Bugs

I was determined that I was going to start working with Rusty. It was going to be a priority, I was going to make time for him. When something is important you find a way, whether it’s getting up extra early or forgoing our few child free moments sitting quietly together on the couch in the evenings.

Sunday afternoon found the children tired of playing outside and ready to crash in front of the tv for a while and my husband home parked in front of his computer. I was going to sit and look at mine when I remembered my determination to get out and work with Rusty. So I did.

The hundred degree weather had faded to a comfortable spot in the low nineties and a gentle breeze was blowing. I hauled all of my paraphernalia out to the pickup, my staging ground. Then went and called the horses. They came at a gallop. Not their usual enthusiastic looking for treats coming but a crazed, bucking, kicking, terror driven rush. When they got to me I saw the cause. They were being swarmed by flies. A cloud followed each one as they kicked their bellies, stomped desperately, and ran about trying to loose them.

I had known the flies were bad. I watched them standing in the hot, dusty lot swishing each other to keep the pests away, but I had never seen them like this. I brought Rusty out and let him graze for a bit while I got supplies. When I came back with fly spray and treats he was gone. They were out galloping around their pen and he was frantically running the fence line calling them. I walked to the end of the fence and called Rusty, again. He answered with a long, high whinny and came at a gallop. It’s hard to stand and wait with him come straight at me but I held my ground and he stopped short of smashing me.

Back at the pickup I started coating him with spray. I watched flies scatter at the spray then land right back on the wet hair. Using most of the bottle, I made sure to save some for the others even if it didn’t seem to be helping much. The flies appeared marginally lighter and I went to spray the others before going in search of something, anything better. They were desperate.

I had read that Vick Vapor rub is supposed to help, as long as it isn’t rubbed where the sun will shine on it, causing terrible burns. I smeared it across Rusty’s belly, he got to be my tester. The flies landed right up to the edge of the smear.

We have some great stuff we use around the house when we have problems. It’s industrial strength, dairy rated spray in an aerosol can. I read the label, it said it could be sprayed directly on dairy cattle as they left the barn, anything rated for dairy is safe for horses. Rusty was loose with the others by now, he got too frantic when left out alone even with grass to eat. The flies were making them lose their minds. Haltering each one individually, I went to work with the aerosol can. Most horses, most of the time don’t take the loud hiss of aerosol well. Rusty and Princess Onna relished it. Even though it’s approved for dairy use I was hesitant to spray them to drenchingly with it. They got a quick misting with a little more on the legs, then happily accepted treats. Coyote said no. He was not letting me anywhere near him, with or without the spray can. The flies hoard seemed to thin.

I went back to the house for my last attempt. Not at keeping flies off altogether but for their eyes and bellies. I grabbed my jar of Swat. They, fortunately and knock on wood, haven’t needed it much for injuries. It is mostly used when nose flies show up for that one wondrous week in June, turning normal sane horses into head tossing, rearing, dropping to their knees and rubbing their nose in the dirt, monsters. Who can blame them though, I would do the same if a bee like bug kept trying to fly up my nose. I coat their noses with Swat, including the inside of their nostrils and it seems to help a little. Mostly when the nose flies show up it’s best to give them a large tank to stick their noses in and give up on riding for awhile. Last night I gave them big greasy circles around their eyes, noses and lips. All except Coyote that is. He was still not letting me near him, he would rather suffer.

By the time I gave up there was no time left to ride, even if the flies had allowed it. I went back to the house defeated. My attempt at riding had failed. On the bright side I was able to offer the horses some relief from the sudden terrible attack of flies. Standing in the barn doesn’t seem to help. I took them in the other day, in case they had forgotten it was there. They ate the cookies I offered and followed me back out, they haven’t returned. Today maybe I will try to find a way to hook a sprinkler to the fence. I doubt they would go in the water as good as it should feel. Fortunately the swarming attack of the flies did seem to be an event, not a constant. I will pick up new fly spray next time I get to town. The bottle of concentrate is a couple of years old and maybe it lost some oomph over the years? It’s a dairy grade cattle spray and used to be great stuff. Poor ponies I need to figure something out!

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