A Riddle, Wrapped in a Mystery, Inside an Enigma

…and some caterpillar slaughtering.

On Monday, Aero was coughing a lot.  The vet prescribed an antibiotic.  I reckon that as soon as I handed over the money for his medication in the local pharmacy on Tuesday morning, he stopped coughing.

There was not a single cough from Tuesday to Thursday, and I felt a bit silly to be treating my not-sick horse for an illness.  Looking on the bright side, he was well.  That was the important thing.

I rode Flurry on Wednesday and Thursday.

Love this view!

Love this view!

Friday was to be Aero’s day, for a mix of ground work and a little riding. And on the way from his paddock to the stables, he coughed twice.  I tied him up in the barn to groom him and he coughed steadily.  Crap.  I decided not to ride him, but just to do a little ground work instead.

He was in brilliant form, and thoroughly enjoyed our session.  He was working at liberty the whole time, and we practised our follow (backwards, forwards, fast, slow and sideways), reverse (with me in front and behind), sideways with me standing a couple of metres away, recall (perfect all the time, really pleased with that one) and we tried slalom at liberty (not perfect, but it worked).  We finished with a little jump at liberty, just because he was enjoying it all so much.  He loved that too!  He starts off walking beside me towards a jump, I give him a signal to speed up and point at the jump and over he goes!

BUT, he coughed on and off throughout the session and, as I brushed him down afterwards, he was coughing as badly as he had been on Monday.

I was disgusted.  And worried.  And mystified.

He was one day from finishing his antibiotic and he was as bad as he had been when he started – despite not coughing all week.

Was it more likely to be an allergy?

After some thought, I decided that the best thing to do was to start giving him soaked hay.  This is not as easy as it sounds.  The water pipes are usually frozen first thing in the morning, so water is an issue, as is where to drain the water to afterwards – it’ll either turn into a skating rink or a quagmire, depending on weather conditions.  In Cork, I had a several large plastic barrels, perfect for soaking hay, but I have nothing similar here.  Maybe I could buy a large dustbin?  I chatted with Alexandrine and we came up with a plan.  Aero would go into an unused paddock, on his own.  We would not put any straw in the field shelter, in order to keep dust exposure to a minimum.  Alexandrine knew where we could find a barrel for soaking, and we’d sort out the water issue as we went along.

I went up to the farm on Saturday morning to set things up.  First things first; bring Aero up for his final injection.

Not a single cough during the forty minutes I spent with him.  Nothing.  Not so much as an “Ahem.”  How can he cough so badly one day, and be perfect the next?

To say I was mystified is an understatement, hence the use of Sir Winston’s words in the title!

I turned my attention to the nests of the processionary moth caterpillar once again – I wrote about these guys on the Wanderly Wagons blog three years ago.  Everything to do with these creatures is at best irritant, at worst highly toxic.  Perhaps he has been nibbling or just sniffing the pine trees near their nests and has been breathing in minute fragments of the silk they leave behind as they march around the branches at nighttime to feed?

The LSH and I spent the morning removing every single nest from their paddock and its environs.  We cut down 14 all told, 11 from inside their paddock.


We had offers of help, of course…


I’m sure I can figure out how to use this…

Both boys were keen to be involved…


MothBusters ready for action!

but we did it all ourselves.

This yoke is brilliant, it even cut through a branch about four centimetres in diameter with no difficulty.


There was evidence of nibbled pine needles on several trees, right beside a nest in one case.


Is this the reason for the cough?


Once the nests were all cut down, we wanted to burn them.  It was easier said than done with everything damp and no matches.  A flame-thrower was the best option.

IMG_1457And eventually, the fire was roaring, with the help of some straw.

Those feckers are difficult to kill, though.  The nests don’t burn at all, and the caterpillars were remarkably resilient.

IMG_1459Eventually, all that was left were some Krispy Kritters.

Mission accomplished.




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