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20 Reasons Why I believe every child should own a horse

Recently, I wrote an article about how several university professors who visited us said they were interested in doing a short film on our home schooling methods after seeing how the kids use horses in school. I mentioned that I would write more on why I think every child should own or at least work with horses.

013When I was a teenager, I was not a 'horsey' girl lusting after everything equine, but when my mom decided to get an Arabian gelding, I immediately fell in love with him and wanted to spend every moment with him. He was boarded at Plum Nearly Ranch in South East Texas several miles from my home. I would ride my bike or beg my parents to drop me off there where I would volunteer my time learning to wash horses, scoop poop, and feed them. I even assisted in an artificial insemination process! Needless to say, I learned a lot more than just 'riding;' however, I did learned to ride and even competed in a few horse shows. I found that my time with my horse was some of the best moments of my life. The sweet smell of hay, horse poop, and oats is a part of my soul now that brings back fond memories of crisp cool mornings, and the feelings of learning responsibility. During this time, after 18 years of marriage, my parents were getting a divorce. On top of this, I was going through puberty and was not very 'pretty.' We built a new house and moved every 3 years, and I found that it was difficult for me to fit in at school.... but my pony, he didn't care about all that. His warm breath was a comfort to my soul breathing life and hope in me that I could leave all that mess and stress behind and fly away with him carrying me. 

After going off to college, my dad decided to sell my horse without telling me. He bought me a new, white, 1993, Toyota Celica hatchback. I didn't know how to feel. I was grateful for my new car, yet, so sad to let go of a friend. Fast-forward to my grownup years, my daughter Butterfly was given a horse book by Rod Hatch when she was small. She would talk about horses and look through its pages every day... so when we got our small farm, my first thought was to find a horse. I wanted my kids to experience horses, and here are twenty reasons why I think you should make the investment, too:

