‘Ummm….Mum, Fly looks like he’s got chicken pox’, was the first thing I heard upon awakening at Emmervale station on the Bicentennial National Trail that morning.
Struggling to conjure up an adequate mental image of a horse afflicted with chicken pox, I raced onto the verandah to get a firsthand look, and sure enough, there was Fly- standing spotty and dotty with small raised lumps over much of his belly, but looking otherwise unfazed and eagerly awaiting breakfast.
With the exception of a sick child, there is nothing worse than having an animal that is unwell on the trail. My stomach knotted with worry as I carefully checked what appeared to be small bites.
We had arrived at Emmervale station a couple of days before and decided that the awesome little deer hunters’ hut, huge paddock and friendly hosts Doug and Felicity were too special not to call a rest day.
Fly had obviously either had an allergic reaction to something while he was mooching about the paddock on his day off, or been bitten by one (or a thousand) of the myriad of bugs that seem to inhabit Queensland. He didn’t seem too itchy or stressed, so I decided to put some tea tree oil on the bites and gave him a small dose of antihistamines.
It was a perfect day for trekking as we left Emmervale- cloudy and crisp with just the hint of a breeze. The camp later that day at Cressbrook Creek was full of lush green grass and the bubs certainly made the most of it. Fly continued to be his normal cruisy self, so all thoughts of possible poisoning were let go of with relief and we set off for our camp at Maria Creek via Eskdale Station.
The weather was surprisingly warm and after a few hours travel along the bitumen road, we came across a friendly scout leader and his charges who would be sharing the BNT with us for the next coupe of days. How exciting! A couple of the mums and young children rushed over and mobbed the donkeys, who are now very tolerant at being affectionately prodded by small children or having their lips tickled by well-meaning housewives.
However, to our utmost horror, one of the mums starting jumping around on the road and howling in pain- Jasmine had bitten her! It took a while to sink in Jasmine? Our beautiful sweet Jasmine, who would never hurt a Fly- BITTEN her? Now, Basil has been known to let loose a half-hearted kick once or twice when he has been super peeved about something, but neither of the donkeys, or Fly for that matter, has ever been known to bite. I was baffled.
It turned out that the bite-ee in question had just been cutting up sausages for the scouts before indulging in some donkey lip-tickling action, and naughty Jasmine must have thought there was food on offer in those juicy fingers. We apologised for our donkey’s wayward behaviour, but the mums in question wanted nothing further to do with us, so we made a hasty retreat, with Z indignantly defending Jasmine all the way up the hill…
Emu Creek – Blackbutt
Two days later, we pulled into camp at Emu Creek, and the next morning, Fly was unbearably itchy. His spots had flared up and the poor boy could hardly stand still while I saddled him.With only 12km to Blackbutt and the nearest vet, I decided to get moving ASAP and call into the vet as soon as we got to town.
After a while, perhaps due to warming up a bit, FLy began to settle down and I had a better look at his ‘chicken pox’. Upon closer inspection, I found a teeny tiny tick in the middle of each raised lump- and there were hundreds of them!
Now I had aware that we had been travelling in Queensland’s infamous ‘tick zone’ for the last few weeks, and as yet it hadn’t posed a problem. We’d all had our fair share of ticks, and Z and I now made it a twice daily routine to check for the little critters. But Fly’s little collection was in plague proportions.
We had a chat to the vet in Blackbutt, who nodded in sympathy and assured us it was a fairly common problem in the area, and that some horses just had more of a reaction. I knew our essential oils and other ‘hippy remedies’ just wouldn’t cut it this time, so I bought a bottle of permethrin and was told to spray the bubs every five days to kill and deter the ticks.A few hours later, Fly seemed comfortable once again, and we ventured into town to seek out the mandatory hot chips to celebrate our arrival, and the end of guidebook 6. Never a dull moment on the BNT!