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!
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.
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?
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.
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.
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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Am thinkng about buying Cashel full face with ears but I have same problem as Justin – as I have a mule (17 hands – 1100 pounds), a TWH, 2 American Standard donkeys and 2 smallish donkeys – not minis.
Happy Hunting trying to find your masks! Good Luck with your donkeys!
I haven’t found masks that would fit my donkeys or that they’d leave on. I might give it a try again. All my masks have been Farnums. Thanks for the reminder to find and clean the masks!
The Cashel has become my favorite. They fit my horses really well and they come in a number of combinations with ears and long noses. One of my horses is a fly magnet (flies, ticks, whatever, the bugs LOVE him and eat him alive) so he wears one with the ears all during fly season. Last year the season started off pretty bad and their lower faces were black with flies so they all wore a mask with the long noses until the fly predators kicked in. Then I switched to the regular ones. They are pricey but they do last from year to year.
I bought a Cashel fly sheet for my buggy guy last year too out of desperation. As I was researching fly sheets I was pleased to discover Cashel had just come out with one. He’s a very stocky quarter horse and it ripped at a seam but they promptly sent me another one. We’ll see how it lasts this year.