CARY — As planes flew overhead and train whistles blew in the distance, Briarcliff Elementary School students saw firsthand Friday how people got around before the age of mechanized travel.
“Are they real?” Jayden Guevara, 6, a kindergarten student, asked as he spotted Remington and Dandy, a pair of horses by the school’s playground.
“Awesome!” Jayden replied when he got his answer.
Jayden wasn’t the only Briarcliff student excited to see the horses as the kids watched a demonstration of how shoes are placed on the animals’ hooves. It’s the culmination of a yearlong study of horses that was the brainchild of Briarcliff’s music teacher Janice Wilson.
Wilson said part of the inspiration for the “Horsin’ Around” program came from how students would ask her about the riding clothes she put on after school.
“I’m a horse lover and someone who loves to ride,” she said. “I know enough to be dangerous.”
The program was made possible by a $3,000 grant that Wilson received from the Wake Education Partnership, which awards grants to teachers in the Wake County school system. Using the nonprofit group’s money, Wilson partnered with her fellow Briarcliff teachers to have students learn about horses through their classes.
“Appreciation of nature is sometimes overlooked on end-of-grade tests, but I am confident that we can teach many concepts that will aid in the development of a well-rounded child,” Wilson wrote in her grant application.
Activities have included:
• Learning about the role of horses in history, including the exploits of the Pony Express.
• Learning songs such as “Happy Trails.”
• Drawing pictures of horses.
• Hearing about horses from N.C. State University veterinary school students.
• Practicing how to mount and dismount a wooden horse loaned by Buckhorn Farm in Apex.
But the highlight has been giving the students an opportunity to interact with real horses.
On Friday, Donnie Stephenson of Saddletree Stables in Willow Spring brought Remington, a quarter horse, and Dandy, a spotted saddle horse. Johnny Wood, 45, of Angier explained what he does as a farrier as he shod the horses all morning.
Amid jokes about scooping the poop off the hooves, Wood placed the horseshoes on and took questions from the students.
“I hope they get a better understanding of what it takes to care for horses,” Wood said. “It’s more than just feeding them.”
It was the first time that many students like fourth-grader Nemo Branch, 10, had seen a horse in person.
“You don’t realize how big they are,” Nemo said. “On video they look so small. They look prettier in real life.”
Weather permitting, Stephenson will return Monday with four horses to put on a riding demonstration. It’s something that Angelina Hankins, 10, a fourth-grade student, looks forward to seeing.
“I really love horses,” Angelina said. “It’s been a great experience for us to learn about all kinds of things that horses do.”