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....?