May 082014
 
Students from Southport and Westmore Oaks elementary schools get a close look at a pair of Belgian draft horses, “Tip” and “Champ” who weigh in at close to a ton apiece. Originally from  an Amish farm, they are carriage horses in Old Sacramento. Click to enlarge.  (News-Ledger photo)

Students from Southport and Westmore Oaks elementary schools get a close look at a pair of Belgian draft horses, “Tip” and “Champ” who weigh in at close to a ton apiece. Originally from an Amish farm, they are carriage horses in Old Sacramento. Click to enlarge. (News-Ledger photo)

FROM THE NEWS-LEDGER — APRIL 30, 2014 –

By Steve Marschke
News-Ledger Editor

They called it “Horsin’ Around for Literacy.”

The regional district of Rotary International asked its local chapters, like the Centennial Rotary Club in West Sacramento, to do something to improve literacy among children. So the local chapter several months ago launched a two-pronged, equestrian attack.

Explained Don Schatzel of Rotary:

“Thanks to support from the Southport PTO (parent-teacher organization) and the West Sacramento Trail Riders Association, we bought a book for every second grader at Southport and Westmore Oaks – books with horses in them. Now, in the spring, they get horses. We’re trying to teach it, see it, read it.”

The Southport students came to Westmore Oaks (the “old” River City High campus on Clarendon Street) for a special assembly Thursday morning. On the school’s football track were a bunch of horse trailers, horses and riders.

Charyl Silva and Don Schatzel, riders and Rotarians. Click to enlarge.  News-Ledger photo

Charyl Silva and Don Schatzel, riders and Rotarians. Click to enlarge.
News-Ledger photo

Wrestling with a struggling microphone system on a windy day, emcee Roberta Firoved introduced each horse and rider to the attentive students. She also explained some things about horses, including why their eyes are on the sides of their heads (as a prey animal, horses need to keep watch for predators) and how to measure a horse’s height (by using “hands”). Among the horse teams were:

– Ron Morazzini (trail riders’ president) with his quarterhorse “Jiggers.”
Jiggers “loves to follow Ron around the pasture like a puppy,” said Firoved.

– Rod Beckwith with a mule names “Socks.” A mule is a cross produced from a male donkey and female horse, explained Firoved.

– A pair of impressive Belgian draft horses, weighing in at 1,600 and 1,800 pounds, respectively.

– And a pony.

Jason Williams, an employee of the Bureau of Land Management, showed a little bit about how he helped round up wild horses with help from his dog “Hannah.” He rode “Stinger,” a horse born wild and bearing a BLM brand on its neck. He told the kids how he used his dog to help round up a wild horse.

Jason Williams with his horse “Stinger’ and his working dog ‘Hannah.  ‘ Williams works for the Bureau of Land Management and sometimes helps round up wild horses -- animals like Stinger.  (News-Ledger photo)

Jason Williams with his horse “Stinger’ and his working dog ‘Hannah. ‘ Williams works for the Bureau of Land Management and sometimes helps round up wild horses — animals like Stinger.
(News-Ledger photo)

“If I say ‘come by,’ she will go around the horse to the left,” said Williams. Another command sends Hannah to the right of the targeted animal. Hannah is prone to giving a horse a little nip on the heels as he scoots past, helping to herd the animal.

“A lot of times, that’s what I’ll do to gather horses,” said Williams.

After the talk, kids were invited to line up on one side of a fence while the horses came by in touching distance along the other:

“Read it, see it, touch it.”

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Steve Marschke

Steve Marschke