Increasing concerns over environmental issues has led to a surge in non-chemical protection against flies. Our desire to reduce the use of sprays has prompted the retail industry to develop a wide variety of summer sheets.
We want a summer fly sheet that protects against flies and is cool, lightweight, stays put, is easy to put on and take off, and doesn’t rub the horse’s thin summer coat. In wet climates, we also appreciate a sheet that will repel rain, dry quickly, and help decrease the chance of bacterial skin disorders. It needs to breathe.
Design makes a difference, too. The block fit design, which is sometimes referred to as the “European cut,” features a high neck, well in front of the withers. The traditional cutback design can ride back, causing a tight wedge between the withers and chest and chafing. However, a traditional cut might be preferable for an oversized horse with a burly shoulder, since the Euro cut might be too snug across the chest.
We divided our test sheets into two groups by material, vinyl and poly-blend. The vinyl group includes the registered trade name Textilene and varying combinations of nylon, polyvinyl chloride, and polyester. Textilene, a high-tech fabric commonly seen in outdoor furniture, is a high-strength polyester yarn coated with vinyl and treated with antimicrobial additives to resist mildew.
The vinyl materials are stiff but rugged. The material floats above the horse rather than draping, and we found that because it doesn’t drape, horses stay cool despite the sheet’s heavier weight.
The poly-blend group includes 100% polyester and cotton/poly blends. The softer, lighter poly blends fold, pack, wash and fit over a stall-door rack easier than the vinyl.
For around the barn, ringside at a show and for light turnout, we recommend the softer, easy-to-handle poly blends. For horses that will live out in the sheet all summer long, we prefer the more durable vinyls. We recommend light-colored sheets for turnout in the sun, despite that darker colors will show fewer stains.
Bucas Buzz-off Classic
The Bucas Buzz-off is an Irish-made blend of soft, fine, polyester mesh. The fine weave is effective against black flies, gnats, mosquitoes and culicoides, but our model didn’t survive extensive turnout. We found the chest dimensions disproportionately small and tight, resulting in multiple repairs to the chest and shoulder area. We’d prefer a nylon backing, or at least the mesh doubled, behind the heavy two-inch strapping with the T-hook. (When we contacted Bucas about this problem, they stated a shoulder dart has now been added.) We found the leg strap D was too narrow for the head of the plastic snap and difficult to attach. The drapey Euro cut offers generous sizing and a huge 39-inch drop. $135.
Bucas Buzz-off High Neck
This model is the same as the Buzz- off Classic, but with a full neck sewn in. The full neck made it cumbersome for easy on/off at ringside, but covers more of the horse for turnout. $159.
The Wilsun Solarscrim is a drapey 50/50 poly-cotton blend, designed as an attractive show sheet. Our model was navy, which seemed hot but camouflaged stains well. The lengthy surcingles and doubled trim were pretty, but our testers would forgo them to reduce the sheet’s weight. As strictly a show sheet, it can be — and should be — ordered without the surcingles. The fit was traditional and contoured, while the leg straps and chest closures offered ample range in length. $89.
Saratoga Summer Turnout
Saratoga is tops in the “light, cool” department. With plastic side-pinch buckles and one-inch leg straps, this traditional-cut polyester mesh was engineered to make light weight a priority. For durability, the poly mesh is doubled at the chest and stress points, and the single surround belly surcingle is well-placed. The light leg straps anchor into the belly surcingle. Overall, this light sheet was surprisingly rugged. Our only complaint was minor: We’d like it sized a bit more generously with a higher neck. $59.90.
The Saratoga Oasis is a tighter, heavier poly mesh. The two Saratoga sheets are identical in cut, fit and strapping, but we found the Oasis fabric hotter. We recommend the Oasis for more northern climes with gnat, mosquito or culicoide problems. When the temperature spikes over the 90-degree mark, we prefer the Saratoga Summer Turnout. $105.
Norman Equine Designs Beautiful Tails
Norman’s Beautiful Tails fly sheet is a fine, light and durable poly mesh, but we found the cut disproportionately long in relation to the sewn chest and hook-and-loop belly band. The non-removable hind leg straps were too short for our test horses, and the plastic snaps didn’t wear well. Hood is not sold separately. $120.
Triple Crown All-In-One Sheet
This cotton/poly blend is an attractive day or show sheet with a tight weave that can double as a light cooler, hence it’s “all-in-one” name. However, we found the neck a bit disproportionately snug, and the fabric puckered after repeat washings. Plus, it’s pricey. $154.95
Wilsun’s Textilene is the thinnest and most pliable of all the vinyl fabrics we tested. We loved the boxy cut. It rode high and forward, and the fleece points on the neck minimized rubbing. Well-placed tail darts helped keep the sheet from twisting. The 37-inch drop was generous, and this sheet’s cut and fit were a big plus. We did make early repairs to the fabric behind the neck banding, but we decided it was a fair trade-off for the thinner, lighter Textilene. The tail flap refused to lie straight, but we cut it off and salvaged it as patching material. We prefer T-hooks on the chest closures, but the fabric was reinforced behind the dual strap and buckle. Stains laundered out well, but the mesh puckered after repeat washings. $69.95.
