Why I Created This Guide
My son loves horses. He has been fascinated by them—in books and in person—since he was a baby. I have always loved horses, as well, although I certainly can’t claim to be a true equestrian. I have enjoyed learning to ride horses at summer camp in Vermont, going on the occasional trail ride with family and friends, seeing wild white horses around the salt marshes of Camargue, France, and admiring working horses at farms and agricultural fairs. Still, having a little boy set on discovering all he can about horses has led me to think about horses and horse-related activities on a whole new level! Hopefully this kit brings some new inspiration to you, too.
Spark Their Interest
Horses can sleep standing up!
Horses can run very soon after birth.
Horses have bigger eyes than any other land mammal.
Horses gallop up to 40 mph!
Some horses eat for 16 hours a day!
As you go through your day, try to brainstorm activities that horses were once involved in:
roadside market stands/traveling markets
battles/war (ok, hopefully the only thing that would cause you to think of this is the occasional sibling squabble)
What are activities you might still find them doing?
sports (polo, horse racing/chariot racing)
riding lessons/leisure activity
A is for Amos by Deborah Chandra, illus. by Keiko NarahashiCombination alphabet and storybook, this enchanting picture book follows a girl on an imaginary horseback ride.
Appaloosa Zebra: A Horse Lover’s Alphabet by Jessie Haas, illus. by Margo AppleThis alphabet book goes through many different types of horses while a little girl imagines what horses she will have on her own horse farm some day.
After reading either of the alphabet books, help your child create their own horse-related alphabet!
Clip-Clop! by Nicola SmeeMr. Horse gives his barnyard friends rides, and each time they beg to go faster, faster. Fabulous repetition, sound words, and humor make this story a great read-aloud and big win with little ones. And wow do those barnyard animals resemble small children in many ways!
This story invites movement and sound. After reading, get your little one to gallop and whinny like a horse!
Abuelo by Arthur Dorros, illus. by Raul ColonA young boy recounts his joy spending time with his abuelo (grandfather) as the two ride horseback, camp out, get lost, and confront a mountain lion. Later, when the boy’s family moves to the city, the memories of Abuelo and la pampa (the plains) help him adjust to his new urban surroundings. Dorros seamlessly incorporates Spanish into his lyrical text, allowing listeners to naturally absorb this vocabulary. Colón’s mixed-media artwork beautifully complements Dorros’ prose. His luminous landscapes and numerous setting details bring this Argentinian vista to life. (Booklist) Although a boy’s relationship with his grandfather is the main focus of this story, horses and riding play a powerful role and are so beautifully illustrated.
Noni the Pony by Alison LesterIntroducing Noni, the friendliest, funniest, and friskiest pony you’ll ever meet! When she’s not racing and chasing with her best pals Dave Dog and Coco the Cat, she’s busy making sure they feel cozy and loved. Because Noni isn’t just heaps of fun—she’s a great friend, too. With its jaunty rhyme and bright, bold illustrations, this delightful picture book is sure to capture the imaginations and hearts of readers of all ages. (Publisher)
My Pony by Susan JeffersThe pigtailed narrator of this enchanting story wants a pony of her own. Her parents tell her that a horse is too expensive and that they don't have enough room, so she draws pictures of a horse. Her art takes her to a magical world where she rides a beautiful, dappled silver horse through forests and clouds. When she returns from her journey, she is happy because her imaginary animal "waits just outside my window. Always." In an author's note, Jeffers tells how her own longing for a horse led her to drawing. (School Library Journal)
After reading My Pony encourage your child to draw a picture of the pony they would like to have. Or perhaps there is something else they would really like some day? They could draw that, too, or instead!
Hush, Little Horsie by Jane Yolen and Ruth SandersonMama horses around the world promise to watch over their little ones as the foals frolic and play and eventually fall asleep in this soothing bedtime story. Young horse lovers will drift off with Ruth Sanderson’s stunning horses in their minds and the promise of their own parents’ enduring love in their hearts. (Publisher)
Fritz and the Beautiful Horses by Jan BrettFritz was not beautiful. He didn't have a braided mane or a glossy coat. He couldn't prance with long, graceful strides like the elegant horses who carried lords and lovely ladies to the city--a city that allowed only the most beautiful horses within its walls. The citizens laughed at the short-legged pony's attempts to be like their own horses. But Fritz was dependable and hardworking. He proved to the citizens that there are things more important than being beautiful. He earned a special place for himself in the walled city just as he'll earn a special place in every reader's heart. (janbrett.com)
Extend the dialogue and use the story as an opportunity to talk about what makes people special, too, and how there are different types of beauty.
