The flies are ba-aaaack.
And sadly, we forgot to start our predators on schedule this year, probably because last week it was still raining and two weeks before that, snowing.
Mother Nature has been very moody…
Anyway, how do these flies hatch so quickly?
Alas, the fight between flies – and everybody else – has begun.
THE WILD MARE, SAMANTHA
As most of you already know, I have a few wild horses. The other two, Rojo and Remi, have adapted well enough to know that they adore their fly masks.
Remi will go so far as to rattle the gate and point to where she accidentally rubbed hers off; and then stand there and wait for me to put it back on. She is such a Fly Mask Believer, she’ll bow her head and stand perfectly still until she hears the velcro flapwrap. Ahhhhhh. In her Mustang brain, the flymask was the best invention since… grain.
Rojo is the same. He will hog Tess’ fan, sticking his face front and center blowing all the flies hither and yon, until I put on his mask.
Sam, on the other hand, has been here the longest, endured many a long, hot Grass Valley summer and still refuses to find the value in a noisy, flappy thing that would keep the army of flies gathered like black eyeshadow on her lids from tormenting her for 12 hours a day – nope, not this ‘stang, she’d prefer to be au natural.
Today, I decided to show her the wisdom of a fly mask…
Bigger Silly Girl…
FIRST THINGS FIRST…
First things first, make sure you have about 12 hours for this task. At least if you have 12 hours, by the time your teaching time is up, the flies should be gone – so you have that going for you.
Next, have plenty of treats. Your horse and the flies will enjoy them.
Also, I can tell you that after my experience today, you’ll want to wear a fly mask yourself or at least spray yourself down. There is nothing more mood breaking than several flies orbiting your mouth and other facial orifices (my stomach is still turning).
Lastly, don’t ever try to do this in the direct sunlight. You’ll probably pass out before you succeed.
SECOND THINGS FIRST…
This is important so remember it first… Do not try to do this in open space, unless you bring along shelter and a barrel of treats.
After the first hour in the sun and open space (and her retreating every other minute), I finally got the bright idea (which was surprising since I was delirious) to put her into MT’s double stall. Duh.
*Cautionary Tale 2: Don’t put a wild horse in a confined space unless you know the horse and know the number of your physician. Because even if you know your horse, a wild horse can be unpredictable.
So I proceeded to put Sam in Tess’ double stall.
And then the work began.
Most of you are wondering how I could have a wild horse for so long (6 years) and not have her totally trained…
I will tell you why in one sentence.
She doesn’t see the need.
She’s thought this through and has made her decision. Sam is respectful, she isn’t frightened, she does everything I tell her, she just doesn’t want to be handled. Period.
OKOK, I know many of you would say that any horse is trainable… and previously, I might have agreed myself.
So, just to address this, I’ll give the naysayers this tidbit:
Sam was chosen to go to Monty Robert’s ranch where he teaches his trainers (not his students… his trainers) on the most difficult wild horses. Sam was there for 6 months (the usual stay is 6 weeks). When she was returned to me, she was wearing a very tight halter that had masking tape wrapped around the cheek piece with the handwritten note, “DO NOT REMOVE”.
Uh huh. ‘Nuff said.
HAVING SAID THAT…
Having said that, I feel pretty good about my progress with Sam over the last 6 years. She can be let out to graze and she always puts herself away at feeding time. She will go through any gate I open. She is patient. I can move her with hand motions. She will take a treat very politely. And, when she had wire caught in her tail, she let the vet remove it (after being given mild sedation on pellets since there was no way to inject her).
Yes, I know that if she got in trouble, I would be in a fix. However, I kinda think that if push came to shove, the mare would make the right decisions for herself. She knows she is safe and that I won’t hurt her. She just doesn’t want to play in our field.
WHY SHOULD A WILD MARE NEED A FLY MASK? THEY DON’T WEAR THEM IN THE WILD…
True. Horses don’t wear fly masks in the wild. They also are not confined to areas where there is manure. And, there aren’t cows across the road…
BACK TO THE STORY
So, Sam and I played “Fly Mask is Good” for several hours in Tess’ stall.
She pretended she was scared so that she could get a treat. I pretended that I was calm and didn’t mind spending all this time just trying to get a flipping fly mask on her.
Luckily, I had food and water nearby plus fairly good music playing in the barn.
Although Sam only wore the fly mask temporarily (I wasn’t able to velcro it), I did get it on her face.
— I rubbed her with it. All over the parts she was OK with me rubbing. Her chest, neck and face. I was very, very gentle and I gave her treats as I was doing it. I started slowly and quit if she retreated. ‘No treats for a retreat’, I told her.
–I also gave her ‘atta girls’ as I moved the mask slowly up her nose. For every inch, a treat. I managed to get it up to her eyes that way. But, I wasn’t able to get it past her eyes so…
–I worked on moving it up her mane towards her poll. Once I got it to the top of her poll, all the while encouraging her brave work (she wasn’t being brave because she wasn’t scared – she was milking me for treats but that’s OK…), I was able to drop the mask down over her eyes.
*I used the basic Farnam flymask. It has a very wide ear opening which is helpful. And, the velcro is easy to close.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK
–Trying to put the mask over her eyes from the front or any angle where she could see it.
–Trying to reason with her by explaining the uses of a flymask.
–Wearing it myself to show her… after all, she’s seen all the other horse wearing them and that didn’t convince her.
Tomorrow I will try again.
Hopefully, I will start where I left off… and hopefully, I will be able to get it velcro’d without any injuries.
And, hopefully, once she feels the wonders of no flies on her eyes, I’m sure she will become a convert to the Fly Mask Club.
I think I can, I think I can…