Contrary to all the “neigh”sayers, horses and homeschoolers are a perfect combination!
Studying science? Did you know horses have the largest eyes of any land mammal? Or that their teeth take up more space in their head than their brain? The “frog” in the center of a horse’s hoof is sometimes referred to as the second heart, because it helps pump blood back up the leg. These and other unique characteristics of horse anatomy and physiology are evidence that these animals were carefully designed.
In fact, it seems equines are one of God’s favorite creations, as they are second only to sheep as the most frequently mentioned animal in Scripture. There are over three hundred references to horses, donkeys, and mules in the Bible. Verses such as James 3:3 come to life when you have more knowledge of horses. “Behold, we put bits in the horses’ mouths that they may obey us.”
Literature & Writing
The Bible isn’t the only book that mentions horses. Did you know Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty is one of the best-selling books of all time with over fifty million copies sold? Horses, both real and fictional, are the subjects of numerous books. Horse topics provide not only reading opportunities but a plethora of ideas for both fiction and nonfiction writing assignments.
Artists over the years have worked to capture the beauty of these magnificent animals in sketches, paintings, and sculptures. Horses come in a dazzling array of coat colors and markings and provide wonderful subjects for developing students’ artistic skills.
Owning a horse means you use math regularly. While human height is measured in feet, a horse’s height is measured in hands, with one hand equal to four inches. How many inches tall is a fifteen-hand horse? If a horse requires a minimum of one percent of his body weight in roughage daily, how much hay should he be fed? What would the total cost be for tack, stable supplies, feed, and veterinary care for a year? If a horse trots at an average of eight miles per hour, how long would it take you to get to the grocery store and back on him?
A subject where horses really shine is history. Horses have worked side by side with mankind through much of recorded history. It was a good partnership—man providing the brains and horses the brawn. Together, they accomplished amazing things. Some are common knowledge, such as plowing fields and pulling carriages or farm wagons. But did you know railroads were initially created to be used with horse-drawn cars?
Canal boats that transported raw materials for the Industrial Revolution were towed by horses and mules. Even more surprising, horses powered boats by a variety of on-board methods such as walking on a turntable or conveyor belt.
Small burros were the faithful partners of the gold prospectors in the 1840s and ’50s. The gold they discovered was carried to banks by stagecoaches pulled by teams of four to six horses. Some well-known companies today, such as American Express and Wells Fargo, had their origins in the stagecoach business.
Everything that happened in the past happened somewhere, making the study of geography a natural companion to history. In 1910, two young boys received some firsthand experience with American geography. Bud (10) and Temple (6) Abernathy rode their horses, unaccompanied by any adults, from Oklahoma to New York!
A study of horse breeds and their origins provides an overview of world geography. It’s estimated there are over three hundred known breeds. The Basotho (South Africa), Guangxi (China), Brumby (Australia), and Orlov Trotter (Russia) are just a sampling of the variety of breeds developed around the world.
While the study of these subjects is important, even more beneficial are the character qualities children acquire from working with horses. Those cannot be learned from a book. Unlike the machines that have largely replaced them, horses are living beings with their own personalities—and often minds of their own!
Horses are not bicycles or automobiles. You don’t turn them on with a key or simply push a pedal to make them go. Learning to ride a horse requires patience and persistence. A trusting relationship only develops over time with consistent and firm but kind treatment. While the horse learns to understand what his rider wants, the child develops relational skills and becomes aware of the horse’s non-verbal language. Riding is a small fraction of the time spent with horses. All the work involved in caring for them teaches responsibility.
Most importantly, our relationship with horses provides a beautiful picture of our relationship with God. As we are the horse’s master, so God is ours. It’s only when a horse submits to his wise and loving master that he becomes useful. Through that willing submission and cooperation, the Master’s will can be accomplished.
Copyright 2020, The Old Schoolhouse®. Used with permission. All rights reserved by the Author. Originally appeared in the Winter 2020 – 2021 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the trade publication for homeschool moms.
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