Earlier this week one of Phoenix’s field friend’s owner asked me about her fly mask as she was very impressed with its stay-on-ability.
I bought both Otis and Phoenix the same mask in the spring, and I have to admit I have been pleased with my purchases.
It’s made by Shires, so is reasonably priced and good quality. The masks have light net ears, which both horses need. Otis has previously has a horrible ear abscess, and Phoenix was irritated by the little black flies in the spring so I like them both to have their ears protected. The masks also have nose nets. Not so important for Otis, but Phoenix has definitely benefited from having a UV net protecting her white muzzle from the strong summer sun. Shires also offer variations of the fly mask without ear covers or nose nets.
The masks have shaped netting over the forehead and eyes, so it stays away from their eyes, which I think helps keep their eyes healthy and stops them getting gunky and sore. It definitely looks more comfortable than the flimsy fly masks. The only potential issue with this design is that if a fly or ten get under the mask they can cause havoc and really distress the horse. Which is why the edge needs to fit snugly around the poll, throatlash and jaw.
The best thing about the fly masks, however, is how well they stay on. At the risk of tempting fate, Otis has only lost his when he ripped the side. It’s elasticated around the poll and has two strong Velcro straps which for once are the correct length so that the mask sits snugly whilst the straps don’t overshoot the Velcro pad thus providing field mates with a fun handle to pull.
The downside to these masks, as with any, is that you have to keep a close eye that they don’t rub. With all masks I find the tips of Otis’s ears get sore unless I turn the ears inside out, remove the loose hair and scurf that’s built up in the tips, and also cut off any excess material. This one’s no different. I think it’s because his ears are so long! Because they’re snug fitting and have elastic around the poll you have to keep an eye out for rubs developing here too. Phoenix is currently having a break from her mask as she’s got a bit of a rub on her poll which I’d like to settle down before it causes any problems. Plus having a few overcast days is providing some relief from the endless smothering of sun cream I’ve been doing to her. But daily checking, readjusting the masks, and giving them time without them makes these negative points manageable, and the pros of the mask fitting and staying on without slipping far outweighs the cons.
To testify how popular these masks seem to be this year, when I looked at ordering a mask for Phoenix’s field friend, I was surprised to find that there’s only a handful available online and definitely none available if you need a cob size!