Horse Fly Veils/Masks

 

Summer is almost here, and so are flies. Lots and lots of flies. To combat these little suckers a lot of people choose to put fly masks or fly veils on their horses. These are great, but if fitted incorrectly can cause problems for your horse.

As most people use fly masks these days they are what I will cover. The most common mistake I see when people are fitting these is that they are fitted too tightly. A horse needs to be able to yawn and open his/her jaw fully at all times. I see many masks fitted so that there are rub marks both on the nose and lower jaw. As well as being very uncomfortable for the horse, long-term this will cause your horse a number of other problems.  The jaw is the biggest ‘pattern setter’ of the body. A horse will naturally graze usually for about 16 hours per day. Each hour his/her jaw will move in over 1000 rotations. If a fly mask restricts this in any way it will have a huge impact not just on the jaw, but the ribs, diaphragm and also the whole hind end of the horse. Clench your own jaw and hold it for a couple of minutes and you will find your lower back and pelvis tightening up, as well as your ribs (it is impossible to tighten your jaw and expand your ribs fully naturally). A good rule of thumb for these masks is if you can’t get a clenched fist in between the horse’s lower jaw and the fly mask it is too tight. Some people will tell me the mask will slip etc if not fitted tightly. This simply means that you will have to try another style/brand that fits differently. No one cut of rug fits all horses, no one shoe type fits us all-it is exactly the same for fly masks.

Another common problem is the mask is too tightly fitted round the temporal bones (ears) and occipital bone (poll). It is far more comfortable for the horse, and will create far less problems if they are a little on the loose side rather than too tight. You should be able to get at least two fingers width between the ear and the mask, ditto at the poll. You know how uncomfortable a hat is if it is too tight and you wear it for several hours. Your horse is unable to make the decision to take the fly mask off for himself!

A final word-you know how itchy your head becomes after wearing a hat all day. Horses feel no different wearing a fly mask. The mask should be taken off daily to check for injuries etc to your horse’s face that you may not see with it on. When you do this, your horse will appreciate having their face brushed well-it will improve circulation as well as getting rid of the excess hair that isn’t able to shed naturally while the mask is worn.

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