Do Horse Fly Masks and Fly Boots Work? Which Ones Are Best?


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Equine owners and professionals use many different methods to protect their horses from flies. Two popular non-chemical choices used to shield horses from insects are horse fly masks and boots, but are they effective? Here are our picks for best fly masks and boots.

Fly boots and fly masks work well to protect horses’ legs and faces from insects and exposure to the elements. The most reliable brand of equine leg boots is Kensington, and the Cashel Crusader is a perfect fly mask for horses.

Many horse owners choose fly protection products based on brand or price. However, sometimes the most expensive brands are not always the most effective.

Picture of a horse wearing a fly mask,

Fly Masks and Fly Boots keep insects off horses without chemicals

Keeping your horse protected from flies and other pests is important. Horsefly boots can help keep your horse’s legs free of bites, while a fly mask keeps the pests off their face, ears, eyes, and nose.

Horseflies are prevalent in all geographical areas that horses are kept, and besides being pesky, their bites can be painful. But what you might not know is that they’re also carriers of harmful diseases, like the West Nile Virus.

Fly masks and fly boots work to protect the face, ears, and legs of horses from various insects without resorting to spraying harmful chemicals. The chemical-free alternative is perfect for those who have an aversion or sensitivity towards sprays.

Fly boots and mask protect your horse from disease

It is important for horse owners to know that their animal’s weight can be affected by pesky horseflies. These pests typically lay a large amount of eggs during the springtime and other times throughout the year in moist areas like pools, water troughs, or manure piles which makes them hard to control.

For females to produce large amounts of eggs, they need blood. They get blood from biting and drawing it out from animals and people. Diseases are transmitted mechanically from infected to noninfected animals by bloodsucking insects.

Because of the large size of horse flies, coupled with their painful bites and frequent interruptions, they transmit disease extraordinarily efficiently. Some diseases transmitted by horse flies include equine infectious anemia virus, Trypanosoma, and Tularemia — also called rabbit fever or deer fly fever.

Fly boots and mask Stop insects from annoying your horses

An insect doesn’t have to transmit a disease to be harmful to your horse. Some insects attack horses in swarms and cause severe swelling and skin damage.

The annoyance caused by pests always being on a horse causes fatigue, loss of appetite, weight loss, and stress. In addition, insects make some horses nervous and can affect their performance and training.

Some horses are very sensitive to flies. We had a horse that vigorously stomped its feet when flies were on his legs. His stomping was so bad we feared he would cause severe and permanent leg damage if we didn’t control the insect problem promptly.

We first addressed his legs with fly boots, used fly spray twice a day, and took steps to rid the barn of insects as best we could. These steps settled him down, and he stopped stomping.

Picture of a horse with its legs covered.

Fly boots and mask protect wounds from insects

Flies are attracted to open wounds. They feed on and deposit larva moist areas such as sores, cuts, and the horse’s eyes. Flies often deposit Habronema larvae on open wounds and the horse’s eyes.

Flies’ affinity for open wounds is extremely aggravating to horses and is unsanitary. Thes pests can introduce harmful bacteria shortly after you’ve spent time and effort cleaning the wound.

A fly mask, boots, or bandage applied quickly after prepping the injured area is the best method to keep flies out of the injury.

Fly masks protect from the sun harmful rays

Hair is the primary protection for most horses; however, some areas are not well covered, such as the end of the nose and around the eyes. In the summer, horses with pink skin or horses that have their ears and faces clipped are prone to get a sunburn.

Horses with pink skin are also susceptible to develop skin cancers from overexposure to UV rays. Exposure to UV rays can trigger the development of squamous cell carcinoma tumors.

Squamous cell carcinoma is tumors that arise from the skin cells of the eyelids, oral cavity, and other areas of a horse’s body exposed to the elements. It’s a severe condition.

The best way to protect your horse’s face from sunburn is to use a fly mask made with UV protective materials. Be sure to read the manufacturers label and always purchase a fly mask with UV protection.

There are zinc-oxide creams available that you can apply to your horse’s face that has UV protection. Sunscreen made for humans can also be used and is safe for horses

Common equine insects

Flies, gnats, mosquitoes, bots, lice, ticks, and mites are the most common pests that annoy horses. Let’s take a closer look at some of the more common insects you find on horses.

House Fly and Face Fly

House flies and face flies are very similar, neither bite but are annoying small black flies. The face fly is the more aggravating to animals, and they target the tear ducts of animals’ eyes, their nose or wounds, and cuts. These insects lay eggs in fresh manure and can transmit disease into open sores.

Stable Fly

Stable flies are disease transmitters. They are small gray flies that have a painful bite. And yes, they too transmit disease.

Horn fly

Horn flies are the small black flies you see congregated on the lower legs of animals. They are blood-feeding insects and wreak havoc on the livestock industry.

In the United States, hundreds of millions of dollars are spent annually on insecticides to reduce the horn fly population because of the tremendous damages they cause to livestock.

Horse Fly and Deer Fly

Horse flies and deer flies are blood-suckers insects that are serious pests to horses and humans. When they bite, they cause blood to flow and attract more flies and other insects.

Horseflies are large; they range in size from 3/4 to 1-1/4 inches long. A horsefly has clear or solidly colored wings. Deer flies, are smaller and have dark bands across the wings, both have brightly colored eyes.

