Summer Camp

In addition to their usual school year program, Frederick County Head Start also runs a summer camp for rising kindergartners. To fulfill summer time demands for adventure, both classes took weekly trips to Stoney Lick Farm. So, for three hours each Tuesday and Thursday, our farm was enlivened by a little yellow school bus and its passengers.

Since only our five year-olds participate in summer camp, we were able to give more freedom and responsibility to our ‘friends.’ On the first day, for example, instead of grooming the horses in the stalls as we usually do, we encouraged our brush-toting ‘friends’ to pick a horse and go greet him as he grazed in the daisy-dotted field, his natural habitat. Later in the day, we illustrated the barn floor in chalk, had pool noodle sword fights in the riding ring, and painted tee shirts. In the following weeks, we roughly followed this structure of morning animal-based activities and afternoon arts and crafts sessions.

For week two, we took turns riding all around the farm – through the woods and arboretum, around the pond, and down pine trails. Subdued by that hour of walking, our afternoon consisted of coloring goodie bags and wooden horseshoes. These were later turned into magnetic picture frames featuring a photo of each child atop our horse, Snudder.

During week three, we explored the farm, looking for animals to love. Having called in reinforcements, our usual horse and goat friends were supplemented by Lulu and Lacey (Scott’s miniature horse and mule), Oreo and Nugget (Sam and Julie’s rabbits), and Louie (a local pig). That afternoon, Joy’s story, The Tail of the Foxhound Puppies, introduced our afternoon arts and crafts project: painting the puppy pen! Our little artists brushed and blended the paints on the wooden slats of the picket fence until it was time to return to the bus.


For week four, we reenacted one of our favorite activities from the spring: exploring the farm in small groups. This time, however, we added an extra dose of fun by bringing a puppy on a leash. Each ‘friend’ took a turn holding the leash and following behind this four month old foxhound puppy whose nose led the way. In the afternoon, our arts and crafts project had a living canvas: Glampi and Geysir! Armed with finger paints and foam brushes, our ‘friends’ decorated these two horses into stunning rainbow unicorns (minus the horn).


Our final week also borrowed from our spring curriculum as we spent the day splashing in the stream. Taking advantage of the maturity and longer legs of the five year olds, we went for a longer hike to a more exciting part of the stream, complete with little waterfalls and boulders to scramble up and down. After an hour in the stream, we dried out on the bank and ate our picnic lunch. In the remaining time, we returned to the Lodge’s pavilion for some celebratory play.

Since most of the children have been coming to the farm since they started preschool at age three, these last five visits act as the closing ceremonies to the past two years of regular contact with the farm. Each evening, they can remember the day by the strata of dirt, chalk, and paint which catalog the day’s activities. But since a bath will wash all of that away, our ‘friends’ also have more concrete mementos of their time at Stoney Lick Farm in the form of their spring graduation certificates, painted tee-shirts, name tags, and framed pictures. Hopefully, a few years from now, these will spark memories of the fun they had with us on the farm!


Posted in EAL, Head Start, Horses, Stoney Lick Farm

Flat Fandi

This summer, two classes of ‘friends’ from Head Start took five weekly visits to the farm. While everyone on the farm would have loved to see them more often, only one of us took action on that sentiment. That would be our horse, Fandi. Without our knowing it, Fandi sent this letter to both classes:

Hey Friends!
     This is Fandi, from the horse farm. I wrote you this letter because I need your help! I love being on the farm with all my horse and people friends (Mr. Sam, Miss Joy, Miss Katie, and Mr. Scott) but sometimes I want to go on an adventure! But since I’m such a big horse, it’s hard for me to travel places. I want to go to the library, the park, and, most of all, I want to visit your classroom! Do you think horses are allowed inside buildings like your school? No, I didn’t think so either.
     So instead, I’m sending a teeny tiny version of myself to travel around for me! His name is “Flat Fandi” because he’s just like me, but flat like a piece of paper. Will you show him around your classroom? He would love to listen to stories, play legos, and paint pictures! Maybe your teacher can take pictures and send them back to me so I can see what fun you all are having with “Flat Fandi”!
     Thanks for your help, friends! See you on the farm!
                                                             Love, Fandi

Here are some of the pictures we got back from the teachers!



