Fly Mask Review. ‘Tis the Season!






I don’t generally write two tack thoughts in a row.  But, as the flowers bloomed and the flies buzzed today, I considered having one of my mares don her fly mask for the first time this Spring.  I went to retrieve it and noted that I had 8 different types of masks — all dirty.  Hmmmmm.  So, as I brought them into the house for washing (that’s always fun to de-tangle the velcro, eh?), I thought this was a timely topic.

Fitting a fly mask is like fitting a custom sink.  Oy.  One wrong measurement and you’re either cutting the counter or raising the cupboards.  If you have a varied herd of heads like I do, you’ll end up with an array of masks, or a few “custom jobs” if you know what I mean…  ;)   What fits my Morgan won’t fit my TWH.  My donkey wears the same as my Mustang (go figure) and the Shetlands are in-between a yearling and a pony size, no matter what.  What seems so simple, isn’t.  You’ve gotta look at the space between their ears, the sensitivity of the poll, the eye socket, the throat latch, the length of face, narrowness of nose, etc… —  or not.  There isn’t one fly mask that fits all horses.  So, I thought I would fill you in on all of my fly mask purchasing adventures.  Maybe it will help you.  Here is a link to a website that compares all the prices.  Pretty cool.

CASHEL QUIET RIDE
This is a cool new mask that I saw at the Horse Expo last year.  Have you seen this?  It fits over your bridle for trail or arena work.  My very spoiled horse, Aladdin, got one of these very soft, lovely items last year and he wore it as his fly mask, successfully, all season.  However, that isn’t their function — they are supposed to be worn gently.  But Aladdin isn’t a fly mask saboteur.  You know what I mean…  The horse that spends all day taking everyone’s fly masks off and stomping them into the ground, never to be seen again.  Sigh.  Anyway, this handy item is a very soft and gentle fly mask to wear over your bridle or over the kissy face of your favorite mount — as long as you know it might not last as a true fly mask.

OK, Let the true survey begin!

JUSTIN
Well, I wish I had something good to say here.  But, truth to tell, I bought a dozen of these and not ONE has any velcro left.  And, the destruction was almost instant.  I think they had a sleepy seamstress on the line last year or something…  I have no idea who they used as horsey testers, but it certainly wasn’t anyone from my herd!  Sad to say but I cannot recommend these masks.

FARNUM
I think we all have a pile of these old standbys.  Here is my pile (pre-wash).  Farnum  was the first in fly mask manufacturing and there is a lot to be said for having been around for a while.  Basically, the design fits most horses.  However, it is a random fit.  And, if there is a seed or burr anywhere within 10 feet of the mask, it will end up caught in the fleece border.  But, they are reasonably priced and come in many colors, which I like.  I never have to figure out which goes where.  I just color code.  Garanimals of fly masks.

DEFENDER LARGE, PLAID
OK, this mask fit is very large.  I bought Large and XL for my TWH and Draft horse.  The Large is swimming on my Draft…   I have no idea what Behemoth horse they fitted these monsters, but this mask would make Samson feel petite.  As far as structure, they have ear holes that are somewhat narrow for a regular horse.  The nose is very long and not much for eye darts.  They do have double velcro so it stays ON.  But, my horse who likes to rub has shredded the side of it.  I think this would be good for a large horse with a narrow face.

DEFENDER REGULAR, BLACK
This mask seemed like it would be great.  It has really nice eye socket pooches, the felt is smooth and it has a flap velcro closure.  Bummer that they shred/snag really easily and the poll to nose measurement is short.  I don’t know what kind of horse fits this except maybe a Cobb or an Arab.  I had to re-fashion these to fit my Walkers and Morgan.  I just cut a dart on each side for the ears.  But, after that, the velcro fell off.  Hmmmm.  Is it just me?

CASHELL
I really like this one.  It has a very smooth felt liner, nice narrowing at the nose, decent ear holes, a forelock hole, eye socket darts…   The length from poll to nose is somewhat shorter than others.  But, the Cashell is really nice and will probably last all season.  The only downside, really, is that it is kinda spendy.

CHARLIE BUG OFF
I bought this because of the cute packaging and it was an internet sale deal.  The manufacturer is Intrepid International.  Have you ever bought a medium T-shirt and when you got it home you realized it would only fit your Barbie?  ‘Nuff said.

WRANGLER
This could be my favorite of all.  It has the important things, eye socket darts, smooth felt, tapered nose, regular sized ear holes and a flap velcro closure.  The only thing I don’t like is the poll cover.  It says it is breathable but you’d have to ask the horse, eh?  Dunno.  This mask is reasonably priced but only comes in a few colors.  I do like this one although it may be a bit short for longer nosed horses.