  1. Discipline-- It comes as no surprise that owning a horse teaches discipline. There are many safety rules when dealing with horses such as wearing boots to protect feet, helmets when riding, and back protectors when eventing. In fact, 75% of owning a horse is done with feet on the ground and not riding. It takes patience and discipline to own a horse.
  2. Responsibility-- by 8 am, my kids have to feed horses. They brush them, clean their hooves, and make sure they are healthy by checking for any scratches or issues. My kids learn responsibility through owning a horse. The horses are fed 4 times a day (in our case, but usually two at most places). The kids must bring them in, feed them, etc... four times, every single day. And they do it!
  3. Humility-- horses keep you humble. Not only do you have to deal with their poop, slobbery kisses, and messes, they are huge animals. Bad attitudes do not go far around horses.  If someone does not respect the animal, they can get hurt. Humility is learned rather quickly.
  4. Challenges--Children learn to embrace and persevere through challenges that arise with owning or renting a horse. In some cases, challenges are having a lame horse that forces you to wait MONTHS before riding. Other challenges may be the physical ones you experience while learning how to ride properly, and the challenges you face as you ride over or through new places! Every time we get on the back of a horse, it is a new challenge since horses are cognitive beings with their own personalities.  Eowyn looking
  5. Bravery-- Our minds have to learn to trust in the horse and in ourselves. It takes a certain amount of bravery to ride a horse and to get back on if one falls off. 
  6. Intellectually stimulating-- Learning to put tack together (trust me, it can be a puzzle), how to care for hooves, measuring feed, calculating percentage of rider's weight to horse's weight, learning anatomy, and how to fit a saddle properly, calculating distance in a circular round pen, or measuring stride between jumps... there is so much room for intellectual growth when working with horses.
  7. Physical education--in our case, this element of our education system comes mostly from outside play, and horse riding. Riding is exercise. Learning to canter and rise in trot requires physical strength. Even a 'walk' strengthens one's core which is why we use the horses for physical therapy for our disabled friends. For the older kids, leading their younger sister on a pony requires a great deal of walking/jogging. Lunging horses also takes energy. Lifting hay bales, feed sacks. large jugs of water, jump poles, and going in and out four times a day to feed the horses is physical work in of itself. It keeps my kids outside for large portions of the day.
  8. Friends/acceptance--Horses are friendly. They love you no matter what. They can listen to hours of talking and still look back at you with those big, beautiful eyes.
  9. Competition-- Home schooling, there is not much competition when you are the only student in your class level. I find this the biggest flaw with my educational choice for my kids, but here in Kenya, there is a community of horse folks who put on shows and actually compete! We haven't entered any shows yet, but this is an element we are hoping to delve into. I think a competitive spirit is good for kids, and teaches them to have drive to succeed. 
  10. Socialization-- Living in Kenya, my pale kids stick out. It is difficult to connect with village kids who constantly stand in awe of our 'paleness' unable to go beyond that feature even after years and  years of living here. Home schooling also means my kids don't have many people they can relate to or with whom to interact. There is a surprisingly large community of people who ride horses in our neck of the woods. Riding horses gives my kids an element of 'connectability' to kids who also do so. Not every one has our circumstances, but this element of having a horse is still true for kids all over the world. It gives kids a place to 'belong.'
  11. Emotional management-- There is no room for emotional outbursts around horses. Horses are mirrors of our souls. They will reflect what we are feeling inside. If you head out to deal with horses while angry, the horse will respond accordingly! 
  12. Adventure-- Horses can take you exploring through forests, trails, hillsides, etc... hacking out with your horse buddy is an amazing adventure that connects one with nature and stimulates the imagination! You can be a princess on a unicorn, a knight in shining armor, or an explorer like Lewis and Clark, or imagine you are Sacagawea.
  13. Patience-- This is a HUGE part of owning/caring for a horse. For example, today, Emma had to wait 20 minutes of me lunging her pony before she could ride today. She sat and watched--waiting patiently. Butterfly has had to wait MONTHS for her horse to get sound after an injury. In the meantime, she has groomed her and doctored her wound, learning how to treat her horse during this time, but has been a huge test of her patience while the rest of us who are lighter can ride the ponies.
  14. Something to do/keeps kids out of trouble-- Having a horse costs time, energy, and money, and this is not a bad thing! Where your money is, your heart is, too. Having to work for something is a great motivator and keeps kids out of trouble. Instead of going out to parties as a teen, I was heading off to the stables volunteering. Instead of getting into mischief, I was having sleepovers in the barn with some of my friends and practicing our riding the following day. On a personal level, now, living in Kenya where there are few other activities available, horses give my kids something to do beyond just reading books indoors.
  15. Bonding-- having time with your child on a horse hack provides loads of bonding time between you and your child. It opens room for conversation. And if your child is riding alone, she will bond with her horse.
  16. Transportation-- Horses carry us. We live on a hill. I am lazy. I ride up and down it. 
  17. Coordination/balance-- "Kick with your inside leg." "Keep your hands down." "Don't pull in her mouth." "Rise on the correct diagonal."  "Stay balanced!" There is a certain amount of acquired skill that comes with riding.
  18. Language-- I have read of many accounts of how riding a horse causes children to learn to speak. It has to do with the rhythm and balancing on the horse's back that taps into the language part of the brain. One of our Kenyan daughters didn't speak to me for years until we got a horse. 
  19. Empathy-- while interacting with a horse, a person is encouraged to imagine how the horse feels and put himself in the horses shoes. 
  20. Birth control (for us grownups, haha)-- I have six biological children. I find that I get 'broody' when my youngest child reaches a certain age; however, now that I am 'into horses,' I find that having a toddler is hindering my ability to ride and train the horses, and therefore, preventing me from even CONSIDERING another little human running around. Horses fill that 'need to be needed' void as well. It is very difficult when you follow attachment parenting methods like I do, to have a small person who is still breast-feeding and being carried when you want to go out on a long adventure with a horse, or when you need to train them for (in our case) equine therapy sessions.

So there you have it! I can think of even more reasons, but I think 20 are enough! This doesn't even scratch the surface of therapeutic benefits! So parents, when your child mentions s/he wants a pony, why not consider volunteering at a ranch nearby and see how you get on?

 


June Newsletter

I just sent out our June newsletter. Here is the text just in case you do not receive it. Use the link on the side of this blog to sign up.

A Decade of Orphan-Care

Not everything works out. Sometimes failure is unavoidable, other times we can avoid utter failure. Rarely is it possible to have everything work out exactly how we want it to. We have been caring for our orphans no more for a decade now. Ten years of feeding, clothing, housing, schooling, and above all loving unconditionally. There are times when it feels like twenty years instead of ten, and other days it is like we started last week. We cannot report success in everything, but we can report success in the most important thing. Family. We have successfully created a family with our girls.

