Thursday, June 12, 2008

More on Coping With Biting Insects

In the comments segment of the Journal of Ravenseyrie blog, Annemiek inquired: "Lynne, I was wondering, do they ever go into the water? Would this help to ease the itches? Or maybe, after they go into the water and roled in the sand they would have a mud coat to protect them?"

I'm surprised that I forgot to include rolling in yesterday's listing of options the horses use to find relief from the biting insects, so I'm glad you brought up these questions, Annemiek.

I have observed the horses stepping into the water to take a drink (and even spend time gazing off into the waves as you see Doll doing!) but I haven't witnessed them going in deeper to get their bodies wet and cool themselves off in the lake.
They may do it, and I've just not been around when it occurs.

On the other hand, our beach at the water's edge is totally covered with stones and rocks--which are incredibly slippery. We humans wear rubber soled swimming shoes when we want to play in the water...perhaps Kevin should design some for horses, similar to the hoof boots folks use instead of metal shoes?

The North Channel (which is what the portion of Lake Huron is called where our beach is) is very shallow by the shore and you have to go quite a ways out (35-50ft) before it drops off and gets deeper than mid-thigh level. This coupled with the slippery footing may be discouraging the horses from going out for a good soaking.

They do roll in the mud down there, though, as you can see here by Zeus' clinging clay coloring. This lake shore clay is incredibly adhesive, and is very difficult to brush off if they have rolled in the wettest areas.
When you walk through it, the clay mud clings to your boots in layers, and just keeps building up until you feel as if you have forty extra pounds on each boot! Better get if off before it dries, too, or you've really got a job removing it later. I typically just walk through the water until it all rinses off.

A good pair of rubber boots are a must here at Ravenseyrie, if you want to be able to walk wherever you please. This time of the year rubber boots can get pretty hot...
but if you are down by the lake, you just take them off and cool your feet in the pristine lake while sitting on a big rock observing horses and taking lots of photos. It's a bit too cold for swimming just yet.

Back up on the bluff, just outside the kitchen window the herd has made a favorite dirt rolling spot.

And they roll a lot.
In thinking about the discomfort these flies and mosquitoes cause us, I remembered something I'd read in a book several years ago titled, MUTANT MESSAGE DOWN UNDER by Marlo Morgan. This is a true life account of an American woman who went on "walkabout" with a group of Australian Aboriginals and had a pretty horrific experience with true hoards of flies. When she asked the leader of the group how they could possible stand having flies crawling all over them he replied:

"There are no freaks, misfits, or accidents. There are only things that humans do not understand. You believe the bush flies to be bad, to be hell, and so for you they are, but it is only because you are minus the necessary understanding and wisdom. In truth, they are necessary and beneficial creatures. They crawl down our ears and clean out the wax and sand that we get from sleeping each night. Do you see we have perfect hearing? Yes, they climb up our nose and clean it out too." He pointed to my nose and said, "You have very small holes, not a big koala nose as we have. It is going to get much hotter in the days to come and you will suffer if you do not have a clean nose. In extreme heat you must not open your mouth to the air. Of all people who need a clean nose, it is you. The flies crawl and cling to our body and take off everything that is eliminated." He held out his arm as he said, "See how soft and smooth our skin is, and look at yours. We have never known a person who changed colors merely by walking. You came to us one color, then became bright red, now you are drying and falling away. You are becoming smaller and smaller each day. We have never known anyone who left their skin on the sand as a snake does. You need the flies to clean your skin, and someday we will come to the place where the flies have laid the larva and again we will be provided with a meal." He took a deep sigh as he looked at me intently and said, "Humans cannot exist if everything that is unpleasant is eliminated instead of understood. When the flies come, we surrender. Perhaps you are ready to do the same."

I'm not sure I would be able to surrender to the flies of the Australian Outback in the way Margo Morgan did...though perhaps if I had no choice, just as she had no choice, I would yield my body and learn to appreciate the good that the flies can do. I surely have learned that every element of this mysterious world has its right to be here and that to not be constantly fighting against such things makes for a happier state of mind.

The herd has shown me that one can find numerous ways pass through the buggy times and when the more pleasant sensations can be had, they don't rush through them, but they savor every blessed moment, even more so after having come through the unpleasant times.Tomorrow, or the next day, depending on how much extra time there is, I intend to share a story from this past Sunday at the beach and relay just how sure-footed these horses and mules are while negotiating their way over those rocks.

Thank you for your question Annemiek. I really appreciate your interest!


Miek said...

Hi Lynne,

Thanks for your answer, this is all so very fascinating! I am also very interested in what your horses eat. In my study we had a lecture about poisonous plants and the professor on this subject told us domestic horses are not capable anymore to avoid those. I doubt this very much, I’ve read a lot of stories about domestic horses turned lose, which seem to have no problems staying alive without human interference. However, they tell us over and over again that green oak leaves are poisonous for horses as are the green acorns. Our horses eat them both if we don’t prevent them. Maybe you don’t have oak trees at your place, but there must be other “poisonous” trees and plants. How do your horses cope with them I wonder?
lol Annemiek

Kris said...

In addition to the useful function you mentioned --keeping horses moving thus stopping them from lingering too long in lush grass--flies (and other insects) also help horses stay limber and supple. Some of the movements horses make to nip at or relieve themselves of an annoying fly (or scratch a persistent itch) greatly resemble the "stretches" a chiropractor (or other body worker) would have them do. Holistic vet Joyce Harmon mentioned this "benefit" of flies once years ago. Your article reminded me of it.


Lynne Gerard said...

I'm glad you were prompted to remember what Dr. Joyce Harmon had to say about flies helping to keep the horses limber and supple.

It's so rare to read anything beneficial about biting insects, especially from a veterinarian.

Movement for the horse is so necessary in more ways than one.

I really appreciate your contribution, Kris. Thank you for commenting.