Help your horse beat the heat and the bugs this summer! Dover has plenty of protective fly gear for all your equine friends. You may be wondering which brand is the best, what fabric is the most practical, and what sorts of accessories are necessary–neck and belly guards, for instance. Put simply, there’s more than one correct answer. When picking out a fly sheet, identify your main concerns and consider the functional purposes that it needs to serve.
Does My Horse Need a Fly Sheet?
There are numerous reasons to consider purchasing fly protection for your horse. Horses that suffer from insect skin allergies will appreciate the relief they get with the addition of a fly sheet or mask.
Some horses don’t have allergies to bugs, but can still be frustrated by the constant pestering of insects in the paddock or stall. Horses will often shake their heads, twitch ears, swish their tails, and stomp their hooves as visible signs that they are annoyed by bugs. If your horse is exhibiting these behaviors, fly protection could help lower your horse’s daily stress levels. If you see visible bites on your horses, you may want to consider a fly sheet. There are few things worse than having itchy welts from bug bites.
Many fly sheets and masks on the market today provide protection from the sun. In addition to bleaching out your horse’s beautiful coat, UV rays can be harmful to your horse and also cause painful sunburns. There is a misconception that fly sheets will overheat your horse. UV protection and the light colored fabrics reflect the sun’s rays away from your horse’s body, keeping them cooler and more comfortable on hot, sunny days. Horses with dark coats or light skin are particularly vulnerable to being effected by sunlight. Another great benefit to fly protection, is keeping your horse’s coat clean and shiny. Some blankets are made from materials that polish the coat.
If any of these situations match up with you and your horse, a fly sheet could be a worthwhile investment.
How to Pick the Best Fly Sheet for Your Horse
Consider where and for how long your horse is turned out. The amount of coverage should depend, in part, on your horse’s sensitivity level. Horses with a low tolerance for pests are good candidates for fly sheets made with neck and belly guards or out of fabric treated with bug repellent. Neck covers can also help protect the coat from UV rays that cause fading. For horses that are rough on their blankets, consider fly sheets made out of durable, high denier mesh.
Just like any other blanket, the right fit hinges on finding the brand that suits your horse’s body type. As a general rule, companies that make their blankets with particular features–leg straps, leg arches, shoulder gussets, etc.–likely design fly sheets with similar attributes. So, if you know your horse fits into a particular brand, start your search there.
A few popular options:
Rider’s International Stretch Micro Mesh Fly Sheet
Rider’s International blankets are made exclusively for Dover Saddlery. The Micro Mesh Stretch Fly Sheet is soft, lightweight, and breathable. The shoulders are lined with nylon to protect against shoulder rubs. The mesh material is slightly stretchy, so the sheet will conform nicely to your horse’s body. This fly sheet features a two buckle front closure and adjustable leg straps, as well as a hidden belly surcingle and protective fleece at the withers. Available in sizes 62”-84”
Rambo® Fly Buster™ Fly Sheet
Horseware Ireland makes great blankets. The Rambo Fly Buster is one of their most versatile fly sheets. The polyester knit fabric offers UV protection and is both breathable and lightweight. No Fly Zone™ technology is proven to repel mosquitoes, ants, ticks, and chiggers for up to 70 washes. A removable neck cover and an oversized tail flap help provide maximum protection.
Additional Fly Gear: Fly Masks and Leg Guards
Horses with allergies are sensitive to dust, pollen, and other airborne particles that can cause runny eyes. This condition attracts insects that cause further irritation and discomfort. Fly masks are really helpful in protecting your horse’s face from outdoor elements, bugs, and sunburn.
When you’re out on the trail, or riding in the ring the Cashel Quiet Ride™ Fly Mask can give your horse a little more protection than the average ear bonnet. It fits like a regular mask and is made from lightweight material that won’t obscure vision.
For the ultra sensitive horse, leg guards help keep flies away and continual stomping and stress to a minimum. The Cashel Cool Crusader Leg Guards keep pests away from your sensitive legs and provide full coverage from the knee to the coronary band.
For more information on beating the bugs, check out The Dover Library:
How to Control Flies on the Farm
How to Protect Your Horse from Flies