This family is not like a typical nuclear family, nope it is different. The foundation for family, love, is there. We are connected and will remain so throughout the years. Yet we come from different places and sometimes see the world differently. Our girls are growing up. Only one of them, Edith, is still a minor. All the others are legal adults and capable of making decisions without us. Which they do frequently. Each one of them are still in school and rely on us one hundred percent for their livelihoods. Legal adulthood is here and practical adulthood is just around the corner. 

Four of them will be graduating high-school this year. That means four decisions on four different futures will be made soon. Vocational school, jobs, relocation, and relationships are all part of those decisions that have to be made. They will not all lead to success. There will be setbacks, failures, and mishaps along the way. However, just like the past decade each of those misfortunes will be handled with a family for support. We and this includes you, will be there for them, and hopefully, they will be there for us when we need them.

We have succeeded in love. We have a family. We have also triumphed in keeping the girls in school. They are healthy and able to make wise decisions about their health. They have experienced love and have confidence in us. They know, even if some of them do not acknowledge it, that we are here for them.

When I put it down on paper, not all our endeavors have found success, but the most important, providing family, has and is succeeding


Standardized Tests in schools and horses?

Eowyn studying on moon bwTwo years ago, college professors from Louisiana State came to Kenya to film us having no idea WHO we were nor what we were doing in Kenya. They wanted to find interesting folks of whom to document a 5 minute short film to be shared in France at a movie festival. Our relationship has grown since that first visit as they come each year to record edits and additions for our now 20 minute short film in-the-making! We had no idea we would be interesting enough for such efforts, and it is heart touching to be encouraged in this way.

This last week, they returned to finish up the film, and while here, they suggested they might do a second series focusing on our horse therapy program and how we use horses in homeschooling. I had no idea they were interested in the impact the horses are having. In fact, the horses and home schooling are not even featured in their first film titled "Pioneer Pizza". I was surprised our schooling methods were even an item of interest, and the horses being a GOOD model of home educating? That made my heart swoon! Feeling curious and extremely flattered that I was doing something right, I inquired of my film making friends why the interest?

Being professors at Louisiana State, they struggle with standardized testing pressure and the structure of the educational system's negative impact on students. The producer and director of our short film expressed his passion for hands on type learning and how meaningful our type of home schooling is on young people. Our time was short by the time I realized this gem that connected this college professor to myself, the measly, little, home schooling mom who wonders if she is doing things right, so we didn't get to delve in any deeper into the topic.

However, I went away from the conversation happy that someone sees the benefits of having my children start their school day with the responsibilities of caring for horses on our farm. That particular morning, my day started off with a confrontation with one daughter, who will remain unnamed, who insisted that she couldn't brush or work her pony because she had 'school' to do. So I retorted with the fact that indeed she WAS doing school, and that I as her teacher have made a farm work subject of which she can't just 'opt out.' She got the point, and she actually enjoyed her morning, but it was extremely convenient to have university professors bring up the topic in our home on the very day my daughter just didn't feel like DOing the hands-on section of school because she didn't think it was as important as Algebra.

If you are wondering my reason as to why I feel that horses are a vital part of my children's education and why I think every child who shows interest should own a horse, here are a few reasons that I will put in an article soon:

  1. discipline                                     Eoywn pony bum
  2. responsibility
  3. humility
  4. challenges
  5. bravery
  6. physical education
  7. friends
  8. socialization,
  9. emotional management
  10. adventure
  11. patience
  12. something to do
  13. transportation
  14. coordination
  15. birth control (seriously, haha) More on that in my next article

There are other blogs that talk about this topic, too! Just google 'why every person should own a horse!'

 


Bull

Yesterday, Sunday, we slaughtered and butchered our young bull. The process was done as humanely as possible and with the aim to come out the other side with as much meat as possible. Mission accomplished. We had succulent, juicy, and delicious meat from ten o'clock in the morning till seven that evening. It was a good day.
 
