It can certainly be strange seeing horses standing in a field with masks over their faces as if they’ve been blindfolded. How do they see where they’re going or what they’re doing? And does it not irritate them to have that over their eyes all the time?
While, in some cases, horses do need to be blindfolded, the horse masks you’re seeing are likely not blindfolds at all. There are also different reasons why horses wear masks, but we’ll get more into the details below.
Is That A Fly Mask, A Blindfold, Or A Blinder
There are three types of masks that you might see a horse wearing on its face – a fly mask, a blindfold, or a blinder.
A fly mask is a type of horse mask that fits over the horse’s eyes and looks kind of like it has been blindfolded. One of the most common reasons horses wear fly masks is to protect their eyes and faces. While it may look like the horse is blindfolded when it has a fly mask on, it can see just fine.
Blindfolds are similar to fly masks because they also fit over a horse’s eyes. But unlike when wearing a fly mask, the horse can’t see with a blindfold on.
Blinders are not a mask at all but are small cups that block out certain areas of a horse’s vision such as its peripheral vision. This can be useful in horse races for preventing the horse from seeing other horses or big crowds. One of the reasons why racehorses wear masks is because blinders are attached to something known as a blinker hood (which fits over the horse’s head).
The masks we’re going to focus on in the rest of this blog (since they’re actually masks and not hoods or blinders) are fly masks and blindfolds.
The Different Purposes Of Masks For Horses
As we’re sure you’ve gathered by now, with there being different types of masks, there are different reasons why you might see a horse wearing one of those masks. After all, you’re not going to blindfold a horse and try to get him to gallop around a field – that’ll just be dangerous for the horse and anyone nearby.
Protection from insects
The most likely reason why you’re seeing a horse with a fly mask over its eyes is to protect its face from insects. You’ve probably had a fly buzzing around your face and possibly even landing on your cheek. It’s irritating, right? Well, horses feel exactly the same way.
Fly masks protect your horse’s face from annoying flies as well as any other biting insects that might irritate your horse. And, as you can imagine, there are often a lot of different insects in pastures and on farms. While you can use fly sprays too, a fly mask is less likely to cause your horse any harm or discomfort.
Protection from infection
It’s not uncommon for a horse to get small scratches on its face. And you know those pesky flies and insects we just mentioned? They can carry bacteria or diseases that can cause the scratches to get infected. With a fly mask on, none of these insects will be able to get to the scratches and your horse will be able to heal nice and quickly.
Protection from UV Light
Another reason why a horse might wear a fly mask is for sun protection. A horse’s face, nose, and ears can get sunburnt (especially lighter horses with pink skin) and many fly masks are built with UV protection to prevent this from happening.
Of course, horses still need a shaded place to stand when they want to escape the sun. But fly masks are useful for lighter horses and any horses that are just adamant to soak up the sun’s rays.
When they need to be blindfolded
Although a lot of people do think fly masks are blindfolds, it’s not often that the horses you see standing in fields and on farms will be blindfolded. Some of the only times that horses are blindfolded are when they need to be loaded into a trailer, when they need specific medical attention, and in emergencies.
The Different Styles Of Horse Masks You Might See
There are different styles of fly masks that will cover a larger or smaller amount of a horse’s face. The different types of coverage include:
- Only the eye coverage: These are one of the most common styles of fly masks that you’ll see horses wearing. Their main purpose is to cover the eyes of a horse and they only extend a short way down the horse’s nose.
- Coverage of the eyes and ears: A horse’s ears can be very sensitive. So, some horses might get annoyed by flies landing in or buzzing close to their ears. In these cases, fly masks that extend up and over the horse’s ears are used.
- Coverage of the eyes and nose: If a horse has a lot of white colouring on its face and head, it’s a lot more likely to get burnt. Using fly masks that cover both the eyes and the nose of horses with these features provides more protection for their sensitive skin.
- Coverage of eyes, ears, and nose: In some cases, you’ll see horses with masks that provide full coverage of their eyes, ears, and nose for the most protection. A few of these designs even have removable nose pieces to give owners the option of choosing how much of their horse’s face is covered without needing to buy multiple masks.
What Are Fly Masks Made From?
Most fly masks are made with a breathable material such as polyester mesh. This ensures that the horse can see what it’s doing through the fly mask as well as allows air to flow through the mask, preventing your horse from getting too hot. There can sometimes be fleece padding around sensitive areas too. This is just to make the fly mask more comfortable for your horse.
Some masks will also attach with velcro or zippers to make it easier to fit the mask onto a horse.
Why do horses wear masks with eye holes?
Horse masks have eye holes for a variety of reasons. Some types of masks, such as fly masks, are made to protect the horse’s eyes and face from flies, from biting insects, and for UV protection. Other types of headgear (such as blinders) might be used to keep the horse calm and/or block its peripheral vision.
Why do some horses wear hoods?
There are different types of hoods that horses might wear, each with a different purpose. A blinker hood is usually used in horse races to block a horse’s peripheral vision and keep it focused on the race. Some other hoods can be used to keep the horse’s head warm in cold climates. And the more common hood you’ll see is usually a fly mask, which keeps the horse’s face and head protected from bugs and the sun.
Can horses see through face masks?
Yes, horses can see through most face masks. A fly mask usually uses a mesh fabric that allows horses to see what they’re doing whilst their faces are being protected. The only times when a horse’s vision might be blocked are when it needs to wear a blindfold for things like being loaded into a trailer or when a full blinder cup is placed over one eye to stop the horse from drifting during a race.
Why do people blindfold horses?
Chances are, the masks that you see horses wearing are not actually blindfolds but are in fact fly masks. There are very few instances when horses need to be blindfolded and, when this is done, it’s also only for short periods of time such as getting a horse loaded into a trailer or during a medical procedure.