The last time I went to Dover saddlery, I stocked up on some winter essentials. Horse treats, clipper blades and the obvious choices for January – fly spray and a fly sheet. It’s not that Texas is having any unusual bug outbreaks. No, things are pretty normal here weather and insect wise. Mostly, my horse is a freak.
I’ve heard rumblings from fellow boarders that Simon has been running around the pasture a lot more than usual. “He should be tired! I saw him running around all afternoon!” they would say as I walked into the tack room. That seemed unusual, because Simon is usually down for grazing and napping in the pasture, but I didn’t think too much of it.
Then one night I went to the barn after work to find him totally out of sorts. He was in his stall for dinner time, but not eating. Instead he was anxiously spinning in circles, kicking at the wall and swishing his tail angrily. He was hot, puffing and when I opened the stall door to check on him he kicked out at me. In the almost four years I’ve owned this horse, this has never happened. Simon didn’t seem happy to see me, and I actually had to very cautiously halter him to avoid getting hurt.
We walked out into the barn, and I knew something strange was up. I checked his temperature, which was low to normal. His gum refill was normal and he wasn’t tenting, but I couldn’t hear any gut sounds and the extremely anxious behavior wasn’t stopping. He had a wild look in his eye like he had been possessed by some OTTB demon. I took him outside to see if hand grazing would settle him, but instead he started kicking at his belly. I called my trainer panicked that he was colicing, and we started walking.
She arrived quickly, but by then I was even more confused. He had pooped during our walk and started to settle some, but still was really twitchy and anxious – constantly swishing his tail. When my trainer looked at him, she thought he might have gotten stung by something. She suggested I hose his belly and hind end down (it was warm out) to kill any bug like sensation he may have on his skin. The minute I did, he completely calmed down and looked at me like, “Oh hey Mom! When’s dinner?”
Since that episode, I’ve had friends find him in the same high alert behavior more than once at the barn. One time he was so hot that someone had to pull him out of his stall for me and stick him under a fan to cool down. When he gets that worked up, he doesn’t even eat.
I talked to my trainer who started watching his behavior. On warmer days without a blanket, he would start to mope in the back of the pasture around 1-2pm. After withdrawing and hiding for a bit, he’d start to trot around a little. That would quickly turn into mad galloping, and he’d be a hot mess of anxiety once again.
Now call me crazy, but I don’t think there’s an evil bot bee that stalks and then chases Simon every day starting approximately at 1pm. However, whether it’s bee PTSD or OCD… my horse is clearly having some issues. Under saddle and all other times he’s 100% normal… he’s just convinced that it’s the end of days as far as bot bees are concerned.
One cheap fly sheet later, and he’s doing much better. We haven’t noticed any strange behavior when he’s in his sheet, and he’ll look at us from the pasture like “How are all the other horses surviving the TERRIBLE bees without a special safety sheet?”
I’ve given up on understanding Simon, but he’s worth it. I’ll just add fly sheet on his list of life maintenance.