Not only did we enjoy the nourishment, but many of our neighbors did as well. Typically a kilogram of beef sells for around 400 KES in Nakuru. That is about $3.87 U.S. dollars, which is a price that puts beef out of the reach of many people. We started selling our beef at 250 KES a kilogram and ended the day in another village selling the remainder at 200 KES. The bull did not bring in much income, a total of $90, but we were able to spread around the meat to many families in our village. 
 
This is the third bull that our cow as given birth to (hope with us for a cow this next time around.) Bulls are pretty much useless to us here on The Shire and can be rambunctious and too eager to break through fences. The first two bulls we sold to brokers who then resold in the market. This time around we decided to try slaughtering and selling the meat in the village. We made less but were able to spread the wealth more. Not only were our neighbors, who rarely eat beef, able to buy at almost half the normal cost, but we also were able to pay the butcher/slaughterer, also one of our neighbors.
 
Most of the profit went to pay labor around the farm, and the rest will be used to buy feed for the pigs and dogs. We are not creating a commercial farm, but when money can be made we will use the profit to help spread as much hope as we can. 

Sitting at my desk, I am feeling overwhelmed with life at the moment. To be honest, I always feel this way when a cold is coming on so I have to just ride the waves of exaggerated frustrations until the virus passes.

With that said, I am glad to be logged in as myself on our blog for the first time in AGES. I hope to make a more regular contribution here. Johnny and I are night and day in just about every area of our lives. It keeps us balanced and hopefully will make our blog interesting! I just have to not stress about trying to please people and instead, try to be myself. So Hello! I have lots to talk about from parenting, home schooling, permaculture, horses, farming, off grid living, being a foster mom, cross culture parenting, to all kinds of other stuff... so please, feel free to ask questions. I will make an effort to answer them!


Rain

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Here in Kasambara Kenya, we have two basic types of weather;  it is either raining or not raining. Fortunately, we do not have much extreme weather, just raining or not raining. The Shire, our almost twelve acres here in Kenya, depends on rain for water. We do not have access to any piped water nor do we have a well. We capture all the rain that falls on our roofs during the rainy season and store it in large tanks. We then pump the water from those storage tanks to a tank up the hill from the house and that tank feeds the house via gravity. Currently, we have a little over 100,000 liters of water storage (not full as our rainy season has just started.)
 
Water management is one of the top priorities here on the farm. We can not afford to waste any water. There are no flush toilets. You would be surprised at how much water toilets use. Instead, we use a composting toilet system. All the water from the sinks and shower (gray water) goes into a banana circle. Showers are limited and not every day. With careful oversight, our water lasted throughout the previous dry season. We never ran completely out. Nice.
 
Now the clouds have come and it is raining again. Tanks are filling, the grass has gone green again, and the temperature has cooled off a few degrees. The rainy season is our favorite. 

Pork

Part of the reasoning behind buying The Shire, our almost twelve acres here in Kenya, was to be able to grow and raise much of our own food. Plus to be able to produce food for the hungry people we work with in the Nakuru community. We spend the vast majority of funds that come in on feeding the children, ourselves, and a host of other people. When we started to look for a piece of land to buy that was one of the foremost agendas for that new land, production of food.

Now since we know little about farming and gardening we are studying and applying that timeless learning tool, trial and error. I have failed to grow quite a few vegetables and succeeded on a few others. I am confident that in the future this farm will produce an abundance of vegetables.

One aspect of the farm that has been a big success are the pigs. We bought the two pigs from a farmer nearby, and honestly I did not think they would survive. The things were skin and bones and covered with mange. Lots of food and a little medicine fixed them right up. Maggie, our sow, is on her third litter. We have been able to sell some of the piglets, give a few away, and most importantly eat some ourselves. Last week I slaughtered a piglet for dinner and tomorrow will do the same for lunch. One hundred percent organic and well cared for suckling pig is some of the best meat I have ever had.

P1240632


A Little Equine Therapy Update

P1240634

Butterfly is hiding behind that post on her way to feed the horses. Each day they are fed four times with wheat bran, barley, and horse meal. Typically we feed them hay, but it has become hard to find and prohibitively expensive due to scarcity. They are also brushed, feet cleaned, and worked each day. It is a lot of work, but it is work with a purpose.
 
