Summer is a welcome time for riders, an opportunity to spend long, sunny days with your horse after the cold and dark of the winter months and a chance for your horse to spend all day every day in the field. But for horses, summer spells flies and managing the irritation and nuisance of flies is a daily challenge which every horse owner is only too familiar with.
Protecting your horse with wearable fly equipment is something most horse owners opt for; fly sprays seem to have a limited effect and even if they work, they don’t always last for more than a few hours. An actual physical barrier against biting flies and other insects is something you can rely on 100% especially if your horse lives out for the summer and requires continuous protection day and night.
As well as fly rugs and fly masks, you can now purchase fly boots for horses which also have several possible alternative and practical functions other than simple use in just a pasture environment. Fly boots are becoming increasingly popular amongst horse owners as the next development in summer stable care.
You can use fly boots in front or behind depending on your horse’s needs or, all round. They can be particularly useful for horses who tend to rub their hind legs one on the other when they get itchy and sore. Horses can wear them in the field, in the stable and when they are out and about at equestrian events and competitions.
What should you look for when buying the best fly boots for your horse?
- Choose a tough fabric which can withstand the behaviour of your horse – some horses are more destructive than others and always seem to be tearing or losing their fly equipment
- The material the fly boots are made from should be flexible enough to fit the contours of your horse’s legs without chafing or rubbing but also sufficiently sturdy to accommodate a range of movement. Stiff and rigid materials can rub if they don’t hug the leg adequately and also flies or other insects could fall between the fly boot and the horse’s leg, becoming trapped
- The boots should be made of a breathable fabric as it is important not to overheat the vital soft tissue structures of the horse’s lower leg; these boots could be on your horse’s legs for several hours. Does the fabric wick away moisture and sweat and keep the horse’s legs cool?
- Good fly boots should have sufficient secure fastenings to keep them in place particularly if the horse is at grass 24/7 – focus on the style of the closing tab as this can not only make your life easier but some designs better help the fly boot hug the contours of the horse’s leg
- What kind of edging does the boot have? Many fly boots feature a soft sheepskin fleece finish which is designed to provide maximum comfort for the horse and prevent rubbing and chafing and also deter flies, other insects and debris from becoming trapped between the fly boot and the horse’s leg
- What level of UV protection does the fly boot offer? A good level to look for is between 70%-75%
- Some boots can pre-treated with an insect repellent, is this suitable for your horse’s skin or does he have skin which is super sensitive to chemical products?
- Can you put the fly boots in the washing machine or are they only manufactured to withstand hosing? Sometimes it can be necessary to clean the fly boots more thoroughly as they can become ingrained with grass and manure stains and also coated in dirt and pollen particles which a quick hose through will not always remove
- Find a brand with a comprehensive range of sizes particularly if your horse is traditionally difficult to fit for legwear. Some fly boots are only available as a four-pack and depending on your horse’s conformation, you may require a manufacturer who sells in pairs if your horse is cob size in front for instance and full size behind. Some makes will offer a full specification size chart with the actual sizing of the boots to make it easier for you to take your own measurements and find exactly the right fit
Best fly boots for 2020
- Professional’s Choice Value Pack Fly Boots – a heavy-duty mesh fly boot which is uniquely breathable with a UV protective nylon mesh that resists wrinkles and staining. The flexible material combined with the contoured shaping means a snug fit which is not overly tight or restrictive with fleece lining for optimal comfort and protection from rubbing. The mesh is made from polyester which is incredibly tough and durable with rip-stop technology to stand up to the rough and tumble of field life but without compromising on comfort. Sold as a four-pack
- Shires Airflow Turnout Socks, Lightweight Mesh Horse Fly Boots – crafted from a lightweight airy mesh fabric to keep legs cool at all times, these fly boots will still protect against flies and other insect bites. Ergonomically shaped to maximise your horse’s comfort, Shires Airflow Turnout Socks come in multiple sizes for different breeds. Three strong Velcro straps will keep them in place and they feature fleece padding for extra comfort to minimise the chances of any rubbing or chafing and to keep them snug against the horse’s legs. Sold as a pack of four
- Cashel Crusader Horse Fly Protection Leg Guards – Cashel’s Leg Guards offer complete protection from both biting flies and the sun which is perfect for pink-skinned horses or horses which suffer from sun sensitivity on their lower limbs. Cashel has perfected its design to prevent slipping and sagging which can be dangerous for the horse and also cause rubbing and sore areas. The unique hook and loop closing fittings allow you to adjust the fit to suit your horse’s legs. Available in a wide range of sizes and some stunning colours – vibrant pink, blue and orange as well as the standard grey
- Harrison Howard Fly Boots – made from high quality, super fine mesh to protect the leg from bites without overheating it. The sports mesh fabric ensures an even distribution of air but is tough and durable whilst a reinforced nylon strap prevents the boots from slipping with its easy touch and go closure, snug and secure without being overtight which can be the problem with some other types of fastening styles. Fleece edging prevents gapping where insects could enter the boot and also ensures that there is no rubbing or sore areas
- Tough-1 Zebra Mesh Fly Boots – zebra patterning is all the rage for fly rugs as studies have shown that the black and white striped pattern deters flies from landing on horses. Now you can buy Zebra Fly Boots in the same funky design. With fleece edging for a secure fit and added comfort plus three ‘quick-grip’ closures making them super fast and easy to take on and off, Tough-1 Zebra Mesh Fly Boots contour easily to the shape of your horse’s legs
