HOW (not) TO PUT A FLY MASK ON A WILD HORSE… and other cautionary tales…

The flies are ba-aaaack.

Oh yay.

And sadly, we forgot to start our predators on schedule this year, probably because last week it was still raining and two weeks before that, snowing.

Mother Nature has been very moody…

Anyway, how do these flies hatch so quickly?

Alas, the fight between flies – and everybody else – has begun.


As most of you already know, I have a few wild horses.  The other two, Rojo and Remi, have adapted well enough to know that they adore their fly masks.

Remi will go so far as to rattle the gate and point to where she accidentally rubbed hers off; and then stand there and wait for me to put it back on.  She is such a Fly Mask Believer, she’ll bow her head and stand perfectly still until she hears the velcro flapwrap.  Ahhhhhh.  In her Mustang brain, the flymask was the best invention since… grain.

Rojo is the same.  He will hog Tess’ fan, sticking his face front and center blowing all the flies hither and yon, until I put on his mask.

Sam, on the other hand, has been here the longest, endured many a long, hot Grass Valley summer and still refuses to find the value in a noisy, flappy thing that would keep the army of flies gathered like black eyeshadow on her lids from tormenting her for 12 hours a day – nope, not this ‘stang, she’d prefer to be au natural.

Silly Girl.

Today, I decided to show her the wisdom of a fly mask…

Bigger Silly Girl…

Sam is very kind and respectful.  She just doesn't see a need to be handled.

Sam is very kind and respectful. She just doesn’t see a need to be handled.


First things first, make sure you have about 12 hours for this task.  At least if you have 12 hours, by the time your teaching time is up, the flies should be gone – so you have that going for you.

Next, have plenty of treats.  Your horse and the flies will enjoy them.

Also, I can tell you that after my experience today, you’ll want to wear a fly mask yourself or at least spray yourself down.  There is nothing more mood breaking than several flies orbiting your mouth and other facial orifices (my stomach is still turning).

Lastly, don’t ever try to do this in the direct sunlight.  You’ll probably pass out before you succeed.


This is important so remember it first… Do not try to do this in open space, unless you bring along shelter and a barrel of treats.

After the first hour in the sun and open space (and her retreating every other minute), I finally got the bright idea (which was surprising since I was delirious) to put her into MT’s double stall.  Duh.

*Cautionary Tale 2:  Don’t put a wild horse in a confined space unless you know the horse and know the number of your physician.  Because even if you know your horse, a wild horse can be unpredictable.

So I proceeded to put Sam in Tess’ double stall.

And then the work began.

I can let her out to graze and she always behaves and puts herself away on time.

I can let her out to graze and she always behaves and puts herself away on time.


Most of you are wondering how I could have a wild horse for so long (6 years) and not have her totally trained…

I will tell you why in one sentence.

She doesn’t see the need.

She’s thought this through and has made her decision.  Sam is respectful, she isn’t frightened, she does everything I tell her, she just doesn’t want to be handled.  Period.

OKOK, I know many of you would say that any horse is trainable… and previously, I might have agreed myself.

So, just to address this, I’ll give the naysayers this tidbit:

Sam was chosen to go to Monty Robert’s ranch where he teaches his trainers (not his students… his trainers) on the most difficult wild horses.  Sam was there for 6 months (the usual stay is 6 weeks).  When she was returned to me, she was wearing a very tight halter that had masking tape wrapped around the cheek piece with the handwritten note,  “DO NOT REMOVE”.

Uh huh.  ‘Nuff said.


Having said that, I feel pretty good about my progress with Sam over the last 6 years.  She can be let out to graze and she always puts herself away at feeding time.  She will go through any gate I open.  She is patient.  I can move her with hand motions.  She will take a treat very politely.  And, when she had wire caught in her tail, she let the vet remove it (after being given mild sedation on pellets since there was no way to inject her).

Yes, I know that if she got in trouble, I would be in a fix.  However, I kinda think that if push came to shove, the mare would make the right decisions for herself.  She knows she is safe and that I won’t hurt her.  She just doesn’t want to play in our field.


True.  Horses don’t wear fly masks in the wild.  They also are not confined to areas where there is manure.  And, there aren’t cows across the road…


So, Sam and I played “Fly Mask is Good” for several hours in Tess’ stall.