Schneiders Dura-Mesh tested well, washed well, and proved indestructible under strong Southern sun. However, we prefer a Euro-cut higher neck over this sheet’s laid-back shoulders, which were nicely offset by adjustable neck darts, called Adjusta Fit. Horses with necks and chests,such as heavier/draft breeds, might benefit from this design. On lighter breeds, we found the sheet rode back and chafed the withers. The two-inch-wide hind-leg straps were over engineered with too-long elastic inserts that restricted adjustability. We prefer T-hooks at the chest closure instead of the dual buckles and that the holes have grommets to protect against fraying and stretching. $69.95.
Horseware Rambo Flybuster
We liked this sheet’s boxy Euro cut and slightly more pliable fabric. However, the chest closure gaped open and snagged. The swivel snaps on our model jammed, and the belly surcingles were a bit short. Tail loops can be unpopular with mare owners, as they get soaked with urine. The tail snaps caught hair, and we found the tail drop unnecessary. This sheet comes with a built-in full neck, which would be better as a detachable accessory. The extensive hook-and-loop sandwich on the neck added to a time-consuming nine closures, a tough sell in a busy barn. $149.95.
Classic Cover-ups Horses In Black
The Horses In Black (HIB) sheet combines light Tex tilene with a definitive Euro cut. We liked the nylon-lined chest to minimize rubs, the large T-hooks with elastic inserts, and the smooth, light nylon edging. The elastic butt strap was effective in this well-balanced cut, but mare owners might not like this feature. The surcingles were attached low, a good weight compromise, with all stitching reinforced by nylon. The cut and generous drop (39-inch) was darted just right for minimal shift. This sheet washed well and stood up to plenty of abuse. We loved everything but the price tag (it’s made in USA). $133.50.
Classic Cover-ups Big Kahuna
The Big Kahuna offers the same solid design features and tough Textilene fabric as the HIB, but with a more contoured, traditional cut. Instead of crossed surcingles and single butt strap, the Big Kahuna features a single surcingle and independent leg straps. This design is well suited for a more active horse, the HIB design for the quiet grazer. $139.95.
EEG Everest Extreme UV And Fly Sheet
The EEG Everest Extreme is a rugged Textilene sheet with a European cut that stayed well forward. The roomy fit seemed to lie easily over a wide variety of horses, and our Blackwatch plaid model camouflaged stains without seeming hot. All strapping offered generous dimensions with reinforced connections. This sheet withstood our toughest equine testers and still looked great after regular washings. The only thing on our wish list is T-hooks at chest closure instead of the dual five-hole strapping, which takes a bit longer to do up. $79.95.
Glover 301B Textilene
The Glover 301-B was extremely durable, but we prefer the European style fit over this traditional cut-back shoulder and modest (34-inch) drop. On the hind leg straps, we found the stiff metal spring snap hard to seat, and the two-inch strapping heavier than we believed necessary. (Glover tells us the snaps have been changed.) The cutback shoulder rubbed withers and the associated strain at chest closure caused the grommet-less holes to stretch. $85.
We tested two different cuts of the Royal Riders Textilene sheets, a standard cut and Quarter Horse cut. Even on Quarter Horses, we preferred the standard cut because it stayed high and forward better, even on horses with deeper builds and chests. The two-inch hind leg straps were wide. We recommend purchasing the model with detachable straps (a special order). Although we wish the chest closure, a pair of leather-reinforced grommets with nylon buckle loops, had a keeper, this sheet’s fabric and design earned very high marks on durability after a season of heavy use and machine washing. There was minimal puckering. $119.
This unique strapping design is great for the “Houdini” horse that manages to twist and tangle clothing. It stays straight, but you need to get used to the system. The complex on/off design may not be the best choice in a busy boarding stable with rotating employees. The semi-custom fit rides nice and high above the wither, with a boxy rear cut and an average drop (35 inches). This rugged Textilene sheet held up well, but stains were stubborn. $149.
The Kensington 2002 Protective Sheet is a heavy Textilene model that survived much abuse. The plaid camouflaged stains, and the interior clip-buckle surcingles can be replaced with a hook-and-loop belly square ($16.99), a nice option for horses bothered by midline skin disorders. This model also has a separate neck piece for $49.99. The nylon-lined chest minimized rubs but added weight and heat when it was over 90 degrees. The holes frayed on the double nylon strap chest closure, and we’d prefer T-hooks here. The removable hind leg straps could be a bit longer. $129.99; Euro-cut style $149.99.
We love it when the winner is also the Best Buy. The Saratoga Summer Turnout, at $59.90, takes both top ribbons in the poly-blend group. It’s rugged, yet lightweight, and we like its single, well-placed belly surcingle.
In the vinyls, the Classic Cover-ups is outstanding in fit and engineering, but we can’t justify the price. The EEG Everest Extreme is our top pick, with the Wilson Textilene claiming the Best Buy award.
Contact Your Tack Store Or: Bucas 011-353-21-4312200, www.bucas.com; Wilsun Horse Clothing 800/942-5567, www.wilsunblankets.com; Saratoga Horseworks 800/848-1914, www.horseworks.com; Norman Equine Design 501/938-7009, www.horse-blankets.com; Triple Crown/Horseware Ireland, 800/887-6688, www.triplecrowncustom.com or www.horseware.com; Schneiders 800/365-1311, www.sstack.com; Classic Cover-ups 610/932-9400, www.classiccover-ups.com; Miller’s/EEG 800/526-6310, www.millerharness.com; Glover Equine Products 204/534-7050, www.gloverequine.com; Royal Riders 800/437-6676, www.royalriders.com; Chaskit 800/456-7408, www.chaskit.com; Kensington Protective Products 909/469-1240.