Keeping the pests away: Guide to horse fly masks & sheets

by | Cozy pets

Summer has arrived and with its heat: the endless swarms of flies, mosquitoes and various gnats.

If you thought we humans have it hard, think twice. Horses are an even more desired target for all thеse pests. Seeing the poor souls struggle is heartbreaking and calls for emergency measures.

Sure, you can use a fly spray. However, the truth is they aren’t that effective. Also, spraying your horse with chemicals all the time doesn’t seem that healthy.

That’s where horse fly masks and body sheets come handy. I’d say fly masks are a priority: gnats really love biting around the delicate face and ears area.

For both of these, you want both fabric durability and comfort for your horse.

The best horse fly masks come from brands like Cashel, Derby and Shires. The Cashel Crusader is perhaps the most revered choice. It keeps the whole head safe, provides 70% UV protection, and is quite gentle on the skin.

With fly sheets for horses, Amigo, Kensington and Rambo are staple names. You’ll see a lot of love for the Amigo Bug Rug on horse owner forums like the Horse & Hound.

Much like my in-depth guide to winter equine blankets, I’ll offer you comprehensive advice on making your horse feel at east during the summer.

No time to read all my reviews and tips? Here’s a concise comparison table with the most important information: 

Coverage
CashelThumbnail
  • Cashel Crusader
  • Best for:
    Maximum protection against pests with extra coverage. Soft mesh provides comfort.
  • Fly protection:
    ★★★★★
  • UV protection:
    ★★★★½

    70%
  • Comfort:
    ★★★★

    Soft nylon micro mesh that is quite breathable. Reduced vision.
Balanced
DerbyThumbnail
  • Derby Reflective
  • Best for:
    Balance between protection and vision. Best UV blocking, fringe design & custom colors.
  • Fly protection:
    ★★★★½
  • UV protection:
    ★★★★★

    75%
  • Comfort:
    ★★★★

    Fleece lining & soft fabric covering the ears. Better vision.
Riding
CashelQuietThumbnail
  • Cashel Quiet Ride
  • Best for:
    Trail riding. Extreme transparency and line of vision for more active outdoors.
  • Fly protection:
    ★★★★
  • UV protection:
    ★★★½

    Transparent fabric reduces UV protection levels.
  • Comfort:
    ★★★★

    Very breathable, non-restrictive and lightweight. Extreme line of vision.
Protection
AmigoBugRugThumbanil
  • Amigo Bug Rug
  • Best for:
    Maximum coverage including the neck area. Redesigned hood for freedom of movement.
  • Fly protection:
    ★★★★★
  • UV protection:
    ★★★★½

    Special fabric & coloring to reflect sunlight.
  • Comfort:
    ★★★★★

    Knitted polyester fabric: light, durable & breathable. Removable neck cover design.
Breathable
KensingtonThumbnail
  • Kensington Platinum
  • Best for:
    Extra breathable sheet for very humid areas. 73% UV block, textilene toughness and cute designs.
  • Fly protection:
    ★★★★
  • UV protection:
    ★★★★½

    73% advanced UV protection.
  • Comfort:
    ★★★★½

    78% air permeable and allowing free movement. Lack of full neck protection, however.

Feel free to navigate to the part that interests you the most!

3 best fly mask types for horses

1. Best fly mask with ears:
Cashel Crusader Long Nose

I know some people dislike the fully protected look – it has almost a military feeling to it…but it’s the best choice. A horse’s nose and ears are irresistible to summer flies. Leaving this area open calls for your pet’s miserable experience.

Cashel’s Crusader wraps your horse’s head in a gentle mask made of nylon micro mesh. The soft coated fabric won’t rub its skin and provides both vision and breathability for the summer heat.

Slipping is an unfortunate shortcoming in some fly mask designs. Don’t worry – you won’t see it here. Cashel are famous for their forward design thinking, and the Crusader will stay put on the nose and ears even during turnout time.

Horse sunburns are a thing, so most of the time you want a fly mask with UV protection. The Crusader scores high in this regard too: 70% sun protection for your pet’s comfort.

Perfect for horses with more sensitive eyes or lighter skin complexion!

2. Best fringe fly mask:
Derby Reflective

This one is a very unconventional take on keeping the gnats away. Instead of the typical mesh, you have a bottom part made of delicate fringes. Every time your horse nods its head, the fringes will hit the flies and send them fleeing.

As you can guess, this provides some additional freedom and breathability for your equine friend too.

The horse’s skin comfort is taken care of by fleece lining and a soft, heavy-duty fabric. It’s flexible and paired with a double Velcro strap around the throat to keep it steady. The ears are covered by a soft coated mesh, same as the Cashel Crusader.

A neat addition is the fact that the browband and noseband are reflective, making things a bit easier in the dark.

As far as sun protection goes, the UV blocking here extends to 75%. In other words, a little above the average for other fly mask for horses.

3. Best full vision & ride-friendly fly mask:
Cashel Quite Ride

What if you want to provide protection for your horse while trail riding?

It’s obvious that this can’t happen with the majority of thicker face masks. Your horse wouldn’t be able to see the road properly!

Cashel provide an outstanding solution with their Quite Ride line. The fly mask is made of sheer mesh that provides extreme line of vision to your horse. It’s almost as if it didn’t have anything on!

You can either attach over or under the bridle for additional flexibility. As you can guess, it’s also way more lightweight and non-restrictive compared to standard fly masks for horses.