She pretended she was scared so that she could get a treat.  I pretended that I was calm and didn’t mind spending all this time just trying to get a flipping fly mask on her.

Luckily, I had food and water nearby plus fairly good music playing in the barn.


Although Sam only wore the fly mask temporarily (I wasn’t able to velcro it), I did get it on her face.

— I rubbed her with it.  All over the parts she was OK with me rubbing.  Her chest, neck and face.  I was very, very gentle and I gave her treats as I was doing it.  I started slowly and quit if she retreated.  ‘No treats for a retreat’, I told her.

–I also gave her ‘atta girls’ as I moved the mask slowly up her nose.  For every inch, a treat.  I managed to get it up to her eyes that way.  But, I wasn’t able to get it past her eyes so…

–I worked on moving it up her mane towards her poll.  Once I got it to the top of her poll, all the while encouraging her brave work (she wasn’t being brave because she wasn’t scared – she was milking me for treats but that’s OK…), I was able to drop the mask down over her eyes.

*I used the basic Farnam flymask.  It has a very wide ear opening which is helpful.  And, the velcro is easy to close.


–Trying to put the mask over her eyes from the front or any angle where she could see it.

–Trying to reason with her by explaining the uses of a flymask.

–Wearing it myself to show her… after all, she’s seen all the other horse wearing them and that didn’t convince her.



Tomorrow I will try again.

Hopefully, I will start where I left off… and hopefully, I will be able to get it velcro’d without any injuries.

And, hopefully, once she feels the wonders of no flies on her eyes, I’m sure she will become a convert to the Fly Mask Club.

I think I can, I think I can…

Such a beauty...

Such a beauty…


MAY BUCKET FUND!  FOR ARIA:  The H&M Group just paid for this splint!  it should arrive this week!  Read story here!

MAY BUCKET FUND! FOR ARIA: The H&M Group just paid for this splint! it should arrive this week! Read story here!

HORSE AND MAN is a blog in growth... if you like this, please pass it around!

8 comments have been posted...

  1. Melissa

    I love when you post these fun little stories of things we have all been there and often think we are the only ones, especially the wearing it our selves or trying to discuss the pros with them! As for the if push came to shove part my aunt has a mare very similar to Sam in that there is a mutual don’t push the line (no excessive handling, only quick rare trims of the feet and absolutely no saddles) and she will do as needed. As well when push came to shove she knew what was best and that she needed our help like when she injured her self she was a better patient then some well broke horses, or when she put her foot in a fence and just stood there as we cut the fence from around her! They ones that don’t trust easy or have those set bounders are usually the smarter ones! Good luck and I am sure once she feels the enjoyment of no flies she will try putting it on herself

  2. Mindy

    LOL! i love this post!

    can you please post a picture of you wearing the fly mask? ;) that was my favorite part!!

  3. dawndi Post author

    I do need to do that. Betsy Rose is doing really well. I know that because I get BHFER’S newsletters. I do know about LAST CHANCE CORRAL. We have had
    Bucket Funds for them 3 years in a row. If you’d like to read any of those blogs, just go to my website ( and search ‘nurse mare foals’ or ‘Last chance Corral’.

  4. Stacey

    Thankyou for your daily musings. I’ve been taken on some wonderful journeys by following your blog.
    I too have a mare (not wild by any means ) who greatly dislikes her flyveil. The velcro is apparently evil & the whole thing just annoying.
    We have a small business here in West Australia who make lycra fly veils. They are very popular with the local horses (although I’ve not tried them on my mare) . Thought I’d share the link incase they were the sort of thing Sam might find more appropriate.

    Thanks again from down under.

  5. Kathleen Smith

    Could you write a compiled update of the bucket fund projects from the last year? I’ve been wondering how Betsy Rose is doing.
    Also, have you heard of the Last Chance Corral? They are working hard to save many Nurse Mare foals. They are always in need of financial support.I was horrified when I recently learned of the cruel practice of intentionally creating orphaned foals to support the racehorse industry.

  6. Arliss P

    “She doesn’t see the need” — lol!
    Great post. As always, so entertaining!
    Happy Friday to you and yours. Fingers crossed for next time with Sam and the fly mask …

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