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Horses are very rarely blindfolded. In the case of a life-threatening emergency such as a barn fire or if she is in severe and inclement weather, she might need to be blindfolded for a very short period. However, it is atypical for a horse to wear a blindfold for any length of time. Usually, when a horse appears to be blindfolded, particularly when she is in a field, she is actually wearing a fly mask.
Behind the Mask
Fly masks are lightweight devices made of fabric or mesh, which fit securely over a horse’s head. They are used to protect the face and eyes from fly or gnat bites. These insects not only cause your horse to experience discomfort, but they can spread disease through their bites. Many fly masks are relatively small, extending from the horse’s forehead to the point of their cheekbones, which may be why they are confused with blindfolds by casual observers. These partial masks may have ear coverings, although some are designed without them for horses who do not like to have their ears touched. Some horses benefit from a fly mask that covers their entire head, from their foreheads down to their nose.
Acclimating a Horse to a Fly Mask
Not all horses are comfortable with fly masks. Fearful horses should be acclimated gradually, rather than having the mask forced on them. Allowing the horse to sniff the mask or rubbing it on her face until she’s used to the smell and feel of it will help her understand that a fly mask is nothing to fear.
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