One of the things I’ve wanted for a long time at our farm was a Sensory Trail. Something the kids could follow and do when they weren’t riding the horses.

We get a lot of groups at our place and everyone can’t ride at the same time. We do set up stations where the kids can groom horses or do other horse activities, but, getting them out of the barn and enjoying nature was high on my priority list.

This weekend, I got my dream. Last year a Scout, who rode at our farm many years ago, approached me for his Eagle project. He wanted to know if there was anything special I needed done that he could do to earn his Eagle. I didn’t have to think about it more than a second – create a sensory trail for my kids. And so the project began. Checking out the area, coming up with ideas, all the planning and preplanning that goes into one of these projects. Then, I got the call – We are ready to put it in! Up until now, I didn’t see any parts of the project, I simply trusted that this young man would put together a sensory trail that would fit the bill. And he did.

Let me take you on a tour of the great, no make that spectacular sensory trail that is in our wooded area –

Enter here

As you enter the sensory trail, the welcome sign greets you. The map of the trail is displayed as well as some key information for the six stations.

I was very impressed when I saw the icon that showed “you are here”

If you look closely at the map, you will see that our Pretty Pony Pastures logo is the icon for “you are here”. Very clever!

Walking down the trail, go right when you hit the
fork” in the road. This takes you to station 1 – Seasons.

Here you learn the average temperatures for each season. Thermometers are strategically placed, pointing in different directions to show that the actual temperature may vary based on whether the thermometer is in direct sunlight or not.

Each station is layed out similarly – a sign with information and an activity that can be performed. One of the great things is the activities are suitable for and can be modified for the age and ability of the children.

Here are some of the highlights:

Leaf puzzle - can you put the leaf into the correct place?

Each leaf is identified when you remove the puzzle piece.

 

Native birds in the trees

 
Animals hiding in the woods
At least he’s a safe distance away
Animal communication devices
Make the sound by shaking or squeezing

A big thanks to Thomas Baucas and congratulations on becoming an Eagle Scout!

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We have one group of volunteers at Pretty Pony Pastures that help when Scout troops or other groups visit us. They are our Program Aids. They are, very literally, our right and left hands with these programs. Their responsibilities include leading the horses if we have Daisy or Brownie Troops; being spotters for Junior and Cadette Troops and Cub/Weblo Scouts. They present information at the various stations that we set up and assist with the grooming of horses before the groups arrive.

The Program Aids receive so much in return. First, after a few sessions, we see such a difference in their self-esteem and confidence.

Grooming with Brownies

Even though every PA is an experienced rider and handler, taking on this responsibility means that they have to focus on being in charge of the horse the entire time the scouts are present. For some, this is the only place they are told that they are in control and responsible for another person. The parents and leaders of the scouts often remark about the great job the PAs do both in handling the horses and working with the riders. We always pass that information to the PA, especially if they were out of ear-shot when the remark was made. They have the realization that they can do something; they are experiencing success.

Every Scout group that visits our facility is divided into patrols or small groups of three or four participants. While one group rides, the other one to three groups participate in other horse activities that are pertinent to their badge or patch. Each group has a PA assigned to them. This PA takes on the role of leader, explaining and teaching the group one aspect of horsemanship, from grooming to parts of the horse to how to care for horses. Now the PAs are practicing public speaking as well as peer-to-peer mentoring.

We have had several reports from the parents of PAs. The PA’s teachers have commented on the growth of the PA in the areas of leadership and speaking in front of the class.

The best part is the PAs are doing something they enjoy, not realizing how it is preparing them for their future.