Sting, Sting, Sting! Hop horsey hop!

Image The sound of in-your-ear too loud buzzing, the prickly anxiety when a bee, wasp or hornet comes too close, or worse yet is interested or irritated and persistent. Attracted by bright colors, movement, moisture, sweets and meats hornets and wasps can get your attention just by being there. They get irritable in droughts, heat, and at the end of summer when their lives are coming to an end (wasps and hornets, except for the queens, do not live through the winter). Wasps and hornets can sting and sting, not like honey beesĀ  forfeiting life after one attack.

It’s the end of summer, a drought filled summer that was very hot. I made a goal, at the beginning of summer to avoid getting stung this season. It wasn’t a very strong goal, I’m not allergic. It just seemed that I never get through a summer without getting stung. Well, I’ve failed at that goal. Early on in June on the beach, I stepped on some kind of wasp with quite a vigorous sting. Very memorable and extra painful as I had to walk on the spot with each stride, but that’s not the end.

Last weekend prior to horse camping I found a small hornet’s nest in the trailer’s tack area, I knocked it down and killed the queen. I loaded Scout into the trailer and then saw more hornets in there with him. He was vigorously unhappy, I got stung by a fly-by hornet, which wasn’t too painful. Maybe less venom is injected that way. I got in the truck and drove off pulling the trailer with the idea of blowing the remaining ones out, or having them just bail out. I don’t really know which because I really don’t understand them. After about a mile I stopped to check, no hornets and Scout seemed unworried. When we got to the campsite I didn’t see any spots on him that were swollen, but he’s a horse and doesn’t tell me everything.

The next day started sunny, hot with a breeze. Scout and I were at the tail end of the group following the cart pulled by a pair of Belgian horses. He needed practice seeing a cart (it’s a horse thing). We were on a grassy trail next to some 9-foot-tall corn on one side and a young woodland forest on the other. He got stung on the belly about 30 minutes into the 3 hour ride. He kicked out and did some wild dancing and tail swishing but settled into animated trotting, then walking after only a few minutes. The ride through the woodland was shady, breezy and uneventful. The cart had to take a different route as we went down into the creek bed and walked in rock strewn water from inches to 3 feet deep. Scout seemed pleased with the water walking.

About an 1hour and half into the ride on another grassy roadway and after crossing a ditch Scout exploded into some vigorous bucks. Another rider felt that she would have been on the ground if her horse did that. I thought he may have just been still peevish about the sting and also another horse had approached from the rear rather fast and close. However, only a few strides further and we were hopping and kicking at ground bees, so maybe the original explosion was more venom being injected.

I moved him in a large circle and stopped him so I could get off quickly, then moved him off further as he resumed hopping, kicking and swishing. Once we were far enough I sprayed him down with fly spray, which I don’t think helps against bees or hornets as they aren’t landing for a meal. Scout is of the opinion that fly spray is a good idea, he knows it stops biting flies and he relaxed after I sprayed.

Feeling like we had been unlucky enough and not wanting to ride more bucks, I moved up in the horses, closer to the front where we’d be less likely to be the victim of jostled yellow jackets. And we didn’t get attacked any more, a different horse did though, but with less reaction…she was 22 years old and tired from the long trail ride. This was good since it was an 8-year-old girl riding her.

We finished the ride and I put unguent on Scout’s welts on his belly, his groin area he didn’t want me to touch (this is unusual since he usually likes being scratched) there were lots of bumps there. The next day dawned overcast, cooler and it had rained overnight. We had a great ride, no stings.

Most people who ride have stories of being thrown or seeing someone else thrown by a horse getting stung by hornets or wasps (they are often nesting low). The main thing when riding a horse that starts bucking is to believe you can ride it out and stay back behind vertical, not forward. Push yourself back, I used a quick push against the crest of his neck to get myself back into place (if its not quick it’s too late). If you think you’re going off, you are. I surely don’t want to be on the ground with a bunch of angry wasps. Move your horse out of the area, have him taught to stand still for dismounting, but dismount quickly and then move on further. And if you really want to avoid wasps, ride in cooler, wetter weather and towards the front of the group where you’ll be irritating the swarm but not getting the consequences.

Maybe next year I can make it through without getting stung. Scout hopes so.


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