This blog will chronicle the life and training of Heavymetal Thunder (aka Saxon), a 2009 chestnut Standardbred gelding who didn't have the makings of a racehorse and so will be retrained as a show and pleasure horse. Stay tuned, as we're sure to have lots of great adventures together!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

That Really Stings

It was a normal Wednesday evening. I got home from work, brought Saxon up to the barn, and started grooming him on cross-ties in the barn aisle.  I was just about to put his splint boots on, when he started violently biting his sides.  I thought horsefly, but before I knew it, we were both in the middle of a swarm of very angry bees!  I swatted one on his side with the splint boot in my hand and it stung my finger, all the while I was trying to unclip his cross-ties and speak in a soothing voice.  He would have none of that, though, becoming frantic as they swarmed and stung at us both.  He reared up high on both hindlegs, snapping one cross-tie at its breakaway loop on the wall (I always use a breakaway loop of twine on each cross-tie and trailer tie for just such circumstances), and bolted into the adjacent stall door, still attached to the other cross-tie.  I managed to unclip that one as he bolted back across the aisle into the facing stall, still maddened by the stinging bees.  I grabbed one of the cross-ties dangling from his halter and hustled him out of the barn to the driveway.  My first thought was to hose him with nice cool water to soothe the stings.  One of the nasty bees followed us to the wash area, but I managed to douse it with a stream of water and crush it under my foot before it did any more damage.  I ran into the house to get some first aid items, and another one tried to follow me through the front door!

I commenced with the cold hosing, but Saxon would not let me touch him anywhere near the wounds. I counted 5 stings (and eventually found a 6th one) around his rump, loin, and sides.  I could sympathize, having been stung on the face and finger in the melee myself, but of course he didn't understand that.  He just knew that it hurt like crazy and my touching it only made it worse.  I attempted to apply ice packs to his stings, but he objected very violently to the contact.  I wanted to give him dexamethasone and Bute, but they were in the barn with the swarming bees!  Grabbing the nearly empty bottle of wasp killer, I beelined for the barn (pardon the pun).  I took out two nasty ones, and a wasp as collateral damage, managing to retrieve the needed supplies in the process.

That pretty much scratched my plans for riding that night, though after giving him the meds, I decided to lunge him so he could get some of his pent up frustration out.  He was being pretty good, and I thought he'd finally simmered down on the lungeline, when he suddenly lost his marbles over a farm implement rumbling down the road.  He just lost it.  His tail went over his back, his head shot up to a giraffe-like elevation, and he started rearing and plunging around.  I tried making him change directions to get his mind back on me, but in my haste, the end of the lunge line was trailing on the ground beside me, and he freaked out about that, too (First bees, then a monster, now a snake!)  OK, I reeled in the excess, made him change directions about 40 times, and eventually got him back to sanity.  Since he still wouldn't let me check his wounds any closer, I hosed him again, and figured I'd done all I could for the night.        

J made it home with 3 fresh bottles of wasp killers a while later, and we set about our assault on the colony of angry bees.  I'd determined that they had taken up residence in our straw stack.  We had a hive of honey bees last year, but they were a peaceful lot of the philosophy to live and let live, so we let them be and got rid of the hive in the winter, when they were gone and the hive was dormant.  This hive had a completely different look to them (fuzzier, larger, and more yellow), and a mentality of strike first and show no mercy!

Using a pitchfork and a board, J jostled each straw bale while I stood on guard for angry bees.  We alternately shoved the bales, shot wasp killer, and retreated until, eventually, we had dismantled the entire stack.  Through the course of it all, we ruined about 14 bales of straw and killed some 30 or so bees with wasp killer.  I'm sure some of the bales barely had any poison on them, but I'd rather not take any chances of making one of my horses sick over a $3 bale of straw!  The hive wasn't as big I'd feared it might be, but the bees (the size of a quarter) certainly weren't any smaller or less angry for it.  I found one that returned to the battlefield the next morning, but I was armed with my wasp spray and shot him down before he could bring reinforcements.  We avenged our bee attack and eradicated the bees, but besides my throbbing finger and head, what really stings is that Saxon has lost some trust in me because of those nasty bees.  He saw me in the field when I went out to check on him the next morning, and promptly ran away.  It took a lot of persuading (and a lot of peppermints) before he'd finally let me touch him.  He still flinched when I tried to touch anywhere near the stings, but he readily took his Bute, and let me rub his nose and face.  The swelling is down significantly (which I can attest to on myself) and it's hard to actually see the stings, though I know I can still feel them.  It sucks that he doesn't understand that I didn't hurt him and that I'm trying to help him.  He only knows that it hurts, and I'm somehow associated with the whole affair.  And we'd been making such progress... Stupid bees.  I didn't like flying stinging things before, but now...  Flying stinging things be warned - stay off my property and away from my loved ones or you will die!


  1. Yikes! Poor Saxon, and poor you!

    Reading this, I'm extra glad that I took two days to clean up before I moved into my current pasture this spring. The field had sat unused for at least a year, and there were DOZENS of yellowjacket nests between the two sheds, plus one nasty construction that was about a foot and a half tall.