Why Do Horses Wear Masks?

Answer Man: I ride my motorcycle on back roads and have noticed numerous horses with masks on their faces. What is its function? I was raised on a farm and had no notion. Curious minds desire to know. — Nixa resident Vic McMillan

I took the photo to Millwood Animal Hospital on East Evans Road, where I was told the wrap is a "fly mask."

During the summer, it is used to keep insects away from horses' eyes, ears, and noses.

However, horse masks have another important purpose, according to Jessica Cobban, operations manager at Valley Water Mill Park Equestrian Center.

They keep horses from becoming sunburned.

I had no clue horses got sunburned because I am not a horse person.

steve pokin/news-leader

She informs me that horses with white hair or a white blaze across the face are the most vulnerable. They have lighter, pink skin around their eyes and nostrils, which is more prone to burning.

You're probably asking why I didn't just ask the horse's owner, dear reader.

I made an effort. But the horse's owner does not live in the area where the horse is kept.

"It belongs to my daughter-in-law," Scott Bilyeu explains, without knowing the significance of this specific mask. "I'll ask her to contact you."

She did not do so.

Meanwhile, I Googled "eye protection for horses" and discovered a variety of horse eyewear and muzzle-wear.

Guardian Horse Mask has been selling eye protection for horses with glaucoma, eye cancer, cataracts, various eye injuries, and uveitis, an infection of the central layer of the eye, for over 25 years.

Provisor International Canine and Equine sells a variety of horse and dog masks, including one for horses recovering from eye surgery.

Sun protection masks are sold at Nag Horse Ranch. According to the website:

"Our nose shades flare away from the horse's face, allowing adequate ventilation and comfort while protecting the horse's entire muzzle; horses can easily graze and drink." The full-face shade shields the entire face for people who require greater protection."

"We have eye protection shades that protect sensitive eyes and around the eyes from sun damage, as well as trail-riding shades that deter insects while adding UV protection to the muzzle or full face."

So, Vic, there you have it. The majority of horse masks are designed to keep flies at bay.

However, multiple masks are available for various functions.

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