Why Do Horses Wear Masks?

Jessica McDaniel
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What is the Purpose of a Horse Wearing a Mask?

A horse wearing a mask is to protect the horse from the dust and flies that are released during the horse's breathing and drinking. In addition, a mask also shields the horse from external irritants and foreign objects like twigs and leaves that the horse might pick up while grazing, then accidentally inhale while nibbling.

Besides preventing dust from entering the horse's respiratory tract, horse masks also prevent moisture from evaporating from the horse's respiratory tract, which reduces the risk of pneumonia or other respiratory problems.

When a horse inhales, air passes up into trachea (windpipe) and through the larynx (Adam's apple) to the mouth. From there, the air passes through the nasal passage into the throat, which opens to the bronchial tubes that go into the lungs. The horse's respiratory tract is lined with mucus to prevent dust, pollen, and other foreign particles from entering the lungs.

While wearing a mask may not seem like the most comfortable thing for a horse to wear, once it's properly fitted, comfort is not a problem as the horse will forget the mask is there.

Horse Fly Mask

Horse owners will tell you that horse flies are relentless and will attack at any given chance. We've seen them all too often buzzing around our eyelashes, zipping past our ears and even looking for a bite on our skin.

One effective solution to help protect yourself and your horse is the use of a horse fly mask. Available in various styles, sizes, and colors, a horse fly mask works exactly as the name suggests in that it masks your horse's face and ears from bites by flies, bees and other insect pests.

For some horses, wearing a mask isn’t a big deal. But for some, it’s a change that can stir strong emotions. Horse's use their ears to express their feelings after all! Before your horse will accept a mask you need to follow the 3 S's:

Slowly … Switching from no fly mask to quick fly mask can be done in phases. Start by carrying your mask with you to his stall. This will help your horse get comfortable with you wearing the fly mask to his nose. Encourage him to smell the mask by rubbing it on his nose.

Show him how … Show him how to step into the fly mask and pull up the strap that goes behind the ears. Don't do this for him, but be sure he sees you doing it first.

Horse Fly Mask Features

Horses do not wear masks to protect themselves from fly bites. Horse fly masks are designed to keep flies from being able to land on the horses face.

A horse’s face offers rich, protected flesh that attracts all kinds of insects.

Horse masks help keep flies from landing on or biting horses around the face and throat, where there is a lot of soft flesh.

Purpose of a Fly Mask

A horse's eyes, ears, and face are highly sensitive parts of his body. Long eyelashes protect a horse's eyes from irritants and dust. Even small insects like flies, gnats, and horseflies can become quite annoying and painful. The horse's skin is also more sensitive to irritants than the rest of his body.

A fly mask is a protective covering for the horse's face that can help reduce insect irritation. Nowadays, you can find a variety of different fly masks on the market ranging from plain, to tie-on, to elastic, to velcro and even to hoodie type masks.

A horse's face, ears and eyes, are sensitive and vulnerable to irritants. Choose a mask that fits your horse's size and keeps him comfortable.

Other than helping prevent insect irritation, a fly mask also helps keep objects from getting caught around your horse's eyes and face like sunglasses, cigarette smokers, and bands.

A fly mask, or a horse mask, is an essential part of a horse's grooming and can be as simple as a plain cloth covering. Many owners choose elastic/velcro masks for ease of use. Tie-ons are great for keeping out dust and for a longer wear time. Hoodie masks are another great option because they cover your horse's ears better.

Horse Blinkers or Horse Blinders

In general, horses see very well. They have excellent night vision and their wide field of vision allows them to see things on lots of different levels, which you will notice in the wild. Rather than whip out their cell phones to SnapChat each other, wild horses typically keep the scenery in front of them, but check in with the surrounding area by scanning from side to side.

However, the wide open space in front of them allows the horse to eat or graze to the sides, even to walk right into the middle of the trail they’re on. They are very flexible, with the unique ability to tuck in their heads through small spaces. This makes them great for walking through branches, but it makes it hard for them to see you in all these nooks and crannies.

Some people assume that horses can see well in front, but not in the side area, and therefore, a rider can lean over and sneak up on the horse from the side. This is part of the reason why horse racing jockeys wear a small mask that covers the eyes.

This mask allows the jockey to get very close to the horse (they may even be touching), but it allows the horse to see in front of him and not to the sides.

Helpful Horse Blinders

All horses have a slight natural blind spot right in front of their eyes. In a horse trained for riding, that blind spot can become the “pot of gold” that your horse can easily get distracted and may not be able to see properly.

If you've taken a horseback riding course, you may have noticed that your horse has a leather strap over his or her eyes. This is to help eliminate a visual obstruction and prevent your pony from seeing anything that could potentially distract them.