It’s getting to be that time of year again. The time of year when we actually get to see the sun here in beautiful Virginia, or we’re supposed to see it anyways!
That means it’s time to break out the sunscreen, and we aren’t the only ones who need protection from the sun.
Sun protection for horses is just as important!
For the most part, horses have their coat to protect their skin from the sun.
Although they can get sunburn anywhere on their bodies, around their nose and eyes are at the highest risk.
This is especially true in horses with light skin or large amounts of white.
Here are some different options on preventative measures to help keep your horse safe from sunburn and at lower risk of skin cancer.
5 Best Ways to Protect Your Horses From The Sun
Old reliable! When it comes to sunscreen, zinc oxide cream is one of the most effective ones available.
If your horse has white skin on his face, where it’s not protected by his coat, I recommend applying sunscreen.
While there are sunscreen options that are made specifically for horses, the products manufactured for humans are just as safe to use on them (and are probably a little cheaper!).
When using sunscreen as sun protection for horses, it will need to be reapplied at least daily and you should be sure that the formula you are using is waterproof.
It is important to keep an eye on your horse whenever applying anything new as they can have reactions to some of these products.
Equisearch gives a nice list of ingredients to watch for that can cause a photosensitivity reaction in your horse here.
2. Fly Masks
If you are really only worried about protecting your horse’s face, or don’t want to apply sunscreen daily, a fly mask can provide the protection you are looking for.
Long nose fly masks have a piece that extends down the entire length of the horse’s nose so that their face is totally shielded from the sun.
You can also get fly masks with covered ears for added protection there as well.
With a fly mask, it’s nice because you get the dual protection from insects as well as the sun.
Plus, you simply put it on in the morning, and take it off at night, it’s that easy!
3. Fly Sheets
For horses with lots of white and light skin, keeping more of their body protected may be necessary.
A light fly sheet can provide the protection these horses need from the sun.
You just want to be sure the sheet is not too heavy so it doesn’t make your horse hot!
Another scenario that these sheets could be used in is if you have a very dark horse who is being bleached out by the sun and you wanted to maintain their coat color.
Again, you get dual protection with these from insects as well as the sun and their use is pretty straight forward!
4. Access to Shade
For those at lower risk of sunburn, making sure that they have adequate access to shade when turned out is also an option for protection.
For those with light skin, I would add another layer because realistically horses won’t spend their entire daylight hours in a shelter.
But, in most cases this would be a perfectly acceptable approach to sun protection for horses.
This is obviously a very low maintenance option.
If you have shady trees or a shelter available in your turnout space then your level of protection should be sufficient.
5. Night Turnout
If all else fails, night turnout is always an option.
If you try other options and still feel that your horse is getting sunburnt, you could try leaving them inside during the day and then turning them out at night.
This option is tricky because although it is not by any means difficult, it does require you to have the set-up to allow you to keep your horse inside during the day.
It also cuts your horses turnout time in half, assuming they are on 24/7 turnout normally.
Issues aside, this is probably the most effective method of preventing sunburn.