Introducing Fly-Masks to Young Horses – Discover The Reality

Walk past any large livestock animal in the summertime, and the next thing you know, you have swarms of little black buzzing things zooming around your head and bombarding your face. They get in your eyes, ears, nose, and throat. And the only way to get rid of them is to run away screaming faster than they can fly so they return to their more placid hosts.

Imagine being the more placid host.

Imagine a life where creepy crawlies arrive en masse to drink from the lush nectar that is your very own eye juice. And it is considered normal – if not acceptable, then certainly something you have become very much resigned to.

Welcome to the world of the horse.

But we know that it does not have to be like that. This is why we try our best to slaver them from tip to toe in sprays, creams, goos, gunks, unguents, and oils. Then top them off with gauzy rugs and silly masks.

We spend time on Facebook asking for, giving, disputing, and full-on falling-out-about advice on whether chemical or natural products are better.

We repeatedly explain to non-horsey friends and neighbours that yes the horse can see through the bag he has on his head and no he is not too hot with his rug on. Even though we just checked and, actually, he was a bit warm.

And before we can even start doing this to our horses for their own good we have to explain to them that it is for their benefit and please stop galloping off down the field. Please come back. Look. It does not kill. I now have on one my head.

I recently had reason to introduce 4 two-year-old Warmbloods to fly masks all at the same time. It was lots of fun. We did it in a classroom environment as part of an interactive Show and Tell session and it went a lot better than it could otherwise have done.

In the beginning, there was absolutely NO WAY I could even approach them with one of these beautiful new masks. They were far too bright and shiny and clean.

The babies would arrive one by one to snort at the chosen test mask but would skip merrily off down the field the second the mask looked like it was going to touch skin. The fact they had all seen me putting these dreadful devices onto the heads of all the adults made not one iota of difference.

Since these babies were not born on the farm and did not know if I could be trusted I decided to remedy that with some silliness.

Here are the steps I followed…

First Make Friends

Yes. I am lying on the floor under a tree letting a group of baby horses sniff and mouth me. Yes, I realize in retrospect this probably is not particularly safe. But we had a lot of fun and afterward, they totally changed their previous opinion of me to the point they trusted me completely.

It occurred to me that chasing them around the field trying to put a fly mask on a young flight animal was going to be counterproductive. Much more sense to harness the natural curiosity inherent in all young animals.

Watch the short (approx 3 mins) video below to see how we fared.

I did feel a little vulnerable in the beginning but two of the older mares positioned themselves at my head which made me feel a lot safer.

Thank you, girlies.

Turn the Fly Mask Into a Game

After establishing trust we were free to get even sillier. I did try to film this with my phone on a tripod but with about 13 horses milling around that was never going to be practical.

I need to invest in a Go-Pro or some other hands-free technological thingie. But this 1 minute (and 13 seconds) of video more than illustrates our journey.

To be honest, once the trust was in place getting a fly mask on the youngsters was no longer the issue.

Keeping the bloody thing on their heads was more of a problem.

Both the Shires masks and the Hy Equestrian ones are very good at staying on the heads of adult horses and horses that can keep their own heads out of the mouths of babes.

But everyone else’s mask-wearing head just became easy game turning into some sort of rag-it-about-pully-toy expressly created for the amusement of children.

I am saddened to say that one of the masks, although prettier, did not stand up to this treatment. Hardly surprising though. It did have about 600 kilos of horse plus whatever physics is involved when that weight is behind a determined set of teeth.

If you liked what you just read, and the videos made you chuckle, please comment below and share on social media.

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