Getting the right fly rug
If your horse is bothered or agitated by flies when they are in the field (or sometimes in the stable too) then you should consider getting them to wear a fly rug.
Normally designed for turnout, fly rugs can help keep most of the pesky flies away from your horse. Not only might this make life more comfortable for your horse in terms of reducing the flies’ access to them, they may also help keep your horse safe in the sun too.
What features should I expect a fly rug to have?
- Most fly rugs come with a neck, either attached or detachable, which will help make sure your horse is protected all over. Some will even have ear holes to help keep the neck of the rug in place.
- Typically fly rugs will come in light colours (to help reflect the rays of the sun). Any rug will offer some kind of UV protection but look for specific tested levels of UV protection if your horse really struggles in the sun. Any rug can help to limit ‘bleaching’ of your horse’s coat and light coloured rugs may help keep darker coloured horses cooler too. If you really struggle to prevent your horse’s coat being bleached by the sun then consider a ‘summer combo’ style rug made from a durable twill fabric.
- Most fly rugs are made from a woven, mesh like material which allows air to flow through but stops the flies biting. This type is suitable for most horses as it will generally be lightweight and cool.
- Some rugs are classified as ‘sweet-itch’ or ‘midge-proof’. These are typically made from a denser fabric that won’t allow the midges access. They inevitably are warmer rugs and maybe too hot for some horses in the warmest weather but they can be really beneficial from horses that suffer with the misery that is sweet-itch. On hot days you should make sure any horses that need these denser rugs are kept inside out of the sun (rug free!) or have plenty of access to shade if they’re in the field.
- Lots of fly rugs will now have belly flaps rather than the conventional cross-surcingles (that you’d see on most turnout rugs). These are designed to help protect your horse’s tummy from any flies who are clever or determined enough to get underneath them!
- Added extras to look out for are things such as: extra big tail flaps and super deep length. These all help to cover as much of the horse as possible.
- And if you’re really struggling with the challenges of the British weather (we’re sure it can be difficult elsewhere too!) You can also find hybrid rugs – typically a mesh rug with a waterproof panel along the back. These rugs are designed to help keep the worst of any summer showers off your horse’s back without leaving them to get too hot if the sun comes out again.
- Some rugs might come with a print (like zebra) that they claim can help repel flies. There has been some research to support this, suggesting that flies are less likely to land on striped areas, and anecdotally (from our own experiences) this does seem to be the case.
So I’ve chosen what type of fly rug I’m going to go for – is there anything else I should know before I buy one?
- Fly rugs are typically measured the same way as all other rugs. If you’re not sure what size rug your horse takes you can always watch our handy YouTube video here to show you how to measure your horse for a rug.
- Like all rugs they should be checked and removed regularly. Keep a close eye out for any signs that the rug might be causing discomfort and take them off to give your horse a once over and a groom at least once a day.
- If you horse is still bothered by flies in their stable then you can keep the fly rug on indoors too. Do whatevers best to make your horse as comfortable as possible.
- By their nature, mesh style fly rugs are less durable and more prone to tearing than standard turnout rugs so keep an eye out for any rips and try and repair them when they’re small. Imagine a fly rug like a pair of tights – if you get a hole there’s a good chance they’ll fray!
- Maybe also think about how good your horse is at keeping their rugs in one piece normally. If your horse is a bit of a rug wreaker look for tougher rugs (like the Weatherbeeta Comfitec Ripshield or the LeMieux Kudos Gladiator) or choose a sweet-itch version as these are likely to be more durable.
How to care for your fly rug
- Check and clean straps, fittings and stitching regularly;
- Keep rugs in a dry and airy place when not in use;
- Wash rugs at 30°C with a mild, non-biological soap and leave to line or drip dry – do NOT tumble dry or dry clean.