HORSE SENSE
This mask fits my donkey, Norma, very well.  It has huge ear holes, no eye darts and a very loooooong nose.  But, Norma has a huge brow so the eye dart thing doesn’t really effect her.  If you have a horse that has a long face and big ears, this is the mask for you!  It has held up well considering she lives with the ponies…

DURVET DURA MASK
I really liked the look of these and they were a “show special” at the Horse Expo, so I purchased a dozen.  The material is very solid, the felt won’t hoover every fleck of dirt, it has eye socket room and a flap velcro closure.  They are built like the Farnum only sturdier, or so I thought… Yes, they fit several different shaped fuzzy noggins but out of 12 masks, only 6 still have their velcro.  I also noted that there is no brand on the mask.  This makes me think that the manufacturer makes these for a few distributors.  Not sure.  Anyway, I really like the 6 I have left… but they aren’t as hearty as I had hoped.

So, that is my missive on fly masks…  I hope this helps you in your decisions this fly season!


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Stirrups. How Complicated Can They Be?! Read On…






I write the title with a smile.  The idea of writing about stirrups seems like it would take one paragraph.  Right?  Except, when I went to my trailer to photograph all of my stirrups, I started to laugh.  I have 4 saddles with 4 different types of stirrups and I have one more set on the way from Ebay and a few dormant pairs.  So, just little ol’ me, strictly a trail rider, has 8 sets!  There must be a lot to say about stirrups and I’m about to barely scratch the surface with you all today…

WEIGHT

First, since I only know what I use, my choices are always for weight (light), safety, ease in turning the leathers, width at the neck, width at the ball of my foot and looks (maybe).   I prefer very lightweight so I like aluminum, titanium, plastic (yup, sorry) or rawhide.  I have pictured my plastic, wide mouthed, narrow foot pad stirrups that I have ridden in for years.  In these tried ‘n true but kinda ugly stirrups, I have lightweight, ease in tying up on the saddle, ease in turning the leathers because of the wide mouth and a very comfortable foot pad – for me.  So, lightweight is my #1.   If a stirrup doesn’t hit me in the shin and cause a bruise when I’m carrying my saddle, I like it.  I absolutely HATE when a clunky stirrup leaves a dent in my leg.  Grrrr.  But, even though I love the lightweight stirrups, I have gone for heavier weight if they have a purpose…

PURPOSE

Easy turn of the leathers is one purpose that I have embraced in exchange for lightness.  I have these Herm Sprenger pre-turned stirrups that do mess with my shins but luckily, I can throw them over each side of the saddle and they stay there.  Anyway, I like my Sprengers because I can always find them.  I never, ever do the ankle dance when trying to look find my stirrup without cueing your mount to arabesque.  I have these on my Sensation Saddle

FOOTPAD

Many, many endurance riders love these stirrups with the wide footpad.  The pair I have also has a caged front for safety.  Now, I’m not saying anything is wrong with these types of stirrups.  I know that some people think they are a Godsend.  For me, they make my knees hurt.  But, if you like these, you can get them in a few different colors with a few options like height of pad, width of pad, material and safety cage.  The most popular brand is EZ Ride.

SHAPED

I am a sucker for the shaped stirrups because in my mind, I think they will free my foot more easily.  But, I am not really sure that is true.  I haven’t had many close calls where I thought to myself, “Gosh, I’m so glad that I had those shaped stirrups or I’d be a goner!.”  However, I think others have said this so I err on the side of other peoples’ experience and purchased a pair of the shaped stirrups.  Now, the pair I have, the Royal Rider, are made in Italy, are aluminum and shaped so you can release your foot (in theory) and also find your stirrup.  They have a narrow mouth (bummer since I like wider leathers) so I can only use them on my English saddle that has the 1″ leathers.  But, I do like them and I never have to do the search-for-my-stirrup leg dance.  They are weighted very well.  I had a heck of a time figuring out which one goes on which side until I realized that the foot pad is flush with the foot side.  Duh.  Anyway, they have a diagram on the box if anyone else has the same issue.  (Obviously others did or they wouldn’t have the diagram on the box.)  I use this on my Dressage saddle.

SIZE

I have an issue here.  It seems like many stirrups are made for narrow riding boots.  I can understand that.  But, as a trail rider, I wear more rugged (just in case I need to walk/hike) boots when I’m riding.  These types of boots tend to be more wide.  Now, I don’t have a big foot, but I felt like BigFoot with stirrups I’ve tried in the past.  To me, if your foot is too snug in the stirrup, it is a recipe for disaster.  So, I have pictured here my Aussie Aluminum stirrups.  I use these on my FreeForm saddle.  When I tried to find them again online, they seem to have been replaced with several new Aussie Aluminum designs.  So, if you are interested, just do a Google search.

SAFETY

I know the best safety stirrups are the kind with the band on one side.  But, they are usually for English riding.

However, I just found these in my search.  They are called Side Step Safety Stirrups.  I think I will try them and report back.  The website really touts lots of great attributes.  I like that they can spring open from any torque, have an average foot pad, they are wide enough for my boots and it says that it won’t hurt my knees.  Plus a 30-Day money back guarantee!  So, I’m going to give them a whirl.

I also wanted to show these fun, colored, aluminum racing stirrups.  I think that when you want so change things up or just feel a little different, this could be a fun alter-ego fest!  The website is called, “Chick Saddlery”.  It was a huge website.  I think I’ll check out other things they sell – maybe they have some deals I can tell you about…  But for now, this is me signing off on stirrups.


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