Part of the essential wardrobe for summer fly protection is a fly rug for your horse. Irritation and bites from horse flies and other insects can make your horse’s life a misery and can even prove dangerous for horses who suffer from allergic reactions or who might injure themselves in an attempt to get away from persistent fly predation. We take a look at the best fly rugs this season to keep your horse bite-free and happy in the field.
Most fly rugs are variations on a standard format and consist of:-
- The main section which covers the body
- A neck section which may be integral to the main rug with an elasticated section to allow the horse to stretch his neck down to graze or a neckpiece which can be detachable
- A belly section which is often detachable and protects the underside of the horse with buckle or Velcro fittings on both sides of the rug
- A tail flap
The style and cut of the rug are what really dictates the fit but there are certain features you may want to look out for if you have a rug destroyer or a horse with sensitive skin. Most horse owners will add to this a fly mask which covers the ears and the eyes and some fly rugs have a loop at the top of the neck section behind the horse’s ears which will allow you to attach the rug to the fly mask or a headcollar.
Fly rugs can be hot so either turn the horse out at night when it is cooler and there are fewer flies anyway or choose a rug in a breathable fabric. There is also ride on versions of these fly rugs which attach to the saddle and offer the horse barrier protection from the flies whilst he is being ridden. For horses which suffer from seasonal allergies, some manufacturers specialise in Sweet Itch Rugs which can be identified usually by their complete coverage, their superior fit and the price.
Here are this season’s Top 10 Best Fly Rugs.
- Horseware Ireland Mio Fly Rug – in a smart bronze/navy colour, this fly rug from Horseware is made from a knitted polyester material with an integrated hood, shaped front leg arches for added comfort and cross surcingles. The material is soft and flexible unlike some fly rugs which can have a stiffer almost coarse feeling to the fabric so it has a looser fit whilst still remaining snug enough against the horse not to allow flies to squeeze inside. The lining material is soft and comfortable. The Horseware Ireland Mio Fly rug has classic front closures with generous width across the chest and a supersized tail flap with a silky lining so the top of the tail is not rubbed, all held in place with a fillet string.
2. Derby House Classic Fly Rug – this is a lightweight rug made from a 150 denier polyester with a mesh outer layer. The Derby House Classic Fly Rug offers great coverage with a securely fitting belly section and non-rub features on the crest and shoulders which have a 210D nylon lining. There are touch and close loop fastenings on the neck which makes it quick and easy to put on and take off and double buckle chest fastenings which allow you to choose the fit to suit your horse. There is a thoughtful Lyrca insert over the withers which is typically where rubs can occur particularly on Thoroughbred types who can have a prominent wither. This rug has been designed to promote freedom of movement with shoulder gussets as well as leg straps to keep it secure so it will protect against flies as well as lasting the course even for those horses who like to mess about in the field. Available in a silver and red combo.
3. Weatherbeeta Comfitec Essential Mesh II Combo Neck Fly Rug – this fly rug from Weatherbeeta is available in an eye-catching duck print with a smart contrasting green trim and is a super stylish fly rug made from a soft mesh. It features a 210T nylon lining at the shoulders and the mane and tail to protect against rubs. It has the crucial twin adjustable buckle front closures so you can adjust the fit to suit your horse’s width and comfort and with touch tape closures. This rug features side gussets for ease of movement, low fitting crossover surcingles which help to protect against strain and tearing which can be a feature on rugs with higher fittings. There is a large tail flap and adjustable and removable leg straps for horses which don’t mess about. The duck print is very attractive and makes this a good choice if you are out and about at events and competitions and want to use a fly rug to protect your horse whilst he travels.
4. Rhinegold Zebra Print Full Neck Fly Rug – in a design unique to Rhinegold, the Zebra Print Full Neck Fly Rug features a new side skirt feature for maximum movement and to help minimise accidental rips and tears. There is complete belly coverage with an extra secure Velcro and surcingle closure. Elasticated front shoulder pleats preventing rubbing and sore spots as the horse moves and grazes and there is an additional stretch material over the withers which is also waterproof to promote comfort with no bulky seam. The Rhinegold Zebra Print Full Neck Fly Rug has an oversize and waterproof tail guard and legs straps to keep the rug secure. There is a loop at the top of the neck section to attach the rug to the headcollar if desired. The Zebra print design has shown some very promising results in its ability to repel flies compared to the more traditional colours available.
5. Mark Todd Air Mesh Combo Fly Rug – this is a lightweight multi-purpose summer rug which protects against the sun and biting insects so can be used in the field, in the stable or when travelling. It is made from cotton combined with an open weave mesh outer layer which is both functional and stylish allowing the circulation of air whilst also affording essential UV protection. This rug has nylon shoulder protection and a gusseted tail flap with adjustable leg straps to ensure the horse can move and the rug does not. The front closure has two front buckles with hook and loop fastening and there are three hook and loop fastening straps on the belly flap. The neck fittings have clickable neck tabs.
6. Shires Tempest Combo Full Neck Fly Rug – a clever design which protects the horse against biting flies and insects whilst also keeping him cool using a unique UV reflective fabric. The seamless neck design and lining to the chest help minimise rubbing and the chest straps are buckled which allows you to adjust the sizing to fit your horse. The crossover surcingles and fillet string are also adjustable and the rug features a generous tail flap. The upper fabric of this rug is 80% UV protective.
