Trudy Andrew | Canadian Author

Horse Tails

What to do about Jim

The summer had pretty well been bug free, at least as far as biting insects are concerned, and then it suddenly wasn’t. It was as if someone had flipped a switch, and released every nasty, little, biting fly that existed, all at once. There was no rhyme or reason for it, but they seemed to prefer the little group that Lucky Jim was part of. Sure, the other horses in other areas were also being bothered, but Jim and his two ladies, were being absolutely tormented.
I was doing my water check, by saying that, I mean it was time to get Jim and bring him to water. This was something I couldn’t be lax on. Horses take in a good deal of water normally, and on these extra hot, summer days, even more. Anyway, I was headed out to bring Jim to water, only to be met by Spirit and Aurora, before I could even get through the gate. Extremely agitated by the biting flies, they were stressed and seeking relief. Out in the pasture, poor Jim was beside himself. Stamping, snorting, throwing his head and dropping to roll, it was clear that he needed help.
I didn’t waste time trying to do anything right then and there. As much as I wanted to run in and help, there was no point, unless I had an arsenal of bug repellents. After retrieving supplies, I returned to give my best effort, and offer them some relief. Of course the mares had no intention of allowing me to pass them by to go help Jim first. They knew what humans could do for them, and I had no choice but to see to their needs.
I tend to chat as I tend to them. It soothes and calms, and they seem to listen. They definitely know many words, and there’s no mistaking my different tones of voice.
“I thought Arabs are supposed to be tough,” I said to Aurora while she enjoyed my hands sweeping away flies and applying insect lotion, “You’re such a delicate flower, it’s ridiculous.”
Aurora is completely comfortable in her prissiness, and didn’t mind one bit. If behaving like a spoiled princess was going to get her, hands on attention, she was all for it.
Spirit was much the same, but far less stressed and troubled by the flies. She didn’t like them at all, yet she didn’t get all fussy, like Aurora did either. Neither mare wanted me to leave them. There was no way I would be able to tend to Jim, with them squeezing between for attention, so I gave them each a bit of senior feed to keep them busy. They love it, and it provided enough of a distraction to allow me to escape.
Jim was out of his mind with stress. He came right to me, but couldn’t stop moving. Kicking his belly, stamping, stomping, groaning and gulping, he was completely beyond listening to reason.
“Settle Jim,” I did my best to calm and soothe the big horse. He was having none of it. Unlike the girls, he had no idea that I could help him. He’d skewed the fly mask, and I managed to straighten it again. I also managed to avoid the flailing, big feet and got insect lotion on everything from his front to the middle of his barrel. Even I have my limits. The potential of being clipped by a big, hard hoof by accident was very high. Of course, I did manage to see to his back and lovely rump. Where the flies bit the other horses on their legs, chest and belly, they bit Jim everywhere!
Once I had done as much as I could for Jim, I led him through the gate that worried him so, and took him to water. Watching him gulp water, I was bothered by how the flies were still relentless. I had to do something more to relieve the issue, but what? Then it came to me. I would build a smudge. I’ve made them many times to thwart mosquitoes, but would it work for flies?
I used a damaged, steel water trough, to build the smokiest fire I could. Set up behind the steel gate, I didn’t want to risk Jim running into it. The mares knew what it was, straight away, Jim had no clue. I had to lead him into the smoke several times, and the last, I stood there with him, in the hope he would realize that the flies had disappeared.
As it turned out, he finally did understand. I was able to leave them to relax and destress. I returned with hay, as all that stress was not conducive to keeping weight on, never mind gain it. When evening finally came and the fly problem dissipated, the three of them were happy to get back onto grass.
Jim and the mares were on my mind, for most of the night. Out of concern, I went out early the next morning. If the flies were going to be a problem again, I wanted to be proactive. I certainly didn’t want Jim to become as stressed, as he had the day before.
The mares were up front by the water trough. Jim was way out in the furthest corner of the pasture. Ah well, it wasn’t the first time I had to walk way out to get him. Halfway to him, I saw something that made me instantly feel sick to my stomach. Jim’s halter was lying there on the ground. The horse that had come to us afraid, wary, impossible to catch, only a few weeks before was now halterless on several, open acres of pasture.
All sorts of plans formed in my mind to catch him, as I continued on. Sweetpea wasn’t home, the hubby was, but it would take several, knowledgeable, quiet and calm horse people to corral him up. Then again, maybe I was worrying for no reason. Maybe Jim would simply walk right up to me, like he had so many times as of late. Maybe I was worrying for nothing.
Well, that was a whole lot of wishful thinking. Jim wanted no part of being caught. There was no option but to leave him be. I’m no pro with a lasso, and I wouldn’t do that to him anyway. He’d suffered enough trauma in the weeks before he came to us. He wouldn’t be subjected to anything fear inducing.
I left it a few hours, then went back and tried again. This time, Jim came right over to me when I called.. He patiently, or somewhat patiently waited, while I replaced his mask. A simple lead is far easier to place on a horse than a halter, so that’s what I did. I didn’t make a fuss or any demands of him, and he responded by being relaxed. Together we walked across the pasture, through the gate of fear, and to the water. As I watched him drink, I contemplated my options. The halter could go back on, or could remain off. Sweetpea had suggested off when I had told her what had happened. She was sure he would be fine, that he’d continue to improve and come to me, and I hoped she was right. The halter would stay off. Maybe Jim preferred running around in the buff, or nearly so. Time would tell.

  1. I agree with Sweetpea. Halter off while in turn out is safest. Bugs love new blood.

    • We rarely have halters on horses, though we don’t have anything for them to catch on either. Poor Jim must be very tasty indeed.

Leave a Reply

About Trudy Andrew

Trudy Andrew lives on a small farm just east of Winnipeg, Manitoba, where she enjoys her Morgan horses. A dreamer since she was a child, its no surprise to those who know her well that her imagination would find an outlet in writing, as it has in the past through artwork.
All rights reserved. No part of this website or book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means – graphic, electronic or mechanical – without the prior written permission of the author.


 Oakbank, MB