Sunday, September 11, 2011

Flight of the bumblebee

I'm very lucky to ride at a barn that has access to a lot of trails. And those trails lead into other trails. And other trails. Rumor has it that you can just keep going all day on the trails if you want to, and you don't mind possibly getting lost. With the cooler weather keeping the nasty biting bugs at bay, I've been adventuring out more with friends from the barn to check out the trails.

Dorkzilla and the Princess, with the Jumping Machine's ears in the foreground, enjoying some clover at the top of Woodmont Orchard
Photo courtesy of Debbie Sullivan

Our horses seem to enjoy getting out of the ring and it certainly makes them more accepting of new situations. They're pretty used to terrain, dogs, bikes, cars, and anything else you can find on state trails and in state parks. With highs in the 70's and lots of sun, it's hard to convince us to get back into the ring and practice our circles. Instead we practice steep ups and downs, bridges, stepping through moving water, and just moseying around.

However, we got a reminder today on Mother Nature's tendency to keep people humble. Just when we thought we were real trail riders with real trail horses, we had a bit of an incident. We've been striking out and exploring sections of trail that we haven't ridden before. We did have a map, even though we weren't really using it, so we weren't in danger of getting lost. With Tropical Storm Irene in the not too distant past its not a surprise to find trees down. We had a trio of trees down, blocking the trail and configured in a way we just couldn't jump it. We split up to find a way around. After we managed that, Dorkzilla stopped to look at the running water we were about to cross.

Then he started frantically rubbing his face against his legs and basically freaking out. Which confused us, since he's usually so mellow. We saw a bug, but didn't think anything of it until Fiona started to buck. The princess never bucks, so I knew something was very wrong about the same time one of my friends got stung on the neck. Bees! All three horses were frantic to get away, but we were going to have to bushwack to get back out. I ended up dismounting so I could get Fiona out through that narrow path as fast as possible. I ended up running back down the trail with her trotting along, snorting and very unhappy. The other two pairs were right behind us.

With all three horses and all three humans stung, it's probably not a surprise someone reacted. In this case it was Dorkzilla. He broke out in hives on top of the many stings he got since he was the one that got hit first. He's doing fine now after appropriate care, but he did look a bit like a pineapple for awhile. Fiona came in second place with about ten stings, and Ruby had just the one we found (she was third in the line). I got stung four times, probably more than the other riders since I dismounted. I got stung right on the keister, which I did not appreciate when I remounted.

Considering what could have happened, with three big, fit horses in close quarters being stung by bees, we got off lightly. We were very lucky to all be mounted on horses that are willing to take direction even when they're afraid and starting to panic. The princess was in her hackamore, but she kept her marbles together and ran with me down the trail.

This won't dissuade us from adventuring out into the wilds of New Hampshire, but I really doubt we'll try that particular trail again. There's almost so much of nature that we want to deal with.

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