We had a big appeal for over the winter for thick rugs to protect our horses from the snow and bitterly cold weather we experienced, particularly during January and February. Our equines live out year round with constant access to shelter, coming in as needed to our equine barn when they require veterinary treatment or are struggling with extreme conditions. Dante, our beautiful thoroughbred is very prone to a condition called Mud Fever, a painful disease that affects the lower leg and as the name suggests is common in wet conditions. As a result he sometimes needs to come in for periods during the winter for respite.
Living outside is much the most natural way for horses to be kept as in the wild they live in large herds and are almost constantly on the move, pausing to rest and feed but always with an eye out for predators. It is very unnatural for a horse or pony to stabled for long periods and can have an affect on their physical and mental health. We are lucky at Raystede that we have large paddocks for the equines to roam in and express natural behavior but it does mean they need extra protection from the elements year round. This is why they need thick, waterproof rugs in winter as an extra layer of insulation during the cold months. During the summer months, they need protection from a different enemy to the cold; flies.
Flies such as horse flies, deer flies, bot flies and biting midges can cause extreme irritation to equines and even physical harm in some cases. House flies are attracted to the liquid at the corner of horses eyes and also droppings to breed in while a horse fly can deliver an extremely painful bite. While our horses are free to move around to evade flies, protection is important to prevent them becoming plagued and stressed by the insects or getting badly bitten which could lead to infection. For this reason our thin skinned horses who have fine coats and less natural defenses wear fly rugs and masks during peak fly season.
There is sometimes a concern from our visitors that they must be overheating as it appears non nonsensical to add an additional layer in the baking heat but the fly rugs are deliberately designed to keep them cool and well as keeping out the pests. The material is a very fine gauze allowing air flow onto the skin while acting as a barrier. We do also use things like fly spray as an additional deterrent. The horses can also see perfectly well through the mesh on their masks. Like all prey animals, horses have eyes on the side of their head for near 360 degree vision to see potential threats and if they were blinded completely, this could cause tremendous stress and disorientation.
By their very nature, fly masks and rugs are less robust than winter turn out rugs and are susceptible to tearing and getting damaged in the field. We are so grateful to supporters who recently donated six new fly masks to our herd meaning Dante, Quilly, Dennis, Morgan and Ben all have a brand spanking new one as well as a spare! Quilly however is badly in need of a new fly rug as her current one does not fit her well and has no neck to it meaning one of her most sensitive areas is exposed. If you think you could help little Quilly out with a new one to keep her comfortable through the Summer, she would be forever grateful! You can do that by clicking here: Raystede Wish List. Thank you!