Gambler, The Yellow Jackets and Banamine

In our newsletter, we asked our readers to submit trail riding stories for a section in our newsletter called Horse Trials Trails. The stories can be funny, inspiring, outlandish or just plain old interesting. Here’s a story sent in by one of our readers and was highlighted in our October 2010 newsletter. If you would like to receive our newsletters, click here.


We were about halfway down this mountain on an old logging road. The logging road had been cut out of the side of the mountain, so that on one side, it was straight up, and on the other side, it was straight down. There are 10 of us, and I’m the third one from the back. The fellow right behind me is named Joe on his horse Gambler. Behind him is a woman named Deb.

My horse started doing his “bee dance” that he does when we’ve stirred up Yellow Jackets. I start to get out of there and look back and see that Gambler is stopped and is trying to buck. He’s got Yellow Jackets all over his face…so he stopped to rub his face…in the Yellow Jacket nest. His rider, Joe, can’t get him to move because Gambler is frantic to get the Yellow Jackets off his face. So, in desperation to get OUT of there, Joe jumps off and starts pulling Gambler. Problem is, when he jumped off, Gambler was half bucking, half rubbing his face, and the reins flipped over Gambler’s head and UNDER one leg, so now they are tangled around a leg.

Somehow, though, Joe gets the horse moving, and NOW, once Gambler gets started, he goes into the flight/panic mode and is running overtop of Joe, who’s trying to hold onto the reins and not lose his horse. This means that Joe is stuck (trying to run, mind you) up under Gambler’s head and neck because the reins are still tangled around one front leg.

Joe is nearly pushed off the edge of the cliff, throws his weight into Gambler’s head to turn him, Gambler, in his panic, changes his trajectory but now runs straight UP the cliff on the other side, dragging Joe with him who will not let go of his horse (bless his heart). Gambler loses his footing, turns and begins to fall onto Joe. Somehow, Joe manages not to get killed and gets Gambler back onto the road.

By then, I had swung my horse around and positioned him in front of Gambler and blocked him (Gambler did actually stop – thankfully, he’s much smaller than my horse). I yelled for Deb to ride past us since there was no sense in her staying and getting stung and her horse possibly freaking out too. She gets around us and goes on down the trail. At that point, Gambler throws his head down again to rub his face (now covered in welts) and Joe had enough slack to get the reins untangled. I shouted at him to throw me the reins, he does, and I take off with both horses.

Now that Gambler is untangled, he’s really moving and it’s easier to lead him off of another horse who can keep up, rather than from the ground. Joe is running down the trail behind us, also making better time because he’s not in danger of being trampled or drug off the cliff. We stopped after a minute to try to get ourselves together, and here comes the bees down the trail after us.

We take off again.

We stop again, and a few seconds later, here come the bees again. I felt like we were in a friggin’ cartoon! Finally, the third time, the bees are no longer following us and we were able to assess the damage. My horse was stung twice, me none, Deb’s horse stung a couple of times, and Deb none, but Gambler is a mass of welts, all over his face and front legs, down his sides and some on his haunches. Joe’s got stung on his temple and the back of his neck.

We get down to the bottom of the mountain (about another half mile) and stop. I carry bee sting stuff for people that is a very strong topical anesthetic and antihistamine. It literally numbs the skin as soon as it touches it. Great stuff. We also had some stuff for horses, but of course, the horse can’t tell us how good it might be…but we used it on Gambler anyway. He’s just covered with welts. We stay there for about an hour to let them recover and make sure there is no reactions. Not that much could be done, we are a good hour away from help by car (there was a gravel road, but we’re pretty far back). Joe is okay, not feeling too bad because of that stuff I had, and Gambler seems okay, so we decide to ride back.

My friend Stacy told me later, back at the trailers, that at one point during that episode, she looks back and sees me careening down the trail with one arm out behind me and all she could think of was the scene from “The Man From Snowy River.” She said she could not see Gambler behind me because he is smaller than my horse, so it looked like I was doing the Snowy River ride. Then she caught sight of Joe running along behind us…by the time we got back to the trailers, and knowing that everything was okay, it WAS a funny image and we were all giggling about how it must have looked from in front.

Rode about a total of seven hours.

Ended up that Joe was fine, Gambler got a shot of banamine when he got home and we now have ANOTHER riding story to tell.

As told by Laura Martlock, another Action Rider!


If you have an interesting story that you would like to share, please send it to and remember, Be One With Your Horse!TM

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