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Horsing around in class

R.D. White students get hands-on lessons in equestrian lingo, tacking techniques and riding styles.

November 25, 2010|By Megan O'Neil, megan.oneil@latimes.com
  • Instructor Rick Wycis, right, shows R. D. White Elementary After-school Program children how to put a bridle on a horse during field trip to Traditional Equitation School at the L.A. Equestrian Center in Burbank. Twenty-seven children made the trip from the Glendale school to the equestrian center where they learned information about horses like grooming, stabling and riding.
Instructor Rick Wycis, right, shows R. D. White Elementary… (Raul Roa/Staff…)

The Los Angeles Equestrian Center on Wednesday was transformed into a classroom for 27 R. D. White Elementary School students who took a lesson in equestrian lingo, tacking techniques and horseback riding.

"They are so pretty," said Jessica Galan, 8. "I like the color of them. And I like that they are so gentle, you don't have to worry that they will get angry or bite you."

The participating students are all part of the R.D. White Early Educational Extended Learning Program (EEELP), which serves working parents by providing a structured learning environment for children during after school hours and on district student-free days.

Head teacher Linda Makarzec developed a horse-related lesson plan for the students upon their request. They were inspired, she said, after reading several horse-related books, including "Black Beauty." And their interest continues to grow, she said.

Students have studied the history of the horse as it relates to developments in agriculture and transportation, as well as sport and leisure activities, Makarzec said.

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They have also studied the role of the horse in the growth of the western United States, learning cowboy lingo, sampling cowboy foods such as trail mix, beef jerky and chili, and dressing in cowboy wear each Friday.

Horse experts at the Traditional Equitation School at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center took their studies one step farther Wednesday, giving them a hands-on lesson in grooming and tacking. Students were instructed to always approach a horse from the front so as not to spook it, and to double-check the tautness of the girth — the leather strap that holds the saddle in place — before mounting.

R. D. White student Erika Winter, 11, is currently taking English-style riding lessons at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center. Horses are her favorite animal, she said.

"When it goes fast I like it," Erika said. "Sometimes I get scared, but it is really fun."

The outing was a great opportunity to take students off campus and to let them see first-hand the animals they are studying. And the size and gentle nature of the horses continue to capture the fascination of children, Makarzec said.

"I think that is something that is lacking in our society — that connection to nature," Makarzec said. "A lot of the kids grow up in the cities in apartments and they don't have the experience of the country and being close to nature."

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