Horses help Florida pre-K students build confidence

Pre-K student grooms horse at Winslow field tripWhile Golden Hill pre-K students typically view the world from about 40 inches above the ground, an elevated point of view is not the only thing they gain from field trips to Winslow Therapeutic Riding Center. The world looks more than a little different when sitting on the back of a horse for these kids. It’s a world where anything is possible. 

Pre-K teacher Caroline Hluchan has seen this each time she’s brought her class to Winslow, which she began doing 11 years ago. “By the end of it, what we see them gain the most is confidence. They are gaining knowledge, but it’s also showing them that they can do something they never would have imagined, and that can be applied to so many things.” 

Pre-K student pets horse while mounted at Winslow field tripHluchan and Amber Saunders, another pre-K teacher at Golden Hill, bring their students to Winslow once a week for five weeks. The students rotate through the indoor arena, where they learn to ride; the barn, where they learn how to care for the horses; and the classroom, where they enjoy snack and a craft relating to their learning. When their time at Winslow is complete, students will have a celebration with their families to demonstrate all they have learned.

Pre-K student learns about how horses see from volunteer at Winslow field tripOn their second visit, students learned to steer in riding lessons. “You use the reins to steer,” said student Anna Molina, who rode a horse named Peaches. Her classmate Grayson Janiak shared commands he learned to use with his horse, Lila, including “walk on” and “whoa!”  

After the students completed a course where they steered around barrels and other obstacles, they dismounted and said a loving goodbye to their horses. Before heading to the next activity, a volunteer demonstrated to Annabelle Nebzydoski how horses see, by having her hold her hands in front of her nose to represent a horse’s blind spot.  

In the barn, students learned to groom Zazu and a few other horses. “We have to brush the horses to keep them clean,” shared Aneliz Cruz Loyola. She added that she especially enjoyed brushing Zazu’s mane.  

“Hopefully we’ll get some nice weather and get to go out on a trail ride in the coming weeks. We’re also looking forward to showing them how to make treats and feed them to the horses,” shared Stacy Lenz, program director and head riding instructor at Winslow. “I hope their time here sparks a passion and love of horses, empowers them, and gives them self-confidence.” 

In addition to the horse-specific knowledge and confidence students gain, they also learn social skills and compassion. “It makes them much more aware of social cues; You have to wait your turn and wait to speak just like you would in a classroom, but it’s a higher priority here to make sure important safety information isn’t missed,” shared Hluchan. “Also, Winslow has farm animals like chickens and goats in addition to the horses. The students learn how to interact with animals and appreciate what they can do for us and how we need to care for them. It’s a really great experience.”


Students learn from instructor at Winslow field trip  pre-K student smiles after dismounting from his horse at Winslow field trip   Pre-K student rides horse at Winslow field trip