Gear Tips

The Best UV Protection Under the Sun (Horses & Riders)

horse with fly and uv protection
Written by Susanna Wright

Sun-Savvy Summer Protection

Summer means warmer temperatures and more sunshine. (YAY, right?!) Increased sun exposure, however, is not without risks to horse and rider. Luckily, there are some easy, inexpensive ways to protect you both!

Many of us are familiar with the basic principles of sun protection for people. As I increased my personal herd by one mare and one mule, I was happy to learn these best practices aren’t much different for horses. There are three simple solutions (or, combinations of solutions) to protect you and your horse from the sun’s harmful rays:

  1. Time of day: Awareness & Management
  2. Sunscreen Application
  3. Wearing Sun-Protective Fabrics
palomino galloping in field

Source: Canva

Manage Your Time (of Day)

Obviously, the easiest way to avoid getting a sunburn (or other negative repercussions of sun exposure) is to simply avoid the sun.

The sun’s rays (and UV radiation) are strongest between 10 am and 4 pm.

Even with cloud cover, you’re still at greater risk of a sunburn.

Human: Ride outside early or late in the day; stay indoors from mid-morning through mid-afternoon

  • Pros: Also avoids the hottest time of day
  • Cons: May not be feasible with your schedule

Horse: Turnout overnight and stall during the day

  • Pros: Extend turnout time, avoid spending money on sheets & masks
  • Cons: May not be an option due to feed or labor schedules
night turnout

Source: Canva

Sunscreen Application

Applying sunscreen to exposed skin will help protect you (and your horse!) from the sun. There are hundreds of different (human) options available.

Human: Sunscreen needs may vary based on the individual and personal preferences.

  • Pros: Work on your tan with less risk of a burn
  • Cons: Greasy or oily feel, time consuming to apply

Horse: Most horses don’t need sunscreen, but if your horse has pink skin with white hair, especially on their face, they are at risk of a sunburn.

  • Pros: You can use equine-specific or people sunscreen on your horse. Apply in the morning before sun exposure
  • Cons: Time consuming to apply, needs to be applied at least once a day
pinto horse with pink nose

Source: Canva

Top Three Equine Sunscreens:

Equus Magnificus Essential Equine

  • 4 oz lotion bottle
  • SPF 20
  • Won’t break the bank

Absorbine Santa Fe Coat Conditioner & Sunscreen

  • 32 oz spray bottle
  • SPF 8
  • Also conditions your horse’s coat!

EquiShield by Kinetic Vet

  • 1 lb tub of ointment
  • SPF 30
  • Also contains aloe vera and a topical antiseptic

Sun-Protective Fabrics

Fabric can absorb and block harmful radiation, offering an effective form of protection from the sun.

UPF, or Ultraviolet Protection Factor, indicates the amount of UV radiation a fabric permits to reach the skin.

UPF includes both UVB and UVA rays.

A fabric with a rating of UPF 50 allows 1/50th (or 2%) of the sun’s rays through, blocking out 98% of UVA & UVB rays. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, UPF ratings between 30 & 49 offer very good protection. Ratings over 50 are considered to be excellent.

Not all fabrics are created equal, however.

Fabric content makes a difference; cotton actually absorbs UV rays, while polyester or satin silk fabrics reflect radiation. Look for products with a UPF label so you know exactly what you’re getting.

How the fabric is woven also matters. The best UV protection comes from fabrics that are densely woven. If you hold a fabric up to the light and you can see through it, UV radiation can also get through.

Some high-tech fabrics are actually treated with chemical UV absorbers and dyes, which prevents some of the penetration from UV rays.

Lastly, dark and bright colors protect best. Light colors can allow UV rays to pass through.

people riding horses on beach

Source: Canva

Human: Sun-protective clothing is gaining popularity and becoming easier to find.

  • Pros: Lots of options depending on your discipline and activity. Most sun-protective shirts also have cooling features as well.
  • Cons: May have to get used to wearing long sleeves in the summer for maximum protection, or combine UV-protective shirts with applying sunscreen to exposed skin.

Summer Ride Ice Fill Long Sleeve Shirt by Kerrits

SunStopper 3.0 Quarter Zip Long Sleeve Shirt by Ariat

Horse: High-tech fabrics are becoming more common in equine products such as fly masks and fly sheets.

  • Pros: Easier than sunscreen, also protects against biting insects.
  • Cons: UV blocking materials are more expensive than traditional materials; requires putting on/taking off daily.

Kensington Uviator

  • 90% UV protection
  • Overwhelmingly positive reviews
  • Removable nose & forelock opening
  • Comes in several different color options along the cheek
  • $$$ Pricey, but you get what you pay for
05/20/2024 12:44 pm GMT

SmartPak UV90 Fly mask

  • 98% UV rating and 50+ UPF rating
  • Extended nose & forelock opening
  • Comes in horse and cob sizes
  • $$ Pretty expensive fly protection

Schneiders Euro BellyBand Fly Sheet

  • 80% UV rating
  • Attached neck cover option
  • SilverTek antibacterial technology & reflective striping for visibility
  • Better airflow for horses living in warmer climates

Schneiders Mosquito Mesh II Fly Sheet

  • 40% UV Protection
  • Lots of wither and neck coverage options to fit a variety of horses
  • SilverTek antibacterial technology & reflective striping for visibility
  • The best insect protection and airflow combination for horses in hot climates
05/20/2024 12:40 pm GMT


Q: Can horses get sunburned?

Yes, horses with pink skin and white hair are especially susceptible to sunscreen, especially if this pigment combination is on their face.

Q: Can horses get skin cancer?

Yes, skin cancer is actually fairly common in horses, especially gray ones. Sarcoids are the most common skin cancer in horses, but you should also keep an eye out for squamous cell carcinomas and/or melanomas.

Q: What is the mask for uveitis in horses?

Horses suffering from chronic, recurrent uveitis can benefit from wearing a fly mask offering UV protection, such as the Kensington Uviator or SmartPak UV90 fly mask mentioned above. Both masks offer UV protection in addition to protection from insects—a win-win!

paint horse wearing fly mask

Source: Canva

Parting Thoughts

You and your horse can safely get your Vitamin D fix by taking a few proactive measures.

Whether you opt to avoid the strongest UV rays, wear sunscreen, or add some sun-protection fabric to your equine wardrobe, there are plenty of sun solutions available today!

P.S. Enjoy this article? Trot on over to: 


Sun Protective Clothing – The Skin Cancer Foundation
Sun Protection for Horses: UV and Preventing Sunburn
Schneiders® Soft Interlock Mesh II Fly Sheets
Schneiders Mosquito Mesh Fly Sheet

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About the author


Susanna Wright

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