Studying the Wild West: Going on a Trail Ride

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We’re studying the Wild West this semester, and it’s impossible to do so without noting the importance of the horse to this expansion.  From pioneers moving west to the Pony Express, stagecoaches, and cowboys, horses played a huge role in it all.  With that in mind, I scheduled a horse lesson and trail ride so that we could learn about horses firsthand.

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Our lesson took place at a nearby church camp that includes stables.  Chris Burtner, their equestrian director, met us on a beautiful fall morning and talked to the kids about some horse basics: anatomy, behaviors, and horse etiquette.  There’s a lot to learn!

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She also taught the kids about the frog, a soft, triangular part of the horse’s foot and how to care for it.  While she cleaned the frogs before the students came, an important aspect of horse care, she showed them how it’s done.

Horse studies

Next, everyone learned about the tack necessary for basic riding: saddles, saddle pads, curry combs, bits, reins, and bridles.

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When they knew the basics, the students each retrieved a basket with the necessary tools for currying their horses.  Each was responsible for preparing his own horse to ride, and this gave them all time to bond with their animals.

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My Big Helper especially liked this part.  I think they all fell a little bit in love with their mounts during this part of the lesson.

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When there was no remaining dirt that might chafe the horse after being saddled, the kids were instructed individually about that process.  My Little Man was excited to learn each step of this process, and Burtner kindly walked him through it, checking behind him as he went.

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He was quite proud of his accomplishment!

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After everyone had curried, saddled, and mounted their horses, they headed out for a trail ride.  The forest was beautiful, and while several of the kids looked scared as they held the reins for the first time, they all returned with huge smiles on their faces.  Several asked immediately if they could head back out to the woods!

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Unfortunately, time didn’t allow another ride, and so the kids learned how to unsaddle their horses, as well.  They put away their tack and rubbed down the horses following their ride.

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Since this ride, I’ve heard the kids who attended ask for more lessons.  They loved it!

Horse Studies

I’ve heard more than that, though:  the kids have talked about the feel of the horse, the way it felt to ride so high from the ground, and about how it smelled and sounded.  They’re using proper vocabulary when talking about the horses and equipment, and I can’t wait to read the way that their experiences factor into their stories and ideas about the role of horses in the Wild West.

Have your children ever ridden a horse?

Check out these resources for more information about horses and the Wild West:

Horse Studies

What are your thoughts?

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