Call the Horse Lucky by Junaita Havill, illus. by Nancy LaneA girl helps a neglected horse in this heartfelt picture book about animal rescue. Bike riding in the country with her grandmother, Mel sees a despondent pinto alone in a corral. When she realizes that the horse is too skinny and moves painfully, her grandmother calls the Humane Society. Lucky, as Mel names him, is taken to a veterinarian and ultimately to a horse therapy ranch where he will live and work. Havill's conversational text keeps the story moving along swiftly without being hindered by a lot of detail, thus keeping the didacticism at a minimum. Lane's watercolor paintings deftly convey the emotions of both the horse and Mel. (School Library Journal)
After reading this book, make a visit to a local humane society, animal shelter, or veterinarian (especially one that cares for horses!) near you. Learn about animal rescue and/or horse health!
Uni the Unicorn by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illus. by Brigette BarragerIn this delightfully entertaining story, children are transported to a land in which unicorns are the norm and little girls are believed to be mythical creatures. Uni is like all the other unicorns in so many ways. She had a swirly horn, a magnificent mane, and the magical ability to make wishes come true. "But there was one thing that definitely set Uni apart. Uni believed that little girls were REAL." Despite being laughed at and dismissed for her beliefs, she dreams of what friendship with a human girl would be like. (School Library Journal)
I love this spin on the “there’s-no-such-thing-as-unicorns” tale. What does your little one like to imagine? Is there something they believe in that other people might not?
Historical and Informational:
Stable by Ted LewinLooking at the history and current activities of the Kensington Stables in Brooklyn, New York, this book is a perfect way to get a conversation going with your child. about past and present horse affairs.
Horses by Laura DriscollLovely photographs accompany this gentle introduction to the world of horses.
Waiting for the Biblioburro by Monica Brown, illus. by John ParraStorytelling, a traveling library, and donkeys, what could be better?! Perhaps the fact that this is based on a true story.
Horses Photo-Fact Collection by Kidsbooks and Jennifer GreshamBig photographs and small blocks of information presented in bold colors make this a favorite nonfiction title in our household.
Ride a Pony with Kate and HarryPart of the Kate and Harry series, this award-winning app allows young children to design their own pony for Kate or Harry, and go on an adventure. There’s no text to follow, it is meant for kiddos to get creative and experiment.
After your child uses this app, encourage them to tell you a short story about their pony and the adventure they have had. Write it down, and with each new session, add to create a storybook of their very own!
Axel Scheffler’s Flip Flap FarmWhile not strictly about horses, this is a fabulous app for to get kids thinking creatively. A collection of silly and fun poems about mixed-up animals, this app explores poetry, rhymes, phonetics, and imagination. Children will love all the animal combinations they can create while moving the upper or lower half of animals they recognize, including a horse, of course!
What other animals would your child like to see mixed up with a horse? Any beyond farm animals? Brainstorm and create your own rhyme about the newly invented animal!
Harold the HorseA cute story about an unexpected friendship between a horse and a mole who set off together in search of treasure in the Cow Kingdom. Plan to read this with your child as there is no narration, but kids will enjoy the trials and tribulations of this funny pair.
What happens next? Ask your kiddo to tell you about this silly pair’s next adventure!
Watch, Listen, Learn
Learn about horses videoA short, narrated video with lots of photographs full of information about farm horses designed for young children. After watching this video, try to find a horse barn to visit in your area.
Equine Science 4 Kids!This site from Rutgers University is designed ideally for slightly older kids, but young kids will also enjoy it, especially if you help them read the many facts presented on the site. The information is fascinating and also makes many comparisons between humans and horses. Plus, you can watch a video of a horse running on a treadmill! After visiting this site, help your child process the information by asking them how horses and people are similar and different. Ask them to draw a picture of an activity both people and horses need to or like to do.
