STEM composite

It seems that S.T.E.M. has become the buzzword of the decade. We can’t overlook the fact that many of the more promising careers require a good foundation of science, technology, engineering, and/or math to succeed.

But what about other occupations that do not appear to rely on these areas? Do they still need a working knowledge of S.T.E.M.? Yes!

We have people come to our facility and think that there is nothing scientific or technological about running a farm. So, we designed sessions at our Hooked on Horsestm day camp and additional sessions that schools or youth groups could attend. In these sessions the participants learn not only why these disciplines are important but also how they might discover a career that is affiliated with horses or agriculture.


Everything from nutrition for the horses to how to care for them involve some aspect of science. Being able to determine if the grain and hay has the proper nutrients and the correct amount can make the difference between a healthy horse and a sickly one.

Breeding should involve more than picking a mate for a horse. The positive and negative traits of each horse needs to be considered and which would be dominant in the offspring. Let’s not forget about conditions that can be carried by a horse but not become evident unless the mate also carried that condition.


This is one area that has had a big impact. We now have a digital scale for our horses. No more guessing if the tape is in the correct place or wondering how close the tape estimate is to the horse’s actual weight. Even thermometers have a digital readout.

The vet can perform x-rays and MRI’s at the barn with the results being displayed on a monitor in real time. This saves both time and expense as well as being able to diagnose and treat the animal faster.


Here’s another field that has had a positive effect on farm life. From the design of the buildings to the construction of riding helmets, all require an aspect of engineering.

The possibilities and need for engineers in agriculture cover a wide area. We use environmental engineers to ensure that proper usage and disposal of herbicides, pesticides, and, the never ending supply of manure.

Agricultural engineers work with power supplies, efficiency of machinery, and the storage and processing of agricultural products.


From being able to determine that correct amount of food to feed our animals to the amount of fertilizer needed to produce quality hay all require math.

And if your farm is your business, you need math to determine whether you are operating at a profit.

Looking at it from this perspective, S.T.E.M. plays an integral part in the life of everyone, including those of us who run a farm.

Linda Watson-Call is the owner and head riding instructor at Pretty Pony Pastures. Visit the website for details on all the lessons and activities, like our S.T.E.M. sessions, at this facility. She is the author of the forthcoming book Fifty Blades of Hay.

Learning to SerpentineOur new exercise was to serpentine the arena, first at a walk, then at a trot. As I explained the directions to the riders, I realized that they weren’t quite sure what a serpentine was, so the old school teacher in me kicked in.

“What word do you hear in the first two syllables of serpentine,” I asked.

All I got was a blank stare. I had no choice but enter into an English class.

“Ser-pent-ine” I said while holding up one finger for each syllable. Ah, they got it.

“Serpent,” said one rider.

“Good, what’s a serpent?”

More blank stares. One mother tried to help me out.

“What spoke to Eve in the Garden of Eden?” she asked.

“A snake!” I heard that clearly from the other side of the arena.

“Great! Now who can tell me how a snake moves? Did you study snakes in science yet?”

They were deep in thought.

“Do they move squiggly or straight?”

“Oh,” piped up one rider, “They move side to side.”

Close enough. Now we were able to apply how a snake moves to the term serpentine and complete the exercise.

One mom commented after the lesson on how she never thought “classroom” lessons could be incorporated into a horseback riding lesson.

I just smiled. She hasn’t heard my math lessons yet.