Using their memories and these photos as inspiration, our ‘friends’ created a popcorn story about Flat Fandi’s adventures. A popcorn story is one where each child adds one sentence to the story. The final product starts with real things that Fandi did, then, with the help of some imagination, becomes fiction. Here it is:

“Once upon a time, Flat Fandi was reading a book in the classroom. He was on a chair. He was playing blocks and was doing a great job in the classroom. He went to a magic show with us. Flat Fandi went to the movie theater to see Ninja Turtles! After, Flat Fandi and Cayden went to the park to play farm. Flat Fandi and a bunch of boys played the shark game. Miss Julie and Flat Fandi went for a walk in the woods. Flat Fandi picked up rocks. He ran back to Quinara’s car. He is driving. He crashed and the window broke. Edinelson saves Flat Fandi. Then Flat Fandi came back home to the farm!”

Authors (in order of their contributions): Malcolm, John, Monserrat, Monika, Deyana, Angela, Cayden, Andrew, Miss Julie, Izzy, Quinara, Cesar, Jacob, Edinelson, and Isabella.


While Flat Fandi was originally our little way of bringing the farm to the classroom in order to engage the children and remind them of their farm friends, Flat Fandi is also up for some more travel. If you want Flat Fandi to visit your home or workplace, send an email to with your address!




Posted in EAL, Head Start, Horses, Stoney Lick Farm

Announcing our 10th Annual Trail Run/Walk Event

20160729_100449Fall is just around the corner and so is our Annual 10K Trail Run/5K Trail Walk. On September 3rd at 9am (registration is at 8am) we will kick off our 10th Annual Trail Event. Come and experience the beauty on Catoctin Mountain as you run or walk the beautiful trails on our property.

You can register here. You may also register the day of the event. Registration fees on Race day in crease by $5. ONLY PRE-REGISTRANTS WILL RECEIVE A T-SHIRT.

Bring a team of folks and run together as many of the employees of our sponsors do …they have a ball on the course because they do it as a group.  Also, remember the 5K Trail fun run/walk can be such fun for the whole family, including FIDO on a leash!

There will be Door Prizes, as before, awards for the top 3 male and female, beer from Flying Dog Brewery and more!! A newly designed t-shirt will be given to pre-registrants as well!

If you are interested in volunteering for this event please contact Julie Castleman, or call 301-271-2823.

As in previous years, proceeds from this event benefit Head Start and the YMCA of Frederick County to participate in ThorpeWood’s Equine Assisted Learning (EAL) program and to enjoy our property for their summer programs.


Posted in 10K, 5K, EAL, Events, Head Start, Trail Run, Volunteering

Day 4: Graduation

Graduation in the homestead barn (our rainy day location)

Graduation in the homestead barn (our rainy day location)

For our final Head Start visit of the school year, we begin at Sam’s house, our trailhead. From here, we venture down the narrow and rocky trail which meanders back to a one-room log cabin. Along the way we gasp at the turbulent stream below and collect acorn hats. When the cabin comes into view, we imagine who might live there. A horse? Mr. Sam? Spiders?

IMG_3395Now on the cabin porch, Sam explains the concept of graduation, thus preparing our ‘friends’ to find their graduation certificates. When we open the door, our crowd flows in, searching for their names and pictures. The better readers helpfully shout out names as they scan the array of certificates propped against the wall, windows, and wood stove. Although the taped-on lollipops tempt them to do otherwise, our ‘friends’ then relinquish their certificates to the teacher, thus freeing up their hands for the coming fun.

