Horses and their human handlers are suffering a fly plague this summer, especially over the past few weeks with high heat and humidity – a fly sheet has become essential armour in the anti-fly arsenal.
A fly sheet (preferably combined with a face mask) is the only way to provide a physical barrier between your horse and flies or other biting, pesky insects that can, quite literally bug a horse to distraction, causing all sorts of behavioural, psychological and health problems.
With temperatures having hit record highs in recent weeks you may be reluctant to rug your horse when he’s already hot and sweaty, but fly sheets are breathable and designed for cool comfort. Choose the right fly sheet and even in the heat a horse will be more relaxed – and definitely safer from the effects of hot weather – when he’s protected by wearing one.
TYPES OF FLY SHEETS
There are all sorts of fly sheets available – some with built in bug spray and UV protection (great for light coloured horses prone to sunburn). Most allow rain to penetrate, and are made of soft materials with gussets that allow for free movement.
Even if you only use a fly sheet occasionally on exceptionally hot or bug-ridden days, it’s worth having one on hand.
When you’re considering investing in a fly sheet there are some factors to consider when making your choice:
Light colours are preferable because they reflect the heat away, and also camouflage your horse from some species of flying pests. Even just the movement of the sheet helps to deter flies from landing on the horse. You may have heard the claim that zebra-striped fly sheets are a natural deterrent for flies. While I can’t claim to have proof of this, it could certainly do no harm to disguise your horse as a zebra!
There’s a wide choice of fabrics, from thin floaty mesh that drapes softly to more durable and rigid fabrics. Whichever fabric you choose for a fly sheet remember the need for easy air penetration, and the mesh gauge should be fine enough to keep out the species of fly your horse is most troubled with.
When it comes to the style of a fly sheet, a lot depends on how susceptible your horse is to attacks by flies. A super-sensitive sweet itch sufferer will benefit from a fly sheet that gives all over protection, with neck pieces, tail covers, belly guards and leg wraps. Some horses though will be fine with a light sheet just covering the torso, with perhaps the addition of a fly mask on particularly buggy days. There are also fly sheets available that your horse can wear while out riding.
A good fit is extremely important for a fly sheet. Too big and the sheet will not stay in place, allowing flies to slip in or the sheet to be torn off and damaged; too small and it could rub and cause sores. Measure your horse carefully and check the size guide for the brand of fly sheet you choose. If your horse is between sizes, opt for the smaller size because most fly sheets have adjustable fasteners that allow for a bit of wriggle room. If a sheet is too big though you may not be able to adjust it to be small enough to fit well.
All in all, a fly sheet can make summer a pleasure rather than a pain for your horse, enabling him to enjoy his turn out and grazing without being pestered by flies.
If you need help choosing a fly sheet, or have any questions about the effectiveness, fit or care of fly sheets, don’t hesitate to ask us at Totally Tack – we’re happy to help.