The Chatsworth Day of the Horse Poster Contest is near and dear to my heart. Looking at all the great artwork every year and seeing how the local kids who created it perceive living with horses and how to have fun safely with them is always inspiring.
This year’s participation was down, except for the third grade class at St. John Eudes School in Chatsworth. Eileen Balme’s entire third grade class took the contest so seriously, that every kid in the class submitted a poster this year.
The contest was open to any child in grades K-8 who attends school in Chatsworth, or lives in Chatsworth, or whose parents or grandparents are Chatsworth residents.
As I walked through the Day of the Horse taking in all the wonderful messages the kids put together, I couldn’t help but think that these kids deserved some kind of reward for putting out such a great effort to support their community and its unique horsey charm.
I approached Mary Kaufman, the chair of the Chatsworth Neighborhood Council’s Equestrian Committee and asked her to invite the third grade to my home at Chatsworth’s Trails End Ranch for an opportunity to spend some time with some real live horses and enjoy a hot dog lunch with them.
A couple of days later, I heard back from Mary who had the date all set for June 14th. We were both very excited about the idea, as was Barbara Danowitz, the principal at St. John Eudes School and Mrs. Balme, the third grade teacher.
To be honest, back in April when I had this idea, I hadn’t quite thought the whole thing through. When June 13th rolled around, I found myself tossing and turning in my sleep as I contemplated the next day’s events. I mean, it isn’t every day that 35 eight-year-old third graders come waltzing into your home and into your backyard. I thought about crazy things like, “What if someone is allergic to hot dogs or horses?” and “What if they hate it here and freak out at the realities of living in the dirt...” and “What if they run wild and don’t listen...” I think you get the idea here, I was freaking out a little bit.
June 14th rolled around and the kids showed up promptly at 11 a.m. along with a full entourage of chaperones, teachers, teacher’s aides, and the school principal. The paparazzi from Chatsworth Patch was there and I found myself more than a little nervous in those first few moments when they descended upon the barns.
I decided to start the tour with some information about Stoney Point, the park that borders the back of our property. The kids listened intently as I told the story of the famous bandit Joaquin Murrietta. So far, so good! As I told them of the history of the San Fernando Mission and how the Santa Susana creek provided water to the indians who lived here, you could see their eyes wander from the creekbed back to me. I told them about the Old Mission Trail and its historical significance.
Just as I was thinking I had missed my calling as a tour guide, a youngster named Patrick snapped me back to the real reason why these kids had made the trip to Trails End, “Are we allowed to pet the horses?”
Okay, I get it. Let’s move on! From that point forward, we talked about the horses as I introduced them all to the third graders. I found myself answering questions and playing show and tell with horse shoes and feed and equipment. We turned the kids loose and they roamed the ranch petting the animals, laughing, and having a great time.
We finally made it back to the barn for lunch where I was able to chat with Mrs. Danowitz. As we watched intently as the entire third grade class bustled around us grabbing hot dogs, chips and drinks under the cool shade of the old shed row barn, she said something that stuck with me, “You never know, at this age, which field trip will spark a child’s interest in something.”
As I watched one of the boys petting my husband’s Arabian, Deuce, I could swear I saw the twinkling of that spark in the boy’s eyes. He was transfixed, and so was Deuce, for just a few moments as the boy stroked Deuce’s face. The moment was pure magic, and if I live to be 100, I’ll never forget it.
As the kids left, each of them came to me and personally thanked me for the great time that we all had together. I watched them leave in an organized fashion. As they left, I heard them calling out to the horses and saying good by the them as they waved their hands good bye.
When it was all said and done, all I can say is that I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more respectful and well mannered group of kids. I can’t wait for next year’s contest to have them back again!