Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Bees and Horses Don't Mix

We have a very special treat here at NerdCountry today -- a guest post from the lovely lady herself, Annie! I think you'll all agree that she is not only prettier than I am, but a better writer as well. Take it away, Annie!

I try hard to not interpret our animals' actions through the lens of being human, but instead try to see a horse as a horse and a dog as a dog. Sometimes, though, it is obvious that we share many emotions with our animals, and one of the most primal of those is fear.

This weekend Jeff hollered out to me that the horses were galloping. I love to see them do that so I ran to the windows to look. This time it didn't seem that they were playing; they were running away from something. My very large, very clumsy 16-hand Palomino was bucking and kicking out into the air like an athlete, something this rather lazy pony has never done before. I ran to the back fence and as I ran I could hear Avalon snorting. Horses only snort when they are in full instinct fear mode. Something had clearly scared the bejeezus out of two of the three the horses. Milagro, the oldest of the three, was safely in the barn scavenging for any loose kernels of horse grain. Ah, the wisdom of the aged!

When I got to the back fence, the two young horses saw me and came galloping, bucking and twisting over to me. They stopped just in front of me, eyes bulging, hearts racing. I put a hand out to them and they both walked closer to me and they each put the heads over my shoulder at the exact same time. It was like they ran home to Mom where they felt secure.

When I saw the piney looking leaves of a cedar tree tangled in Avalon's mane, I decided to go out the gate and take a closer look at the horses. I wanted to make sure they had not been bitten by a rattlesnake. As I moved my hand over Avalon's back, he flinched and pulled away from me. I saw then what must have occurred. He had been stung by bees or wasps on his back. He had large welts that were tender all along his back. I think he was grazing on grass near a cedar tree and out of nowhere he was attacked by bees, so he reared up and might have fallen into the cedar tree. Then he headed for home.

In the midst of the bucking episode, Cousin Jill's spotted donkey Cody came barreling out from the same direction the horses had come from. He was steering two of his lady donkeys out of the danger area as well. He herded them off and then galloped over to the barn where the horses had first run to. I swear his feet were hardly touching the ground as he ran. He clearly was going to check on his buddies. They all sniffed noses and then Cody skipped off to check back on his jennets. Concern for members of his pack seems very human, doesn't it?

After the horses calmed down, I stood between both horses and calmly pet them. They were worn out from their experience and their heads hung low to the ground. I decided I better get Avalon the horse version of aspirin, Bute, so I started walking to the barn. Both horses walked on either side of me and again I was awed that they choose to literally stay by my side. They all got a treat of sweet feed (their favorite!) because I have to mix the Bute into the sweet feed.

I was relieved they weren't hurt and I was deeply honored that they ran to where they felt safest – with me.

I had forgotten I wanted to write this experience down until yesterday. I was about 3 hours late feeding the horses because I had woken up in the middle of the night and couldn't sleep for several hours, so I read a book. I work up at 10 a.m. the next morning and sauntered out to feed the horses, who no doubt had been standing around waiting on me since 7 a.m. Avalon walked up to me as he always does and I stopped and petted him. As I walked off to get his feed bucket, he quickly turned his head towards my retreating back and took a small bite at my shirt! He wasn't trying to hurt me and he'd never done anything like this before. I got the message though: woman, don't keep us out here waiting like that again!!

He reminded me that even though a horse is a horse and a dog is a dog, it is possible to communicate with one another. And, we all share some very basic emotions. The most basic for me is my deep love of these animals and the gifts they give me everyday.


Jill Phenix Avila said...

What I find hilarious is that my pony ran along with Avalon, with the scared out of his wits look on his face, even though he had no idea what he was running from, or to. I am glad that my donkey has some smarts to him. Someone has to take care of those silly ponies when you are not around. =)

Barbaro is a perfect example of a horse with a human feeling. He is such an athlete and such a competitor that he wanted to finish a race with his ankle broken in 3 places. I still get teary eyed when I see his story ALL over the news these past few days.

Denise said...

I couldn't figure out what could make those huge horses so afraid -- I hope you got rid of those wasps and/or hornets or whatever stung those two horses. What a nice feeling that they felt safe with you, Annie, and then let you know they weren't too happy! Yep, just like humans!