Flies live to eat and to
procreate. Horses and their habitat can provide a perfect medium for both of these
activities. While wild horses can take evasive action like mud baths or running
to escape pesky fly hordes, domestic horses are often at the mercy of flies.
why our horses need all the help we can give them. Fly populations can be reduced
by using fly traps, insect predators, misting systems, and good management practices.
Fly spray applied to horses will give varying degrees of relief for a limited
time. Fly gear can provide non-chemical fly protection and it can be used on horses
in stalls or pens, out on pasture, or while you are riding.
horse clothing should fit the horse, be appropriate for the horses activity
and for his environment. A flysheet is very versatile and the number one item
in a horses summer wardrobe.
There are basically two
types of flysheetsscrim sheets for use on stalled horses, and turnout sheets
for horses in pens or pastures.
A scrim sheet is usually made
of lightweight cotton or nylon mesh and is fit more like a coolerquite loosely.
This makes it unsuitable for turnout but it works quite well for keeping flies
off a well-groomed horse in a clean stall. An added benefit is that it acts as
an anti-sweat sheet, which minimizes fly attraction.
the most popular flysheet is the turnout style made of the same type of mesh fabric
that covers your lawn chairs (see sidebar). It not only keeps a horses body
fly free, but it also protects the horses coat from the sun and helps keep
The mesh fabric of any flysheet tends to groom
a horses hair coat as he moves, massaging natural skin oils into the hair
without roughening a short summer coat. But an ill-fitting turnout flysheet or
one left on a horse too long can act like sandpaper, removing patches of hair
and even creating sores.
The two places most likely to be
rubbed are the point of the shoulder and the mane at the withers. Some poorly
designed sheets have seams right at point of the shoulder, which can exacerbate
hair loss. A smooth fabric lining is used by some manufacturers to reduce friction,
but it wont necessarily prevent hair loss if the sheet fits poorly.
sheet with a large, sloping neck opening, if not fitted properly, can fall behind
the withers and then be stretched tight between the withers and the point of shoulder,
causing friction when the horse moves and pressure when he puts his head down.
A sheet with a smaller, more upright neck opening, if properly fitted, tends to
stay forward on the horse and is less likely to rub. Some horses, however, especially
those with long sloping shoulders and prominent shoulder point, seem to lose hair
at their shoulders no matter which sheet is used. Keep a close watch on your horse
the first couple of days hes wearing a sheet to make sure that it fits properly
and is not creating bald spots.
Turnout flysheets are inherently
stiffer than cotton or nylon scrims, and if they are well designed and fitted
properly, they tend to stay centered on a horse better without relying on snug
surcingles or leg straps. Its customary to cross or intertwine hind leg
straps on winter blankets to keep the straps from rubbing the inside of the hind
legs. But during fly season, not crossing the hind leg straps will allow the horse's
tail to swing more freely between the legs (and get those pesky flies on the belly)
without getting snagged on or tangled in the straps.
leg straps are less likely to break than are nylon straps during exercise or rolling.
Detachable leg straps are nice because they can be washed separately and can be
easily replaced if damaged.
The most secure blanket front is
a closed front, one thats sewn together or made of one piece of material.
The strongest closure is a grommet front that fastens by threading small nylon
straps through metal grommetsbut its difficult and time-consuming
to use. Its easier just to leave it fastened and slip the sheet over the
horse's head to put it on and off, like you would a closed front. But this requires
the horse to stand still untied and a stiff mesh sheet can be tricky to take over
a horses head. A buckle front blanket (surcingles, tongue, side-release)
is more convenient to take on and off, especially if youll be removing the
sheet daily, which is a good idea.
fabric: Polyester Mesh
If the mesh fabric of your
turnout fly gear looks familiar its probably because its been used
in lawn and marine furniture since the 1960s. The fabric is woven of polyester
yarns that are covered with vinyl or PVC (polyvinyl chloride is the same type
of plastic used for horse fencing). The two brands most commonly used for fly
gear are Textilene®, the original product developed by the Twichell company,
and Phifertex® made by Phifer Wire Company. Textilene®, a trade name,
has become a proprietary eponym, the word commonly used to describe all open weave
Woven polyvinyl is resistant to UV
rays and its open weave makes it ideal for flysheets. It comes in a wide range
of patterns and colors, including blaze orange. Unlike a solid sheet, it keeps
a horse cooler by allowing body heat out and cool air in. And if a horse gets
wet from rain or sweat, the sheet and the horse dry quickly. The durability, toughness,
and tear-resistance of woven polyvinyl make flysheets especially good for turnout,
and for a young horses first blanket. They can also be used over other sheets
or blankets to protect them from damage.
The larger the yarn
and the tighter a fabrics mesh (more yarns per square inch), the stronger
it is and the more UV rays it will blockbetter sun protection. Mesh with
finer yarns and a looser mesh, on the other hand, is lighter and cooler and when
used for a fly mask will allow the horse to see better.
turnout flysheet will keep your horse clean to some extent and minimize grooming
before tacking up. But don't expect him to stay as clean as with a solid blanket
or sheetan open weave flysheet allows dirt and dust to come right through
to the horse's coat when he rolls.
Even though woven polyvinyl fabrics
are stain and mildew resistant, they will get dirty from a horse rolling in manure
and from normal skin secretions. If a sheet is dirty but not stained, hosing it
off may be all thats needed. A more thorough cleaning can be done in a washing
machine on regular cycle with warm to hot wash water using detergent. Hot water
softens the material so it can be agitated better and also helps dissolve body
oils from the horse. Adding 1/2 cup of bleach wont harm the mesh, but it
might affect the trim. Check the care tag on each item.
tough dirt and stains, lay the sheet on a concrete surface and scrub it with a
stiff brush or broom and hot sudsy water. Be sure to rinse out every bit of detergent
to prevent irritation to your horses skin. Woven polyvinyl will air dry
very quickly and a flysheet can go back on a horse usually within 30 minutes after
2006 Cherry Hill ©