- Kensington Fleece Trimmed Fly Boots – these boots feature special ‘Stay-Up’ technology which allows for mobility without slipping and three Velcro straps to secure the boots. The material is Textilene, specially created to withstand wear and tear, stains and fading. The permeable woven mesh is 78% breathable whilst blocking around 73% of the sun’s rays. There is a comprehensive range of sizes and six striking colours. Kensington Fly Boots are sold in pairs rather than a set of four which does make them more expensive but it is easier to bespoke your sizing if your horse is a different size in front to behind
- Shoo Fly Leggins – available in hot pink, orange or blue, Shoo Fly Leggins are made from a chemical-free plastic mesh which is flexible but will not sag or crumple due to their unique sewn-in plastic stays. Shoo Fly Leggins are quick and easy to fit with Velcro fasteners and are breathable keeping your horse’s legs cool all day long without impeding movement. Shoo Fly Leggins come in a pack of four and there are comprehensive measurements available to help you choose the right size
- Saxon Fly Leg Wraps – four fine nylon mesh leg wraps with quick touch tape closures for easy use and fleece edging to prevent rubbing and ensure a snug fit
- Horseware Ireland Amigo Fly Boots – Horseware Amigo Fly Boots offer protection against both the harmful UV rays of the sun and shield against biting insects with a tough polyester Airmesh outer layer yet are soft and flexible enough to contour the horse’s leg. The fabric offers good airflow to prevent the legs from overheating and has fleece edging to secure a snug fit and stop flies or other debris from becoming trapped between the boot and the horse’s leg
- Weatherbeeta Insect Shield Mesh Wraps – from the tried and trusted name of Weatherbeeta, the Weatherbeeta Insect Shield Mesh Wraps are made from a tough, light fabric which features a unique Insect Shield Repellent Technology originally designed by the military and used successfully on other outdoor apparel for sports and camping. This lasts for around 25 washings. Fitted with a fleece pad for optimal comfort, they also feature 70% UV protection and have elastic touch tape closures which sit across the front of the leg to ensure a proper snug fit
- Horseware Rambo Fly Boots with Vamoose – made from an air mesh body with a Vamoose treated fleece binding as an extra layer of deterrent against flies and other biting insects. Vamoose is a manmade insect control which is impregnated into the fleece. It is based on Permetherine which occurs naturally in some types of Chrysanthemum flower. These boots are fully breathable to ensure the horse’s leg remains at a cool temperature whilst also offering protection against harmful UV. The Horseware Rambo Fly Boots have a contoured fit and a secure closing system. Sold as a set of four
- Premier Equine Horse Pro-Tech Bug and Fly Boots – created from a 3D ducted sports mesh, these boots promote airflow to keep your horse’s legs cool on the hottest of days whilst also protecting them against midge and fly bites. Pro-Tech Bug and Fly Boots are sold in pairs allowing you to alter the sizes from the front legs to the hinds, useful if your horse is not the same size all round. There is a smooth face to the inner fabric with a design that shapes to the contours of the tendon area and fetlock joint. These boots are stylish and effective with easy fastenings which are secure and quick to fit. Machine washable at 30 degrees
What are the different uses for fly boots?
- Fly boots are a good addition for horses standing in during the day and who don’t need a fly rug but are still pestered by flies on their legs causing them to stamp and stomp. Persistent stamping can cause damage to the horse’s hooves as well as other vital structures within the foot and even loosen the horse’s shoes. The concussive effect of persistent stomping and stamping which can last for hours has even been known to cause some horses to throw a splint
- If you need to tie your horse up for a purpose such as shoeing or plating or for the vet, fly boots can help encourage him to stand still when he needs to as it removes the constant tickling, irritation and biting from stable flies – it’s amazing how much trouble just one fly can cause a horse in the stable
- Fly boots can prevent bot flies from laying eggs on your horse’s legs and causing a larval infestation
- Use fly boots when you are about and about at competitions, events and clinics. They are great to put on when you remove your horse’s travel boots or bandages. They will keep the legs both clean and cool and stop the irritation from flies whilst your horse is tied up to the lorry or trailer
- Fly boots are a useful layer of added fly defence if your horse has to move to pasture which is unduly fly heavy, perhaps because there is standing water nearby or some other fly attraction. Some locations are just prone to having more flies than others
- Fly boots offer great protection from the effects of direct sunlight for pink-skinned horses with white socks. Most brands use fabrics which protect against at least 75% of the UV from the sun’s rays
- If you need to leave a cut or scrape on the horse’s leg uncovered to allow the air to reach it and promote healing then a fly boot is a great solution with its breathable fabric. Keep flies at bay who will be attracted to the wound and introduce infection
How to use and care for fly boots
Some horses can react to larger boots that encase more of the leg like travel boots or fly boots so introduce the fly boots in the stable at first. Begin with the front set and then when the horse is comfortable, introduce the hinds. Some horses will not react to them at all.
Make sure you take the fly boots off regularly to check for rubs and other injuries or lumps and bumps which may otherwise remain hidden. If your horse is out at grass permanently then this should be at least once in every 24-hour period. It can be possible for an insect or some other foreign body to work its way under the boot in the same way that small insects can on occasion penetrate fly rugs. You should regularly check all the equipment that your horse is wearing when out at grass including fly masks and headcollars.
All the featured fly boots can be washed through quite simply with a hose and some are also suitable for a low-temperature machine wash which can remove more stubborn grass and manure stains and promote good hygiene.
Comprehensive fly protection for your horse
As a staple of your horse’s summer wardrobe, fly boots will prove to be a great addition. Many owners buy fly boots from the same manufacturer of their fly rug if they are confident in the product or want a matching look. The best fly boots are the ones that protect your horse and fit comfortably and securely. As with rugs, you may find a particular make suits your horse better than some of the others. Use fly boots alongside a fly rug and fly face mask to optimise your horse’s protection from biting insects this summer.