Bees! Run!

Rasmussen's Field
Hunting at Estabrook Road in Concord.

It’s always a relief when the deer flies go dormant at the end of August. Unfortunately, in early September, they are often replaced by ground bees. Unlike the Deer Flies, you don’t get them every ride, but when you run into them, it can be very disruptive.

This past Saturday, we had a hunt in one of our most beautiful territories. It was a great day for hunting — not too hot, not too dry, but unfortunately without the cold night that keeps the bees dormant.

Advance riders who had ridden the territory on Friday warned about bees before we left; they’d been stung when checking the trails.

Ground bees
Ground bees nest in holes in the ground. They get stirred up when the horses go over their nests.

There are two strategies when the bees are swarming. You can either ride way up front and get through them fast, or ride at the back of the second field and watch to see what happens. Since I’m not jumping Freedom yet (I was very pleased that his leg looked and felt great after our first hunt and I don’t want to push it), and since he got so angry when I gapped the fences on Tuesday, I chose to ride at the back of the hilltoppers.

The hunt started very well. The hounds were on the scent and we had a good long run at the beginning. For me, that helps settle Freedom. He was not quite as bouncy as Tuesday and the long canter at the beginning got him to relax.

All was fine until we turned onto a wooded trail. I’d heard that the bees had been in this location the day before and I stayed well back with another rider. Just as well because as they rode down into a hollow, the second field was surrounded by a swarm of bees. When you or your horse is stung, the protocol is to yell “Bees!” once and then, depending where you are in the field, go as quickly as possible through them, or turn and gallop away so you can go around a different route.

The hounds coming in at the end of the hunt. The eagles were flying over the pond to their right. We also saw a Blue Heron.
The hounds coming in at the end of the hunt. The eagles were flying over the pond to their right. We also saw a Blue Heron.

Freedom and I high-tailed it back down the trail and escaped without being stung. Most of the rest of the field was not so lucky. Two riders were thrown and almost all were stung multiple times. This is why it’s good to carry Benedryl or an Epi Pen in the fall — you may get stung quite some distance from your trailer.

One horse crashed into us trying to get away from the bees (they will not leave their territories but the ones still on you or your horse do hold on for awhile.) Many horses were bucking and trying to rub the bees off. Eventually, everyone settled. Two riders bowed out and the rest of us continued on — wary but game. Thank goodness that was the last of the bees for the day. I can’t wait until the first hard frost when the bees will stay dormant for the rest of the season.

We did get a tremendous treat at the end of the ride — three eagles were riding the thermals right over the field where we finished. I have never had the privilege of seeing an eagle before, so three was a real bonanza.

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