The horses are not just Kate's hobby. Nor did we buy the children ponies just to fulfill that seemingly ever present desire of young girls for a pony. We acquired the horses with the aim of using them as therapy animals. (Though of course some of our own children enjoy riding them as well.) There was a point in my spiritual journey that I decided to take Matthew 25 seriously. To aid and love "the least of these." Which is the reason we moved to Kenya.
 
And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ (Matthew 25:40)
 
Throughout the past twelve years we have tried to love and assist the least here in Kenya. We have fed the hungry, clothed the naked, cared for the sick, and assisted the oppressed as best as we can. We still do these things in fact. Yet we encountered many people that we struggled to be able to help. Disabled children were a big group in this category. We just had no way to bring joy and healing into their lives, until we encountered equine therapy. 
 
The horses do more than bring these children joy. Riding these animals forces the children's bodies to use muscles that otherwise are not exercised properly. It is a form of physical therapy using several hundreds of pounds of horse. The children sit on the horse and go through a program of games and activities designed to strengthen their backs, legs, arms, and minds. This all takes place within half an hour to a hour, but all the work to get to that small window is worth the smiles and future improvements.
 
We are still at the beginning of this aspect of our project, but it has begun well. We have a thoroughbred and three ponies to utilize. The Shire, our almost twelve acres here in East Africa, is not quite large enough for fields of grass for the horses, but we have created a flat space for them to be worked and buy food for them from town. (Surprisingly there is a sizable horse loving community here in Kenya. We have not had much difficulty in finding feed for them.) We are at the end of our dry season. The rains are on the way. The space we leveled to be able to do the therapy in has had grass planted and we await the rain to spur the growth. The horses seem to be waiting for the rain as well.  They miss all the yummy grass that dries up in the dry season. 
 
Thank you to everyone that helps make this program successful, and thanks to those who will help in the future. These children are worth the effort.

Thorny

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This particular bush, I have no idea what it is actually called, is thorny. It's thorns do not poke you, no in this bush's mind that would be too kind. Instead it metes out punishment with thorns that grab you. The more you struggle, the deeper the thorns go. I once grazed one of these while riding the motorcycle, glanced down at my arm to discover blood oozing from a dozen wounds. This bush is serious about thorns.

Asking for money is somewhat like this bush, thorny. Soon as I mention it I lose readers or listeners and we get lumped in with all the other people and projects asking for money. Yet we need money. 

April is coming to an end and it will be time to pay school fees. Which is around 75,000 KES or approximately $727 U.S. dollars. We could also use $2, ooo U.S. dollars to stock up the pantry and other items around the farm. There are other needs, some of which I cannot post online, but we need money. 

The good thing about getting stuck in our thorns, is that we are nice to be stuck to. We cannot promise blessings or riches in return for your money, but we can promise to use it to the best of our abilities to bring hopeful futures to children here in Kenya.

If you would like to risk the thorns follow this link:

How to Donate

There is also a handy app that will allow you to send money directly to our phones here in Kenya (we have a banking service on them and can purchase goods or withdraw the cash from our phone.) It is called Wave. We have used it many times successfully and find the exchange rate to be favorable to us on this side. Use my number +254723743212 https://www.wave.com/


Refrigeration!

Some time back, many months back, Juliet Barnes gave us an old kerosene refrigerator. Now if like me you have, or rather had, no idea what a kerosene fridge (or as they say in Kenya paraffin fridge) is don't feel bad. It is a pretty old piece of technology.  I deduced from the name that it was a refrigerator that ran on kerosene, but I had never seen anything like it in my life before.

We drove across the Soysambu Consverancy to get to her house (also a mud house) and pick up the fridge. She had not used it in some time and it is pretty ancient. Juliet advised us to drive as roughly as possible on the way home to shake up the chemicals that cause the cooling. We did so, but alas could not get the thing to work. We tried a couple of times and more or less gave up on it.

Enter Andrew, our nineteen year old son, he spoke with a fridge fundi (repairman) in town and got some advice. The fundi told him to turn it upside down and listen. If he heard the chemicals moving than great. The fundi said to leave it for a day or two then turn it over and try it out. We lit the flame in the evening and had ice in the morning. It works!

Now this refrigerator is small and will not be able to meet all our needs, but it is helping to keep the milk fresh. Thank you Juliet.

P1240637The Fridge

P1240638The flame that heats the chemicals that causes the cooling action.