We don't like fly masks that squish the horse's eyelashes, let alone his eyes. He also needs to be able to see, and sometimes the eye darts block some of his vision. Some companies design the masks with darts that come from the top down, while others work from the bottom up.
We find the ones that work from the top down ? such as on the Equisential, Farnam, KD Western Works and Cashel masks ? tend to give us the best amount of room. Two other methods also appeal to us: The Kensington Bug Eye mask?s puffed-out bubble over the eye area and the ?poofy? light-mesh masks, which include Absorbine?s UltraShield EX and Schneider?s Mosquito Mask.
We believe the horses can see more clearly through these light-mesh masks (at least we can), and the tight weave also helps keep out the tiniest of bugs. Some people believe the lighter material is more prone to snagging, but we had no significant problems.
We like soft-covered ears, too, so the horse can move them freely. If your horse refuses to wear a mask with covered ears (must be he really likes gnats), opt for a fly mask with a single opening for the ears, like from Tuff Rider and KD Natural Look, over putting one ear in each hole.
Fly-mask manufacturers everywhere are trying to come up with something that cannot be removed by the horse or his buddy.
Double-lock hook-and-loop is popular, as it's not easy to open. Basically, it's giving you two ?hook ends? to put on either side of the ?loop? end of the closure, making it difficult for another horse to grab an end and pull it. Trust us, the incredibly durable Farnam SuperMask II takes a good bit of strength to open and close ? a real deterrent to a pesky horse.
Some masks have two closures, again a bit of extra work putting it on and taking it off, but the placement of the double closures on the UltraShield and the Mosquito Mesh masks does a super job closing up the jowel area so no flies crawl in.
Still, a single hook-and-loop closure is effective and easy. We simply fit that mask to a particular horse, mark his name on it with a Sharpie Laundry Marker, and cut off the excess fastener, so it closes properly. That leaves nothing extra hanging out for a buddy to tug.
We like longer masks that protect as much of the horse's face as possible, as we hate seeing flies crawling all over our horse's nose. In our chart, You'll find length estimates of ?regular,? which means it ends approximately at the noseband area; ?short,? which means its coverage ends a little higher than that; and ?long,? which means you're getting down to and/or over the nostrils. These ultra-long masks are good for protecting a horse with a snip from sunburn, but they do tend to get dirty faster than the rest of the mask.
A few masks give you both options by using a removable nose cover. If they?re going to offer a removable nose piece, we?d like the option of buying another one, so we can have one on the horse while we wash and clean the other one. We also want to be able to purchase a replacement if the horse comes back in without one (they attach with hook-and-loop).
Fleece edging is undoubtedly the most comfortable, but we sometimes wonder if it gets too warm. It does attract the most debris from the field.
Web is basically a binding to hold the mask together. It doesn't attract debris, and it's likely the coolest, but it isn?t soft.
Felt is like a much thinner fleece, so it doesn't grab as much debris as fleece nor is it as warm.
Because you never want to bind the fly mask too tightly, the edges aren?t a huge concern to us. Some believe the thicker fleece stops more flies from getting under the mask ? and maybe it does. We think it's important to check the masks daily for stuck flies, rubs and tears.
New to this trial are ?leading? hooks/loops from KD Western Works and Absorbine. The UltraShield has a red loop sewn into one of the closures that you can just snap a shank on. We wouldn?t want to try to handle a rambunctious horse with this, but for just bringing Nelly in from the field, it is easier than holding onto the mask itself.
The KD Catch Mask has a cut-out in its closure so you can snap a rope on it and lead the horse. they've purposely designed this mask to function like a halter. It works fine, but you do need to line up the closure properly and use a snap with a mouth wide enough to go through the opening. The closure appears strong and should hold well, and we could lead a horse using it.
KD also offers Natural Look colors on its masks, something they believe make other horses not mess with their buddy?s masks. We're not sure about that, but Farnam also offers a similar color-choice package with its ShimmerWeave. they've added some exotic-covered fleece, like lynx and cheetah.
When all is said and done, the color, the material ? even with or without ears ? don't outweigh one big thing: the fit. For us, the masks that have more shape to them seem to do a better job keeping flies out, letting horses look like horses and for overall comfort.
The shaped masks in this trial included the Cashel Crusader, Dover?s Rider?s International and Professional?s Choice Equisential. However, only Cashel has the added bonus of the forelock hole, making it our top choice. Best Buy was a tough call, but we give the nod to the durable Equisential mask.