Monday, July 19, 2010

Fargin Bastages!

The heat has really taken its toll. It's like every living thing is deflated and working in slow motion. The heat has also brought out the horse and bot flies. Holy crap. I called Gem in the other day (yes, he came!) and I could HEAR the buzzing well before he got to me. When I was haltering him, one flew into my eyeball - eewwwww! He is covered in bumps and his eyes are quite irritated (a fly mask helps, but sometimes it's just too hot to wear one). I use spray on Gem, but it only gives him a reprieve of about 15 minutes.

All of the horses were dewormed in June and I try to do my part by scraping bot fly eggs off of Gem's legs (gross). I have heard that the variety of flying torturers that our horses have to endure can actually cause weight-loss because your horse is constantly swishing and walking to stop the flies from landing, or your horse just becomes too darn tired of the annoying critters and stops grazing. A number of horses, including Gem, have chips in their feet from stamping their legs to get rid of flies. I can tell Gem is glad to see me, but I can also tell he is sort of down. Could he be a bit depressed? Why do we have these nasty fargin bastages anyway? Is their sole purpose to torment living beings near a barn?? Well, they do provide food for birds and frogs and the like, and they do pollinate. So, I guess they have a purpose in the big scheme of things. But, holy crap.

I rode on Friday evening and Sunday morning with Jean. We were trying to out-smart the heat and beat the flies. Didn't really work. :-( Gem and I are still getting re-acquainted after my absence from riding. It's just been too hot to ride, which means that I have only been on Gem 5 times since mid-June. Friday's ride was a short one - only about 30 minutes. I couldn't take the sweat dripping into my eyes any longer. Sunday I rode for about 45 minutes and then worked with him on the ground.

On Sunday, we rode in the arena to get out of the direct sun. While we were walking, a fly buzzed around my ear and tried to work it's way under my helmet to get at the sweat. Grrrr! It's hard to have soft hands when you are swatting at dive bombing thugs. I asked Gem for a jog and got one. I then asked for a trot and got this sideways, bendy, pulling-on-the-bit thing. I asked again and a little head shaking was thrown in for good measure. I wasn't quite sure what to make of this. Tail swishing started. OK, now I am getting a little nervous. I certainly didn't want a fight, but I didn't want to give in either. I walked him in a tight circle and asked again. He complied, but begrudgingly. Once in the rising trot, he was fine; good pace, head tilted slightly inside. I, on the other hand, looked like a turkey trying to fly; arms flapping, legs no where near "on", my hands moving to their own beat. I guess I haven't got back what little riding skills I had before my break. We got into a nice rhythm in spite of my bouncy turkey impression.

We went around the sweltering arena a few times and then we slowed down to a walk to air up a bit, and then to a halt. Transitions were a bit choppy, but he responded quickly. When I asked him to jog again, he started to do a little dance on the spot. He was shaking his head, swishing his tail and sort of kicking his hind feet. What the heck??! This didn't feel like a "I need to persuade him" moment. There seemed to be something not quite right. I sat solid in my saddle and spoke calmly to him. I asked Jean what she thought was going on. As she approached she noticed that Gem had a number of flies feeding on his side and chest and near the base of his tail. Poor guy was just trying to get rid of them! These fargin bastages were sabotaging our ride!! My guess is that once we stopped, the flies acted on the fact that their target was stationary and converged on his body. I swatted as many as I could reach and I convinced him that if we moved, they would fly away. Off we went at a jog.

Our ride ended on a positive note. From the ground, I worked with him on whoa, back up, wait and come on voice and hand signals only. He is doing very well in this area. I could tell he was tired though.

Suggestions on how my boy can get some relief would be welcome. Can you imagine what it must be like being bitten day and night? No wonder these fargin bastages drive horses mad! They are driving me mad, for cripes sakes, and I am not even getting bitten!

What was I thinking....?


  1. ohhhh the flies and the heat on my grey horse are horrible. lot of bumps, some blood, HOT fly masks (better of two evils? either teary eyes or sweaty face). i'd volunteer to move to Canada-- but apparently it sucks as bad there as it does in North Carolina.

  2. I presume that fly spray isn't working? Here are all the things I try:

    Avon Skin so soft. I bathe them in this and the smell keeps many flying things away.

    Vanilla. Mosquitos hate it - so do other fliers. Might be worth a try.

    A fly sheet, and fly boots. Yes it's hot, but we keep fly masks on in Texas where it's over 95 every minute. They may sweat, but they get relief from flies.

    They are going to sweat anyway.

  3. In summer I always leave a flymask on, not a lycra one though. I also use something we call a flag combo. It is extremely light and helps keeps the bugs off. I haven't used fly boots but would give them ago as well. Good Luck!!!!! It really is a terrible time of year!