7. Jumpers Horse Line Unisex Jhl Essential Fly Rug Combo Blue – a lightweight rug made from a breathable fabric with a tough tight weave outer mesh to protect against snagging and tearing. Adjustable front buckles will accommodate a range of chest sizes and there are hook and loop fastenings on the neck. Low fitting surcingles are less prone to stretching the fabric over the horse’s barrel which can eventually cause fraying and tearing and there is a gusseted tail flap for a premium fit and a fillet string to keep it in place. This rug is available in a cool blue colour which is slightly more tolerant of dirt and grass stains than the usual white or silver.
8. Saxon Mesh with Gusset Belly Wrap Combo Neck Ladybird Print – a fine mesh outer provides protection from biting insects during the summer months. Shoulder gussets allow for freedom of movement and minimise rubbing and the rug has twin surcingles with an adjustable belly wrap. The ladybird design is eye-catching to look at but does not appeal to flies.
9. Busse Strong Eczema Combo Fly Rug – this rug is aimed at horses with skin allergies like Sweet Itch but your horse doesn’t have to have Sweet Itch to still struggle with biting flies. This rug is made from a breathable and quick-drying polyester mix, it is also UV resistant. The fabric is soft and perfectly cut because it is designed to be on horses almost permanently throughout the spring and summer so Busse has paid great attention to the quality of the fit. The Busse Combo Fly Rug has an elastic gusset in the shoulder area for freedom of movement and the piece over the top of the withers is padded with soft fleece. The neck is fully integrated so there are no potential gaps but it is also adjustable at the base of the neck/top of the shoulder. There is also no gapping at the top of the neck in the poll area and there are further adjustments available here as well to ensure a perfect snug fit. The belly flap is adjustable with triple, elastic surcingles and the chest strap is also adjustable. Busse has worked very hard to ensure that the fit of this rug is both optimal and comfortable. There are also elasticated and adjustable leg straps and an extra-large tail flap. The Busse Strong Eczema Combo Fly Rug is available in a range of colours which is not always the case with fly rugs ranging from silver through different shades of blue to Anthracite.
10. Amigo Vamoose Evolution Fly Rug – the Amigo Vamoose Evolution Fly Rug is described as a technical Fly Rug which is designed to offer added protection from flies and other biting insects. This is because it is pre-treated with Vamoose insect control technology. This fly rug has a strong, knitted polyester net body with sun reflecting properties. The belly flap has Velcro closures to offer full skin coverage and features an integrated neck cover. There are leg arches, lining for the shoulder and mane and silky lining to the supersized tail flap, all designed to promote optimal fit and ensure equine comfort. This rug has been cleverly designed to also repel insects and is available in colours which insects cannot perceive and these are orange and aqua. Amigo is confident that the colour alongside the Vamoose technology will deter most insects and the comfort and fit of the rug will protect against the ones which are left. This is designer tech at its best.
Essentials when choosing and fitting a fly rug
- If your horse is a destroyer or a scratcher then choose a tougher weave fabric
- If he likes to mess about then choose a rug which promotes movement because it is flexible with pleats and inserts
- Horses with sensitive skins and thin manes will need protection from rug rubs – many fly rug makes have soft linings in the areas which are prone to rubbing like over the withers, the front of the shoulders and the crest which can you leave you without a mane
- Sizing can be trial and error, with some brands you may have to buy up a size due to the cut of the rug and the shape of your horse. Some internet research and online reviews should help point you in the direction of the makes which will best suit your horse’s shape and conformation
- Consider whether you also want to use colours to repel flies as an added weapon in the field – zebra stripe rugs are very fashionable and there are good anecdotal reports of their success but some companies are choosing to work with the colours, orange and aqua which are also supposed to be difficult for flies to perceive and discourages them from landing
- It is a moot point if you have a rug destroyer whether you buy top-end premium fly rugs because they should, in theory, last longer or whether you admit defeat and buy a cheaper rug because you know it won’t be long before you need to replace it
- If you move grazing and find that the flies are particularly bad due to a combination of topography and the weather then opt for a rug that is designed for Sweet Itch horses as these are the best fly rugs to offer maximum protection in hot humid weather and sheltered grazing when the fly problem will be much more extreme
- Consider over-spraying the fly rug with fly repellent – the thicker mesh rugs might allow you to use Deet based products with more confidence. Alternatively, the Vamoose technology being used by Amigo is another option
- For horses designed to live virtually permanently in fly rugs throughout the spring and summer, the Sweet Itch rugs can be a good choice as they are specifically and thoughtfully cut because the manufacturers know the horse will basically be living in the rug for several months
Caring for your fly rug
Even if your horse is living out 24/7, always take the fly rug off at least once every day to check there are no insects trapped within it and to look the horse over for rubs or other injuries which the rug could be disguising.
Fly rugs are almost always machine washable and it pays to keep your rug clean as dirt, sweat and manure stains will encourage flies to seek your horse out. Always do up Velcro tabs when you are folding the rug, storing it and washing it as new super sticky Velcro can inadvertently attach itself to the mesh of the rug and causes fraying and tearing of the fabric which will eventually shorten the life of the rug.
The best fly rugs are the ones which fit your horse comfortably and which stay in place and endure. For every horse, this could well be a different brand as each horse is a unique size and shape and also behaves differently in the field. Most people when they find a cut of rug which suits their horse will stick to that make. So don’t buy based solely on price or the brand, first off buy something which fits. Team your fly rug with topical repellents and a securely fitting fly mask to ensure your horse has the best in fly protection this summer season.