The good thing is that once again it provides full ear protection to keep the pests away.

The bad? Its transparent design makes it harder to provide stronger UV protection compared to other designs. Keep that in mind if your horse is too pale or the sun in your area is especially strong.

For trail riders, though, this is the top face mask choice considering the circumstances.

2 best fly sheet types for horses

4. Best Full Protection Horse Fly Sheet:
Amigo Bug Rug

I’ve praised Amigo’s winter sheets before, and there’s a reason for that.

They are up there with Rambo when it comes to durable, sturdy construction. And if you’ve had a more hot-headed horse, you know how much that matters.

The Bug Rug is not an exception. It’s made of high quality knitted polyester fabric. While it’s gentle to the skin to reduce the risk of rubbing, it also holds up pretty well to any thrashing.

You can actually remove the neck cover if you feel your horse is sweating too much. Who knows, you might also want to free things up a bit?

Even if you decide to leave it on (my recommendation), the hood in the Bug Rug was redesigned. The reason? To provide your equine buddy with a better coverage and free movement when grazing time comes.

Sun protection is also taken care of with the fly rug’s silver coloring. It reflects sunlight, making things safer and cooler for your horse.

That said, if you live in extremely humid areas, the Bug Rug might make your pet feel a little hot. In this case, I recommend you the Kensington below.

5. Best Fly Sheet For Horses in Hot Weather:
Kensington Platinum

Notably humid areas call for a more relaxed, breathable fly sheet. Kensington’s Platinum sheet is focused on bridging pest protection with keeping your buddy cool.

The mesh here is very durable and made of tough denier textilene. What really matters though is that Kensington made it to be 78% air permeable.

In other words, even in the most unbearable of a heat, your horse will enjoy a breezy sheet. With the Bug Rug you might need to clip your horse to ensure maximum comfort. With Kensington, this is not needed.

So, if it’s really hot…isn’t the sun also extra strong?

You can be sure of that. Kensington have thought of that, so the Platinum also blocks 73% of the harmful UV rays. Minimized risk of sunburns and a cool, breathable experience while keeping gnats away?

If this is not a comfortable experience for your horse, I don’t know what would be.

The downside is that you don’t have full neck protection here compared to Amigo’s Bug Rug. However, these’s a little bit more chest room with the Kensington making the sheet even more convenient and lightweight.

In other words, this UV protection horse fly sheet should be your pick if:

  • You live in a notably humid area

  • You don’t clip your horse during the summer

  • Your horse tends to sweat/is bad with heat

  • You want a more flexible, free-range fly sheet

Kensington are a trusted brand to horse keepers around the globe and the Platinum is another testament to their masterful art.

General tips on using horse fly masks

There are several things you should keep in mind when you use this equine product. Let’s separate them into two groups.

The things you SHOULD do are:

  • Make sure the mask fits your horse well. If your horse has longer lashes, look for fly masks with darts. Cashel Crusaders are like this, they make sure the mask stays off your pet’s eyes.

  • Clean/wash the face mask. Just as any cloth, they will get dirty. Not cleaning them increases the risk of your buddy getting skin infections from the debris.

  • Get a fly mask that also covers the ears. This is the #1 target for flies and one of the horses’ most delicate areas. Ear sores and infections are very painful and sadly, occur often if there’s no protection.

  • Look for soft material that won’t cause rubbing or itching. Most of established brands provide skin-friendly masks, but be sure to check properly.

The most important thing you SHOULDN’T DO is:

  • Leave the fly mask on your horse’s head for prolonged periods of time. Make sure you take it off as frequently as possible. Generally it’s not a good idea to leave masks during the night too.

General tips on fly sheets for horses

With sheets for pest protection, there’s one fundamental divide:

You can go for softer, more flexible and breathable fabrics that can be left on for longer periods of time.

Or, alternatively, you can go for harder, textilene sheets that are more durable but not suitable for a whole day, for example.

The Amigo Bug Rug I reviewed is a typical example of soft fabric flysheet with its polyester construction. You can also see a lot of cotton fly rugs for horses which are even lighter.

Usually, typical textilene/harder sheets are more rigid and your horse might feel a bit uncomfortable wearing them for more than a few hours. On the upside, though, they are way more durable and resistant to thrashing around.

The reason I recommended Kensington’s Platinum is its mastery of combining the best of both worlds. Sure, it’s made of textilene, but it’s a closer, softer fit than the usual textilene rug. It combines the extra toughness with freedom of movement and breathability.

As with our clothes, lighter colors will be a better choice for days under the scorching sun. They will keep your horse feeling cooler and will reflect heat/sunlight away.

And, as we’re talking about protection, perhaps the most important part: coverage. As I mentioned with the Amigo, there are some fly sheets for horses that have extended necks and hoods for maximum protection.

Others are limited to around the shoulder area, leaving the neck open for more freedom of movement/comfort.

I’d say it depends on what summer’s like in your area and your horse’s character. Some full protection sheets can feel too much for more hot-headed equines. They’ll thrash around and do their best to ruin the fabric out of discontent.

If you know there are a lot of gnats around, though, I suggest getting a fly rug with neck protection and a hood. The more you cover your horse’s gentle skin, the better.

The Practical Horseman has a very nice sum-up of the fundamental qualities you want to have with a fly rug. Check it out here!

If you’re looking for another thorough guide on horse equipment, I’ve got you covered again! For those of you who wonder, here’s my rundown on saddle pad basics.

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