Elementary, Parent

My girls love horses. They love them so much, that if we are somewhere where riding is offered, we make sure that the girls have the opportunity to mount up. I should probably note that “Old Town Road” is their jam. And even if their love of horses began with nothing more than a computer game, I love that they are interested in the natural world and how it intersects with them. That being said, when I came across Days End Farm in a Facebook group, I had to sign the girls up. They get a chance to experience the horses up close and personal while gaining a deeper and more meaningful relationship with these beautiful creatures.

What is Days End Farm Horse Rescue?

The name may make you think that this is a sad but picturesque place where neglected and unwanted horses come to live out their last days, but this is far from the truth. Kathleen Howe, the founder of Days End Farm, named it such because she would always come take care of her horses at the day’s end. (Quick grammar lesson since it’s my educational background: Note the power of an apostrophe.) Days End Farm is a non-profit 501 (c) 3 animal welfare organization and it relies heavily on volunteers.

Much like a dog shelter, Days End will get a call from Animal Services or another government agency about a horse or horses that need a home and care. Not all of the horses are local, either. One of the horses I’ll be talking about came to the farm all the way from Texas. Many of the horses come to them in dire straits, but with carefully curated plans, excellent veterinarians and dedicated volunteers, these horses are nursed back to health and given good lives. Many of their animals ultimately get adopted. They do NOT breed or sell horses.

Homeschooling at DEFHR

This large farm in Woodbine, Maryland is home to over 100 horses, donkeys and ponies throughout the year and they offer a 9 month long Homeschool Education Series for young learners. My girls are 6 and 12-years-old and both are enjoying the class, which accommodates a wide range of learners, ages 5 to 17. Maximum class size is 25 students, so registering early is advised. Class meets once a month and it is very budget friendly. The staff is knowledgeable and thorough and it makes me happy to see that my girls are engaged and enjoying the program.

Have you ever wondered what those markings are on horses legs and faces are called? When you’re driving and you see horses, have you ever wondered what breed they were? Well, this class answers these questions and more. It’s a hands on science class that helps children connect to nature and learn how to coexist with it in a way that is healthier.

The children cover a different topic relating to horses each session and end with a 30 minute or so hands on activity. These usually take place in the barn or the field with the horses, but when weather is inclement, they will do a hands on indoor activity. They’ve learned how to properly groom a horse and the tools that are used for their grooming. They’ve learned a little bit about horse psychology and how to read a horse’s body language, how to safely handle and approach a horse, and more. The instructor really makes the lessons easy to understand and fun.

February on the Horse Farm

What do you know about equine optics? Prior to DEFHR, all I knew was that they do indeed have eyes. But now I know that horses have near 360 degree vision. They can’t see directly in front of them and directly behind them. I also now know that horses have the largest eyeball of all land mammals. Even bigger than an elephant’s eye. Wild, right?! And during February’s hands on activity, my girls and I got the animal science gift of the month. We got to see–well my oldest daughter and I got to see an actual horse’s eyeball. That’s right, it was a whole and complete eyeball. Here’s how it went down.

Two horses suffered eye injuries prior to landing at Days End. The mare (a female) was from a farm in Virginia and the gelding (a sterile male) was from a Texas farm. The mare had a lot of scar tissue on a bottom eyelid that prevented her from blinking completely. Blinking is a necessary function. It not only helps protect the eyes, but it also lubricates and get rid of debris. When we walked into the barn the vet, an equine optical specialist, was carefully working on her eye, attempting to allow the horse to achieve a full blink. The original plan was to remove her eyeball to prevent infection or another unpleasant outcome, but she still had sight in the eye and they wanted to try to keep it. It wasn’t very gory, but there was a little blood. I was intrigued beyond belief.

The Graphic Part

On the other side of the horse rescue barn was the gelding from Texas. His procedure was already complete and the staff was bandaging up his head and eye area. Lying in a specimen cup was a blind eyeball. A real, moments ago live horse eyeball! None of the children were anywhere as interested in seeing it than us mamas. Only two children actually came over to look at it briefly. My youngest daughter turned toward the fields and said, “Mom, I think I’d rather look at this puddle of muddy water.” She meant it, and that’s exactly what she did until it was time to visit Dizzy, the pregnant donkey.

The first thing I noticed was the size. This thing was as big as the palm of my hand. The second thing I noticed was that there were eyelashes. Eyelashes. Turns out that horses have multiple eyelids and each of those eyelids come with some pretty long and strong eyelashes. The vet who was interning to be an eye specialist told me that they trimmed the eyelashes prior to removal to give them a better view of the surgical field. Then she proceeded to remove the eyelashes so they could take the eyeball in for further examination. This was SO COOL!

Next month, I will be sure to ask about the two horses and bring you an update on their status. I wonder what neat happenings will be happening next month on the horse farm.