Fly season is approaching (or in some cases, already here) and once again, we are preparing to deal with annoying, obnoxious flies. While uncomfortable for us, they are highly annoying to horses, who aren’t able to run back into the air conditioned house to escape.
We try to keep them away with careful manure management, fly predators, and generous amounts of fly spray, but in the end, we can only do so much. That’s why it’s time to add another tool to your belt: zebra print.
Zebra print has long been a staple in the horse world. You can find it on saddle pads, polo wraps, fly masks and sheets, basically anything made out of cloth has, at some point, been zebra print. Plus I think I’ve seen some saddles and bridles with zebra print, too.
While they were chosen for us to have the style of a wild African mammals, there’s a whole other reason to choose zebra print – it can help with fly control.
In 2014, a study was done to determine exactly why zebra have their print. It wasn’t camouflage, as their stripes made them stick out like a sore thumb in their open land environment. It wasn’t for heat management, as the striped equids were just as hot as the unstriped. It doesn’t seem to effect predators, or if it does, it wasn’t the primary reason zebras gained their stripes.
Instead, the research found that stripes help confuse biting flies. The black and white stripes appear to flies as patches of light and shadow, and the flies cannot see the edges of the zebra. Zebras who were not bitten did not contract diseases, and thus continued to reproduce.
Now, empowered with this knowledge, you can help your horse confuse flies by using zebra print fly sheets and fly masks. How much do they help? Well, unclear. But in theory, they will help your horse be a little bit happier during fly season. After all, this pattern is so powerful, it created an entire species of silly looking creatures. You could even try zebra print accessories while riding, if it’s particularly buggy and you really want to give your style the flair of a zebra.
Here’s hoping you have a manageable amount of flies this year!