Points of the horseLearn the names for a horse’s body parts with this nifty chart. Print out the (or better yet, create your own!) horse body diagram and compare it with a diagram of human body parts. Many parts have the same name, but boy, do they look different on people and on horses! Ask your child to find these commonalities and differences.
Sesame Street: Horse VideosSesame Street has a great collection of horse videos on their website if you look up horses in the search box, with everything from riding a horse to putting a shoe on a horse. Which video is your child’s favorite? Why? I like the one of children pretending to ride a horse. How does your child pretend to ride a horse?
Get messy making some handprint horses. Have your child dip their hand in paint (the paint should be the color they want their horse’s body to be), and make a handprint on paper. With the handprint turned upside down, they can turn the thumb into the neck and yead, and their four other fingers into legs. Add on a tail, mane, and hooves and voila! You could use yarn to make the mane and tail. I thought this example with a popsicle stick fence glued on was pretty cute, too.
“Rickety rickety rocking horse, over the hills we go. Rickety rickety rocking horse, giddy up giddy up, whoa!”
“Had a horse, his name was Jack. Rode his tail to save his back. Tail fell off and I fell back. Whoooaaa, Jack!”
“Ride a cock horse to Banbury Cross, to see a fine lady upon a white horse. With rings on her fingers and bells on her toes, she will have music wherever she goes!”
“Horsy, horsy, don’t you stop. Just let your feet go clippety clop. Let your tail go swish and your wheels go round. Look out! We’re homeward bound!”
Horses are commonly featured on carousels. Find a historic (or just plain fun) carousel near you and go for a ride! The National Carousel Association also has lots of links to various carousel museums and sites around the country and even around the world. Take the opportunity to learn about the history of carousels, as well.
Carousel horses are beautiful works of art and give kids the perfect opportunity to think creatively about what a horse might look like. Create your own carousel horse! Use this template to make and decorate a horse. Use glitter, stickers, gems, or other fun materials to add a little pizazz. Attach it to a pipe cleaner to give it a carousel pole. Up for a more challenging carousel craft? Try a carousel craft such as this!
Give your child an empty, rinsed milk carton to paint as a barn. When their paint job as dried, you can use a box cutter or x-acto knife to cut out doors and/or windows. Suggest your child make some horses out of cardboard (or incorporate toy horses they already have) to house in the barn.
Horseshoe Yard Games
Horseshoe Magnetic Force
Use a horseshoe magnet to teach your little one about magnetism. I love the ideas for exploring with a horseshoe magnet suggested on Teaching Mama.
Is it possible to even think about horses without thinking about movement? I don’t think so. Encourage your kiddo to move like a horse: walk, trot, canter, and gallop away! Remind them they’ll make an even more convincing horse if they sound like a horse, too!
HORSE Basketball Game
One of my favorite basketball games growing up was HORSE, which, as far as I can tell, doesn’t have too much to do with horses other than the fact that you spell out “horse” as you play. But that seemed like a good enough reason to include it here! Read the rules here, but feel free to adapt them to meet your child or family’s needs and capabilities! Maybe you want to use a smaller hoop or ball, or maybe you want to apply the follow-the-leader style of the game to another game entirely, like soccer or dance moves!
Straight From the Horse’s Mouth
What better way to learn about horses than to get up close and personal? Visit a stable or farm near you where there are horses. Take time to watch horses at work or play, to learn about all the different chores that go into caring for a horse, and maybe even to ride a horse!
About Alexandra H.
Greetings from central Maine! Things you should know about me: I am the mother of an inquisitive, active toddler who keeps me on my toes. I work in a small, independent children’s bookstore where I get to help kids, teens, and their grown-ups find books that will keep them up reading all night long. Just kidding about that last part, they go to sleep eventually, I swear. Well, I don’t swear, but I assume. But matching people and books? My favorite way to play matchmaker! Before moving to Maine I worked as a historical researcher for American Girl, where I learned about everything from steamboats to wars to parrots. I am also a children’s book author myself, with my first picture book due to come out in 2015! When I’m not knee-deep in books or blocks or a sandbox, I bake a lot, avoid cleaning at all costs, and try to spend as much time outdoors as possible. For the record, I would love to be a neat and orderly person, it just doesn’t seem to be my style. I’m working on it.