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Fly Masks: Functional and Fashionable

By Leslie Potter | Friday, June 25, 2010

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I used to be a casual fly mask user. I'd put one on Snoopy if I was turning him out after a ride, but if he went out without one, I didn't worry about it too much. Most of the other horses at my barn weren't wearing one, so it can't be too bad to go without, right?

Then last summer Snoopy developed a nasty eye infection. It was pretty gross, and it meant I was driving out to the barn four times a day to put a variety of ointments in his eye, which naturally he did not enjoy. Plus, he was just miserable. He was constantly trying to scratch his eye on anything and everything, and I was envisioning him poking his eye out on some splintered fence board. When a stray eyelash falls into my eye, it brings my day to a screeching halt until I can remove it, so I can only imagine how he felt.

At the time, my vet said he'd treated an entire barn full of horses for similar eye problems, and he hypothesized that the flies were transporting some kind of allergen or something that was causing this rash of equine eye gunk. Ever since then, I've been pretty adamant about always using fly masks during fly season.

If you haven't been shopping for fly masks recently, you may be surprised to see the huge variety of styles that are available. Snoopy started out with a basic blue mask that he'd had for years. It was functional, but years of turnout take their toll and it finally had started to tear. And then he lost it. Oh, I'm sure it's out in the paddock somewhere (unless it became a snack for the lawnmower) but it doesn't matter. We have backups.

Snoopy and I have actually acquired a couple of these Shimmer Weave masks. I like them because they actually stay on, and because they're tastefully blingy. Why have plain blue or white when you can have silver or copper? However, I prefer a model with ears, so I had to go shopping.

When I visited the tack shop, they only had one mask with ears in Snoopy's size, and it also happened to have a long nose. I thought this would work out well since the nose part would fit under the grazing muzzle he is currently being forced to wear, and prevent the muzzle from rubbing on his nose. Plus, it has a little hole for his forelock, which I find ridiculously adorable. However, something about the design makes it too easy for Snoopy to remove. His favorite activity is to lie down in the muddiest spot he can find, and then rub his head in the dirt. I guess he likes the feeling of mud behind his ears. But this is often enough to pull the mask off. Since the nose is tucked into the muzzle, this means he's sometimes left walking around with the mask hanging off of his face until some kind being with opposable thumbs notices and fixes it for him.

Finally, I may have found the answer. A friend of mine mentioned she had bought fly masks decorated with eyes for a couple of her horses. One has sunglasses and the other has a pirate face. I decided I had to check this out, but in the process, found the Lycra mask. It's pretty much skin-tight with a zipper closure, which makes it a bit more secure than Velcro masks, plus it has ears and it goes far enough down on Snoopy's face that it protects his nose from the muzzle. The downside? He looks ridiculous. I feel like he can't wear an electric blue Lycra mask without picking up some sort of superhero nickname. The Masked Avenger is already taken, so I'm open to suggestions.

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Lorie    New Carlisle, IN

6/28/2010 11:17:07 AM

How about Bat Horse or Super Snoopy! I had the same problem with my horse and it looks like I'm soon going to need to buy her another. But like your horse she got an eye infection from the flies and needs a fly mask.

Tommy    Pcoatello, ID

6/28/2010 8:53:11 AM

good artilce thanks and great pics

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