Directly below the cabin, the stream flows and ripples over rocks and under fallen branches. Enticed by this sight, we zig zag down the steep hill to the shore. IMG_3864As if by instinct, everyone gathers rocks and launches them into the rapids. Other than the basic direction of “don’t hit anyone,” we allow them to do whatever they please. Inevitably someone dips a toe in, looks back to shore, waits to be scolded. But we don’t say a word. So he (most often she) goes in deeper, past his ankles, with his friends following suit. Shoes and socks are deserted. I ferry ‘friends’ through the rapids as Sam encourages rock climbers on the far bank’s biggest boulder. Everyone is in the water, screeching, splashing, and free. The loud, the restless, and the disobedient now can do no wrong, for we are already doing the most fun, wild thing imaginable. For a change, they are praised, not scolded, for getting wet and dirty, for being children.

This is the world we grew up in. This is the world we want to share.






Posted in EAL, Head Start, Horses, Stoney Lick Farm

Day 3: Riding

As the school bus pulls down our gravel driveway on the third day, our ‘friends’ excitedly anticipate riding a horse for the first time. IMG_3290In their stalls, Snudder and Vinur similarly anticipate the coming hour as Joy brushes the hard-earned dirt from their hides. Since the day begins with a photoshoot of each child with Snudder for their graduation certificates, Joy treats Snudder to a few extra squirts of Cowboy Magic: Super Bodyshine.

With photos done, we split into two groups: team Vinur and team Snudder. In each group, one ‘friend’ sits high upon his steed, while the rest play follow the leader as they hike behind. Honoring the title of leader, we allow each rider to dictate our path. At every intersection, we ask ‘left, right or straight?’ Even our shyest ‘friends’ are surprisingly decisive in pointing the way. image4For four minutes, each ‘friend’ weaves through trees in the arboretum, ventures down pine-needle paved paths, or strolls alongside the pond. No matter where we go, our ‘friend’ is connecting with his old friend Snudder in new ways.

Unlike the pony rides at the fair, this short ride is the culmination of many previous connections. In the fall, these children learned about grooming, bathing, and, most importantly, respecting our horses. During our three winter classroom visits, we reminded the children of our animals’ personalities and antics through our stories 9 More Mias, Vinur and the Goats, Fandi Needs a Doctor, and Flint’s Big Adventure. Fully illustrated with real pictures, all of these tell (mostly) true stories about the happenings on the farm. With these interactions and stories, our ‘friends’ develop an understanding of and friendship with our horses.

Given this, our ‘friends’ don’t view the horses as simple vehicles or toys, but instead as sentient beings, not too unlike ourselves. With this understanding comes empathy. image1 (1)One girl showed this quality as she, atop Vinur, watched the other group cross our path with Snudder. After calling out to her own friends, she noticed Vinur’s quickened pace, and so declared “he wants to catch up to his brother!”
Being able to relate to others’ feelings in this way is a skill that surely extends beyond our farm.


Posted in EAL, Head Start, Horses, Stoney Lick Farm

Day 2: Treasure Hunt

Having explored the day before, our ‘friends’ arrive on the second day well acquainted with all the little beauties and amusements our farm has to offer. One undisclosed source of amusement, however, is saved for today. Inconspicuously situated in one of our upper barns, a hay playground awaits us. image3 (1)So, after grooming the horses and goats, we race up the hill, leaving the teachers far behind. Although our ‘friends’ are out of breath when they arrive at the barn, they find the air to shriek with delight at the hay-filled stalls. Arranged in steps and mountains, the hay entices even our shyest friends to go feral as they leap and climb.

After a good bit of romping, we assemble for a story. Our latest book, Silly Stormur and Goofy Garpur, depicts our two youngest horses as they play dress up with all the clothes on the farm. After we giggle at the absurd pictures of Stormur and Garpur wearing all sorts of horse and people clothing, the last page tells us an unsavory truth: the boys didn’t clean up their mess! Aghast at this no-no, the children are rallied to go on a treasure hunt to find the lost clothing. IMG_3289

Running through the arboretum, we discover gloves, saddle pads, lead ropes, horse shoes, chaps and more hidden in trees and under bushes. Our ‘friends’ then adorn themselves with the lost dress-up clothes. With a bit of imagination, the chaps become a superhero cape. The lead rope is a belt. The saddle pad becomes butterfly wings. With these outfits and a good bit of hay in their hair and clothes, our ‘friends’ skip to the bus, fully transformed into farm children.