These flies transmit disease, and painful bites from a large amount of them can interfere with the grazing of animals. Horses can injure themselves, trying to escape these flies.

Horses flies, and deer flies consume significant amounts of blood. It’s been estimated that a group of horse flies consume a quart of blood in 10 days. These insects carry the fatal equine infectious anemia disease, and this is why it is vital to have current Coggins tests on all your horses.

Black Fly

Black flies are the minuscule groups of flies you see in horses’ ears, on their head, neck, chest, and belly. They feed during the day and typically attack thinly haired regions on the animal.

They create a great deal of annoyance and itching to an animal. Black fly bites cause bleeding and leave a bloody crust. Attacks by large groups can kill a host animal.

Gnats

Gnats are significant pests to horses. They aggravate horses congregating around the moist areas of their head but also get into the mane, tail, and chest. Their bite leads to hair loss and causes crusting, similar to the effect of black flies.

Mosquito

Mosquitoes like horse-flies can produce significant blood losses and annoyance, primarily when they attack in large numbers. Their bite causes whelps on horses similar to the reaction humans have to mosquito bites.

Mosquitoes transmit harmful diseases like as equine infectious anemia, eastern equine encephalitis, West Nile virus, and Venezuelan equine encephalitis.

Bot fly

Botflies lay eggs on horses forelimbs, shoulders, and lips during the summer and fall. These aggravating pests are digested into a horse’s stomach and passed in its feces and then the bot fly matures.

Most of their damage is to the stomach lining and the area the eggs are laid. If you see your horse chewing on its legs, this could be a sign of bot fly larvae. Botflies don’t bite but can cause external itching and internal damage to a horse’s stomach lining.

Lice

Two types of lice affect horses, biting lice, and sucking lice. Biting lice are harder to treat and live off blood. Sucking lice feed on skin tissue and secretions.

Lice are typically found on a horse’s head, neck, mane, and tail during winter and early spring. Sometimes you can see adult lice moving through the hair; the egg stage attaches to the hair.

Lice are mostly species-specific; however, poultry lice have occasionally affected horses. Horse with lice often rub, bite themselves, stomp and display extreme annoyance.

Ticks

In some areas of the United States, ticks are prevalent and attach themselves to horses and suck blood like a vampire. Ticks can cause anemia, transmit Lyme disease, and decrease an animal’s ability to fight infections.

Ticks are most commonly found on a horse’s head, throatlatch and ears, mane, tail, and lower abdomen. Ticks cause skin irritation and introduce bacterial skin infections.

The Best Fly Masks

Cashel Crusader is our favorite fly masks

We suggest the Cashel brand fly masks because it’s durable and doesn’t irritate our horse. We use the long Crusader because it covers more area and has ear coverings.

This style also has sufficient room around the eye holes. Cashel sells several styles to choose from; however, the Cashel Crusader horse fly mask is our go-to mask.

We’ve reviewed a bunch of fly masks and think the Cashel Crusader is the best. More than 200 customers on Amazon have provided reviews of this mask and rated it 4.6 out of 5 stars.

The other two brands, Kensington and Harrison Howard make high-quality products and their fly masks provide sufficient protection and may be a better option for your horses.

Gather as much information as possible, read reviews, talk to your friends, and even try different masks. To assist you, here is the link to Amazon customer reviews so you can understand what other people’s experience has been with the Cashel Crusader fly masks.

Best Fly Boots

Kensington fly boots are our favorites.

Flies can drive some horses crazy. They cause horses to stomp their feet and fidget so much they don’t even graze. Fly boots are designed to eliminate the flies on a horse’s legs so they can relax and be much more comfortable.

The main concern when choosing fly boots is safety and durability, especially for turned-out horses. Some fly boots are easy for horses to remove, some slip down, and still, others rub the hair off your horse’s legs.

We recommend using Kensington fly boots. We haven’t had any issues with them slipping down are causing rub issues. They come in three sizes, so you can order a set that will fit your horse.

Amazon customers rated them 4.6 out of 5 stars. Here is the link to Kensington fly boots and their customers’ review for you to read:

FAQ

Can you make your own horsefly spray?

Yes, you can make a good horsefly spray with common ingredients around your house. The two ingredients you must include are vinegar and essential oils. I wrote an article on this topic that includes an effective recipe to make your own spray. Do Homemade Horse Fly Sprays Work? A Tried and True Recipe

Why do horseflies chase me?

Horseflies are attracted to warm moving objects, so a sweaty human wearing dark clothes is a prime target. You can find out more about what attracts horseflies in this article: Why Do Horseflies Bite, Will They Chase You? 7 Facts

Do horse blankets help keep horseflies away?

Yes, some blankets will keep horseflies away. There are specially designed horsefly sheets. They are typically made of lightweight material, brightly colored, and possibly treated with insect repellant for extra protection against pests.
Sheets are lighter than traditional horse blankets but are basically the same. You can read more about horse blankets and sheets in this article: Why some horses wear blankets

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Miles Henry

I love animals! Especially horses, I've been around them most of my life but I am always learning more and enjoy sharing with others. I have bought, sold, and broke racehorse yearlings. I have raised some winning horses and had some that didn't make it as racehorses, so we trained them in other disciplines. Miles Henry

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