  4. Good afternoon! Thanks for your suggestions!

    Rachel - It's not so bad! In my part of the country, July and most of August are brutal. I love the rest of the year, especially the fall and early winter. I have him in a fly mask sometimes....he tolerates it for a while, but then doesn't like it. *sigh*

    Breathe - the fly spray only works for a short period of time. Perhaps the heat evaporates it? I like your idea of least its not toxic and he will smell delicious!

    Nina - There is another option I saw at the stables recently - a browband that has fringe on it that drops over the horse's eyes. It's cooler than a fly mask, but it means that he has to wear his halter all day because the fringe attaches to it. I am not fussy on him wearing a halter from a safety perspective. I may have to investigate options with a breakway halter.

  5. The heat and the flies/bugs are ridiculous this year. I can't suggest anything that would give relief but no matter how hot it gets I'd do the fly mask, we use the ones with ears sewn on. These little buggers love their ears too. At least that's some help from the flies. Good luck and think autumn.

  6. Hello GHM - Based on everyone's comments, I will endeavour to keep a fly mask on him. Last night, my instructor was actually squishing the bastages on Gem as they were biting him. It's awful. I am thinking autumn!!

  7. I used to board at a barn by a lake and the woman who ran it used "Fly Predators" to keep the flies down.
    and here's a video:

    It really worked! She said one year she skipped it and saw a huge increase in the Fargin Bastages :-)
    Anyway, we rarely needed to break out the fly spray and never saw the fly predators. They're harmless and kill fly larvae before they hatch. A natural solution!

  8. Thanks, FF! I will check with my BO/instructor. She has been in the business for 20+ years, so I am sure she has heard of these guys. Perhaps there is a reason why she doesn't use the predators.

  9. Oh man, I fracking HATE bot eggs. What advice have you gotten for getting them off? I've never found anything that works much better than my fingernails.

    I might have to try Breathe's advice on the vanilla. Simply because I'd like my horses to smell like cupcakes. Yum!

  10. Hi Shannon - I use a pumice stone to take them off. It's not optimal; it takes time. I tried a razor scrapper thing, but I was terrified that I was going to cut Gem! I have heard that using the pumice stone after giving your horse a bath works well, but I have not tried it. I am going to try the vanilla mix tomorrow on Gem. Cupcakes....great.... now I'm hungry.... :-)

  11. Hi!

    I use the Pyranha fly spray in the bright yellow aresol can. You can order it online and most farm stores carry it as well. The flies have been horrible this year! Also, I give Journey and Roman a sulfur block to lick on free choice. Your local farm store should carry them, they are bright yellow. Just put it out in their pasture and let them enjoy it! It works great too at keeping flies away.

    Hope this helps! I enjoy your blog and thanks for reading Journey's updates! Happy Trails!

  12. Welcome, JM! I have never heard of sulfur blocks...I will do some reading tonight. Thanks!

  13. I'm fighting the fly battle here too. I've put a fly fringe on Santana - its one thats attached to a piece of elaastic that goes behind his ears and under his throat so no need for a headcollar. Trouble is he manages to somehow work it round to hang under his neck by the time I come back to visit. Doh! I have citronella spray too but that doesn't really work.

    I like the idea of Avon Skin So Soft or vanilla. I might have to try those.

  14. I noticed bots on my horses this week too. Earlier than usual, I think. I hate those things.

  15. I can't stand the smell of Avon skin so soft, but it works against most flies and no-see-'ems. Cattle flies, forget it.

    A friend of mine told me about two fly sprays that actually work. They aren't cheap, but I get 24 hour protection out of them (if the horse doesn't sweat through it) on three different horses: Tri-Tech fly spray. I can't remember the name of the other one. Runs about $25 US for a quart spray bottle in a retail store.

    A tip for bots: (this may be why clean horse helps) on a clean horse, spray show sheen into the palms of your hands, and wipe it down the horse's leg, you want to thoroughly saturate the hair while still damp from the bath. Do it again when the horse is dry. It won't keep them from laying eggs but will make removal much easier. Reapply after every removal to keep hair slick.

    Another tip that helped me is to spray the horse's tail, including the dock. Tri-Tech has sunscreen and a coat conditioner to mitigate the harshness of the spray. I wouldn't saturate the dock, just spray there also. The spray on the tail seems to help keep flies from the sensitive areas under and around the back legs, without risking irritating tender skin.

    Our barn uses the predators also, and that's made a huge difference in the truly nasty flies like bots, giant horse flies and cattle flies.

  16. Good morning!

    I was speaking to my BO's mother yesterday, who has lived on the property for over 40 years. She says that she cannot remember the flies ever being so bad!!

    Jooles - I found a really simple recipe for vanilla fly repellent. I will post it today.

    RR - those bot eggs gross me out. I do find it fascinating, however, that these bastages need a horse to complete their life cycle.

    Jane - I checked on-line to see if my local saddlery had Tri-Tech and they don't carry it. :-( I love your suggestion of applying show sheen to help with removal. Brilliant.

    I am going to ask my BO if predators are an option for us up here in crazy weather Canada. :-)