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Why Horses Wear Masks

Have you ever driven past a field and wondered why the horses look like they are blindfolded, or wearing face masks? These masks can definitely look odd to someone who isn’t familiar with horses.

In this article, I’ll answer some of the most common questions regarding horse masks- a tool horse owners use to keep horses happy and healthy in the summer.

A horse wearing a mask reaches over a gate.

What Are the Masks Used For?

Just like people, horses find buzzing flies and other insects to be very annoying. They use their tails to swat at flies while they are grazing, but it’s difficult for them to use their tail to swat a fly on their nose!

Masks give Horses Relief from Bugs

To help provide relief from bugs, some horses wear fly masks. These horse masks keep the bugs off of their faces and out of their eyes. Some horses are also highly sensitive to bug bites, and fly masks give them an extra layer of protection against insect bites on their faces.

Eye infections in horses are common during fly season. Irritating flies cause horses to rub their face on their forelegs, fence posts, and just about any other surface! According to the University of Tennessee, This introduces bacterial that can cause nasty infections. Fly masks can help prevent the itch in the first place.

Maks offers UV Protection for Horse Eyes and Skin

Even though horses evolved to live outdoors, UV light can skill be damaging to their skin and eyes. Good fly masks block a significant amount of UV light before it reaches the skin.

Did you know horses can get sunburns? They can, and has an entire article on preventing horse sunburns.

Mesh horse masks are also used to care for horses with sensitive eyes, medical issues involving the eye or the skin around it, or skin conditions.

What Are Fly Masks Made of?

Fly masks are mainly made of a breathable polyester mesh. This allows the horse to be able to see through the mask. It also allows airflow to help keep the horse’s face cool.

The edges of the mask that rest behind the horse’s ears and over their nose are made of a soft material, so it is more comfortable for them to wear it all day. Some even have fleece on these areas for extra comfort. Then there is a velcro strap that goes under the horse’s jaw to hold the mask in place. This strap should be snug enough to keep the mask positioned where it is supposed to be, but loose enough that it is still comfortable for the horse.

Different Styles of Fly Masks

There are a few different styles of face masks available:

Half Masks

The most common are half-masks. These horse masks covers the horse’s eyes and extend halfway down their nose. These masks only protect the horse’s eyes from bugs and the sun.

Full Face Coverage

Another popular style of mesh masks for horses provides full-face coverage for the horse. These masks extend all the way to the tip of their nose. These are really useful if the horse has a lot of white on their face and needs extra protection from the sun to prevent sunburn. (The pink skin under white markings, especially on the face, is most prone to sunburn.

Ear Masks

There are also some styles that cover the horse’s ears. These keep bugs out of the horse’s ears. Sometimes, you’ll even see a version of the mesh ear covers on horses when they are being ridden. Usually, this indicates that the horse is particularly sensitive to the buzzing of flies near their ears. The mesh helps horses focus without the discomfort of flies near their ears.

Can the Horses See Through Their Masks?

Since these masks for horses look like blindfolds, there one very common question: People want to know whether or not the horse can see through them.

Horses can see while wearing fly masks! While the horse won’t see as clearly as they would without the mask on, the mesh material does allow them to see well enough to move around and graze comfortably in familiar surroundings. It is not recommended to use fly masks while riding, since they do limit the horse’s visibility. Looking through a fly mask is similar to looking through a window screen. You can see your general surroundings, but lose depth perception, and details will not be as clear. 

Do Horses Like Wearing Fly Masks?

This really depends on the individual horse. Some horses can’t stand fly masks and will try to rub their faces on their front legs, fences, or people to get them off. Other horses don’t mind them at all, and will go about their day like the fly mask isn’t even there.

Horses in extremely hot, humid, and insect-infected locations seem to love their fly masks, in my experience.

Horses that routinely manage to get the fly mask off will probably be better off with a fly repellent spray, or a combination of the two.

Other Reasons a Horse Might Wear a Fly Mask

Fly masks are also really helpful when it comes to sun protection. Horses with light colored skin will often be more prone to sunburns than darker-colored horses. This is especially true for horses with a lot of white on their faces, especially around their eyes and covering their muzzles. Their hair in these areas is much thinner, which leaves their skin more exposed. For these horses, a fly mask with UV protection that covers these areas in sunny weather will help protect their sensitive skin from damage.

Do Horses Have to Wear Fly Masks?

There is no requirement for horses to wear fly masks – and many do not. However, if a horse is particularly sensitive to insects, then a fly mask will give them an extra layer of protection. There are fly sprays that can be used as well, but you must be careful to not get the spray in their eyes. This means it is tough to get their faces completely coated in the repellent. A fly mask provides more complete protection. They are also an excellent shield from sunlight for horses with sensitive and light-colored skin. and an essential product for horses with allergic responses to bug bites.


Fly masks may look strange if you are unfamiliar with them, but they serve a very important purpose for many horses. These small pieces of material can shield a horse’s face from bugs and sun, and protect their sensitive skin. And the horses are very happy to not have flies landing on their faces.

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