Holy mosquito splatter … it’s hot!
More to the point, it’s humid. Stinking humid. In fact, the kind of humidity that brings forth storms of bloodsucking predators intent upon stealing summer’s pleasant thunder.
An article in today’s newspaper strongly hinted at a particularly malevolent mosquito season too due to a confluence of a rainy spring and hot summer temperatures.
But my horse could have told you that.
This morning, following a short turn around the neighbourhood with my panting collies lumbering behind me and my chest seizing with damp discomfort, I made the decision to give Bear a day off.
You see, yesterday’s hot, unwitting struggle with Mother Nature’s intra-seasonal mood swing during a training session in which I nearly drowned in a pool of my own sweat, left me exhausted and unwilling to do a repeat performance today. And why put Bear through the stress of training in stifling conditions when it’s not absolutely necessary?
Laying low seemed the smart choice.
And it was.
When I arrived at the barn this morning Bear was happily standing, with his buddy, Sam, in the pouring rain helping himself to nature’s verdant buffet. I could have brought him in and struggled with the whole grooming ritual but instead I admired him, and his mucky fly repellent handiwork, from afar and filled his bucket with carrots.
Yesterday was quite a different story.
At 10:45 a.m. I arrived at the barn and the day was well into its sweltering unpleasantness. Due to a faltering alarm clock, I was already behind on my preparations for an 11:30 coaching, so I was in somewhat of a rush to get organized.
Working backwards from our lesson time, Bear and I needed 15 to 20 minutes to get the ol’ wheels greased before Coach arrived. This meant Bear needed to be groomed and tacked up by 11:10.
Although I am efficient I don’t like to rush the grooming process. This is when I happily merge into Barn Standard Time. Fortunately Coach is pretty relaxed about timing, so I don’t usually need to stress too much about being a few minutes late.
Still, I don’t like to keep him waiting.
Well, you know what they say about good intentions.
Innocently enough, I grabbed a lead rope and went to fetch Bear from his paddock.
The minute I arrived at the gate I knew my carefully planned routine was, on this occasion, so much trash. Somehow I’d mysteriously forgotten the chaos a bit of rain, a pile of dirt and a swarm of stinging insects can cause.
What does any self-respecting horse do in the mosquito battle fray?
He stops, drops and rolls until he is thoroughly coated in a paste of mud that dries to an impenetrable protective crust.
At least impenetrable in the time I had allowed for spiffing him up.
In short, when I fetched Bear from the paddock, he was a walking mud pie.
There was mud in every orifice; between his legs; behind his ears; in his mane and tail. There was no way he was going to be spic and span in time for our coaching.
And if there’s one thing you need to understand about me it’s that I am a fiend about presentation.
I was taught from the beginning of my horsey education that being properly turned out, i.e. clean horse, clean tack, clean breeches, et al, demonstrates respect for my horse, myself and my instructor.
When I was coaching for a while, it irked me when a student brought their horse into a lesson with shavings or hay caught up in the tail or mane, or mud or grime of any kind still lingering on the coat. It demonstrated a lack of care or concern for the quality of their, and the horse’s experience.
Being one who likes to lead by example I am, therefore, attentive to Bear’s and my turnout at all times.
For instance, some might consider it obsessive, but Bear’s polo bandages always match the colour of whatever shirt I’m wearing. If we don’t have a match I either go neutral (white or black) with the shirt or neutral with the polos. I blame it on my brief stint as a fashion model and, okay, an obsession with being co-ordinated.
Still, with Bear looking like a mud monster, what was I to do?
I had to make do … one of the things I most despise in the whole world.
I remember, when I was a small child, a horrible man who used to do odd jobs for my grandmother. Terrible workmanship ~ tiles in the bathroom whose seams didn’t match, etc. ~ and granny overlooked it because she was simply grateful that he would do it. Consequently I dislike slip shod work ~ reminds me of predators who don’t care about the impact they have on people.
But that’s another story …
So perhaps this is one of the reasons I want my horse, and I, to always look presentable when we’re training. And perhaps this is why, on this day, I was provided an opportunity to learn to let go of this apparently manic need to control appearances.
With my supply of old towels at the barn for just such an “emergency,” I rubbed dry Bear’s saddle area. Then I grabbed a stiff-bristled dandy brush and removed whatever debris was dry on other areas of his body. Beyond that, and picking out his feet, it was hopeless to do anything else. His rump was amass in thick, wet mud that would just have to stay there and dry on its own while we trained.
(Sigh … )
In the meantime, I eased my pain by handsoming Bear up with a set of turquoise polo bandages which matched my shirt. Then, I let my obsession go. What other choice was there?
A liberal spraying of fly repellent was a poor substitute for the natural barrier Bear had so carefully devised for himself in the mud puddle, but it would have to do. We went out to the steamy sand ring and did our thing.
Coach’s response when I apologized for Bear’s lack lustre appearance was predictable.
“He’s a horse,” he said matter-of-factly. “He’ll dry.”
Which, of course, he did. And that’s when the mosquitos landed and engaged in their own blood buffet at my poor horse’s expense.
Afterwards I hosed Bear down, gently removing all the sweaty, mucky debris before rinsing him off with an anti-fungicide and spraying him again with repellant. All the while I was acutely aware that once loose in the paddock Bear would meander to the mud hole and take care of matters for himself.
As well he should.
In matters of mosquito management there’s little doubt that Bear knows best.
Still, with the pestilence predicted for our region this summer I don’t see myself going for a roll in the mud hole any time soon … or do I?
Nurture what you love …
Copyright Aimwell CreativeWorks 2013