as much protection as a fly hood. The bonnet only covers the area around the eyes and is beneficial because it moves when the horse shakes its head, effectively shooing away flies. In contrast, a fly hood covers not only the eyes but the entire face, including the ears if you choose one with ear protection, and the muzzle if you choose a full-face hood with a nose guard.
There are soft, stretchy fly masks with cut-out eye areas that fit snugly around the head. These are usually made from nylon or other quick-drying materials with a lightweight and snug fit. But there are also fly hoods with arches, which use an integrated frame to prevent the hood from resting against the eyes, offering maximum comfort. Between these two types, there are countless models to choose from. The best type for your horse will depend on what they are most comfortable with, and you may need to try different options before finding the right fit. In our selection, you will find well-known brands such as Shires, including the popular Shires Deluxe Fly Hood. If your horse experiences chafing from wearing a fly hood, it's better to rotate between different models rather than avoiding their use altogether, ensuring that your horse receives complete protection.