Unit Study: Horses

From studying the many different breeds to learning how horses have been used throughout history, here’s a topic virtually any age can enjoy! Horses have played a huge role in history…all the way back to ancient times people rode horses and used them to pull vehicles – like chariots. In early America, horses helped pioneers settle the wilderness, pulling wagons going west and hauling timber out of the woods for their log cabins. Horses have helped soldiers in battles, carried mail for Pony Express riders, and helped cowboys drive cattle from Texas to the railheads in Kansas. Today, the horse has been replaced by cars – called horseless carriages!

But before we get into the saddle, let’s pause to consider another tip from The Unit Study Queen…me!

As usual, we’re going to see how we can include many of academic subjects into our unit study…and that’s exactly what I want to discuss this month – SUBJECTS. Early on in my “unit study days” I discovered what I like to call the Problem Areas of Unit Studies. This would be a list of things that complicate the method, often giving people the wrong impression about unit studies. Folks often think you must be super creative, love to do lots of “hands-on” activities, spend a lot of time planning, and have an abundance of energy. It is for these reasons that many people decide unit studies are not for them. One of the key things I teach in my books, guides, and workshops in regard to SUBJECTS is …you’re going to have to sit down first because you might not be able to take this standing up! …Teach history OR science…not both during the same topic.
Most subjects fit nicely with unit studies: language arts (reading, writing, spelling, vocabulary, grammar etc.), geography, history, science, art and so on. The subjects I don’t recommend including are: Math, Bible, and Phonics. “Okay, I agree. I can handle that.” Here’s the clincher: Teach History OR Science but not both at the same time. I recommend choosing your topic (Weather, Civil War, Horses, Baseball, Native Americans, Oceans etc.), then studying it for about one month BUT it works best if you allow your history topics to be just that…HISTORY and don’t include science. Next month, you can completely immerse your students in a Science topic and not do history. Now, if the topic (like Westward Movement – which is a history topic) clearly has some “science” staring you in the face: Prairie fires. How do they start? How do they stop? Cholera, typhoid etc. Quicksand etc. Why, study it by all means! My point is, don’t go standing on your head, spending a lot of time trying to plan these things in just to “count” it as science. If you are studying Weather (a science topic) don’t try to include history. “Hmmm, what famous meteorologist from history could we study so we can count history?”

This will be so much easier on your planning efforts and it makes much more sense to your children. In this way, you are able to keep things more on target. You will learn to step back and look at your whole year and the plethora of topics you have covered well. Topics which will stand alone as history OR science. You still do both, just not at the same time. You will do a more thorough job on each topic instead of just touching on those subjects. You can look back over your school year and see what you have accomplished as a whole (X number of history, science, geography, literature topics etc.) There is a planning sheet in the back of my book Everything You Need to Know About Homeschool Unit Studies, called The Big Picture Plan. This will help you keep track of the topics you either have studied or plan to study and make sure you are planning a “balanced unit study diet!”

A study like Horses, is really a Science topic as horses are “living things.” But, you can easily study how horses have had an impact in our history. Here is a topic that would be easy to consider History AND Science and to study both at the same time, so I suggest you approach it as such. But many topics require much more work and planning to make them fit and to make sense of it all, easily.

Find out why horses are called “odd-toed” animals
Find out which other animals are in the “equidae” family
Discover what these terms mean: horsin’ around, don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. Can you think of others?
How do horses sleep?
Find out about Whitehorse Hill in Berkshire, England (http://www.berkshirehistory.com/archaeology/white_horse.html)

Spelling / Vocabulary
horse pony foal colt saddle
trot gallop cantor groom muzzle
mane cinch equine equestrian
barn tack bucket corn
hay gear meadow pasture
fence riding stirrups chaps
curry comb oats stallion
mare teeth fur tail fetlock
alfalfa diet blanket withers
hands hooves breeds

Maps / Diagrams
Find out the origin of different horse breeds. Obtain pictures, cut out, and place on an 11 X 17 map that you can fold in half and place in your notebook.
Find a diagram of a horse and label the parts of its anatomy.

Get a “how to draw” book and try drawing a horse. Experiment with shading.
Obtain a “paint by number” picture of a horse and paint it.

List breeds and alphabetize your list.
Write a list of ways horses have and can be used: work (list), riding, racing, wild, entertainment / circus etc.
Write a description for “Horse Care and Grooming”
Read Black Beauty and write out a few of your favorite selections
Write a Horse Poem
Use your imagination and write a “creative writing” selection on the topic of horses. Black Beauty is written from the horse’s point of view. Try this approach.


Learn about proper care of horses: feeding, shoes, sickness (foundering, colic)
Plan a trip to a farm where you can observe (and maybe even help with) the care and chores of horses (The link for Easy Fun School below has lots of ideas associated with visiting a farm)
As a “report” put together a Horses Flapbook as you study. Use pictures, orginal artwork, diagrams, and small text blocks of information. (See http://www.unitstudies.com/ – click on the Flapbook tab for more info and ideas!)

Read the story of The Trojan Horse – a gift to the Trojans by the Greeks. Write your opinion about whether you think this story is true.

Look up Bible verses that make reference to horses. Write out for handwriting practice
Look at a picture of a yoke (like to yoke oxen together) Horses are also yoked together to pull in teams. What does it mean to be “unequally yoked?”


Free worksheets:

Horse Movies
National Velvet
My Friend, Flicka
The Horse in the Gray Flannel Suit

Wonder Why Book of All About Horses (excellent resource with tons of information and great pictures!)
The Pony Puzzle Book by Mandy Langton and Anne Pilgrim – activity book
My Horse Coloring book by Dover Publications – covers anatomy, teeth, grooming, breeds, tack etc.
How to Draw Horses by Troll Publishers. Written and illustrated by Carrie A. Snyder
Horses Color book by Spizzirri Publishers – covers 13 breeds
Album of Horses by Marguerite Henry
Eyewitness Books Horse by Juliet Clutton – Brock
James Herriot Treasury – stories from Scotland written by James Herriot who was a veterinarian. Beautiful illustrations and fun stories.
Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
Misty of Chincoteague by Margurite Henry
The Black Stallion by Walter FarleyMr. Revere and I by Robert Lawson (this is the story of the American Revolution told by Paul Revere’s horse – delightful)
Horses by Tammy Everts
H is for Horse: an equestrian alphabet by Michael Ulmer
Horse and Pony Breeds by Sandy Ransford
Horse and Pony Care by Sandy Randsford
Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa: rain or shine (for little readers!) by Erica Silverman
The Mystery of the Wild Ponies by Gertrude Chandler Warner

If you don’t find enough ideas here to satisfy your study needs, try one of these guides:

Horses: A One Week Off Unit Study By: Sarah Constance Julicher Castle Heights Press

History of the Horse by Beautiful Feet Books

One of our readers suggested this idea: I used a picture of the human and equine skeletons side by side to color code the coordinating bones.

Here is a notebooking mini-set I put together about horses that you can include in the Horses unit study if you like – Melanie / Notebook Learning

Jennifer Steward is a happy wife married to her highschool sweetheart, mother to eight children, and grandmother to five grandchildren. She counts it a blessing to have been able to educate all of her children from home since the beginning. Four of them have graduated from homeschool high school…four to go! Jennifer is the owner of a home business called STEWARD SHIP, and author of the popular Choreganizer and Everything You Need To Know About Homeschool Unit Studies.


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