By Todd Martin
Special to the Daily Herald
Bringing lessons and stories of Texas heritage to life, the youngest students at Sugar Loaf Elementary School climbed onto horses Friday for an unforgettable cowboy lesson.
Students in the school's pre-kindergarten classes and 3- and 4-year-old early childhood program took short rides outside the school on large draft horses, small ponies and on a horse-drawn wagon.
Learning about cowboys and other Texas history all week, the children could hardly wait until Friday morning.
"We wanted to give them a chance to ride because a lot of them don't get that chance," said pre-kindergarten teacher Kristin Bate.
"They can feel and touch and see," she said. "They really experience it."
After a morning of touching horses and riding with volunteers' help, students tasted some Texas chili. They also worked on western-themed crafts and tie-dyed bandanas.
Pre-K teacher Rachel Barnett organized the event after she experienced it at another Killeen elementary school.
"It's such a great opportunity for kids. Not a lot of them have ridden horses," Barnett said. "They can see and do instead of just look at pictures."
The children needed stairs to mount one of the two Percheron draft horses.
George and Hella Beyer of GHB Farm in Copperas Cove brought the pair of sister horses. George Beyer said the Percherons stand about 16.2 hands tall and weigh more than 1,800 pounds. They also rode a brown and white pony named Sapphire provided by Madeleine Beall and took rides on a village wagon pulled by a miniature horse from Linda Freeman's Freeman Hill Miniatures near Ding Dong, which is south of Killeen.
"I like to let the children see something they don't normally see," Freeman said, explaining that the miniature horses are one-quarter the size of a full-sized quarter horse. The village wagon, she said, is also scaled down to one-quarter size.
"They've talked about it all week," said Bate of her excited students. "This is such a motivational reward for them."