Posted in EAL, Head Start, Horses, Stoney Lick Farm

Day 1: Explore


In crafting our Head Start curriculum for this Spring, our smiling sun lured us away from the barn, outward to Stoney Lick Farm’s wooded paths, buttercup field and sparkling pond. So, in addition to our usual equine element of the farm experience, we integrated free-range, student-driven outdoor activities. Inspired by memories of our own childhoods, we decided on exploration as the first day’s theme. This was done in the hopes that, once our ‘friends’ learned to explore with us, the playground, park, and backyard will stir their imaginations as they find joy in everyday nature.


To accessorize this exploration mission, we supply each pair of little hands with a darling metal bucket, in which all the farm’s treasures can be carried back to the barn for show and tell. With these distributed, Sam, Joy, Scott, and I each recruit our own group of four or five ‘friends’ to explore for the next hour. Setting off from the barn, we each pursue a different path. Scott heads toward the manure pile to find worms and roly-pollies. Sam maps his route to the pine cone-laden areas of the arboretum. Joy frequents the squirrel hangout, where broken nuts litter the ground. I direct my steps to the open field, where endless buttercups cry out to be rolled in. In our travels, we all take a loop around the pond. Along whatever path we choose, we collect pine cones, flowers, sticks, pebbles, moss, pine needles, and cattail down, while doing our best to avoid chestnut burrs and deer scat.

At the start of the hour, our ‘friends’ look straight ahead and gravitate toward line formations. With prompting, eyes begin to observe. Feet scamper, skip, and trip. Hands touch, pluck and throw. As buckets start to fill up with nature’s bounty, we giggle. We envision the downward descent of the pine cone from the tree tops. We hunt imagined cheetahs. We snarl and howl and growl like wild animals.

We explore.



Posted in EAL, Head Start, Horses, Stoney Lick Farm

Goats at Head Start?!

The paved acres of Frederick and our own wild ones are mostly strangers to one another, yet the past few weeks have witnessed a curious cross-over in the form of a pair of bleating goats and their dutiful caretakers. These of course are our own Flint and Arrow, as accompanied by the Stoney Lick Farm family.

Copy of IMG_2765

Katie reading Flint’s Big Adventure with Sam acting as Clip Clop Conductor

Trying to outdo our previous two rounds of visits to Head Start classrooms, we followed the dreamings of a ‘friend’ in the Rock Creek class, who envisioned a “school-farm” in which the goats and horses would inhabit the soccer fields adjacent to their school. Compromising his ideal with reality, we settled on an hour’s union between farm and school. Since bringing a goat into the classroom would pose some sanitation violations, we followed the wise advice of one denizen of the class at Lucas Village, who matter-of-factly informed us that if we “brought any horses [or goats] they would have to stay outside.”


Sam & Friends in the horse trailer, peeking in on the goats

To introduce this outdoor playdate, our esteemed barn manager, Joy, and I crafted yet another ThorpeWood-original story, in which Flint the Goat, our narrator, runs around the farm, seeking help in preparing for a top-secret adventure. With the turn of each page, Flint thanks his latest helper and starts off running, as signified by the refrain “Thank you, I gotta go…CLIP CLOP CLIP CLOP.” In a strike of creative brilliance, Joy infused a musical element here as she furnished each pair of little hands with a set of vibrantly painted wooden spoons (clip cloppers) to hit together in mimicry of trotting goat hooves.  


Sam, Scott & Friends leading Arrow off the plywood bridge

On the final page, when Flint is in the horse trailer ready to go, he asks his audience to guess where he and his friend Arrow are headed. While many students hope their beloved Mr. Sam is driving the goats to McDonald’s or Toys ‘R’ Us, our ‘friends’ eventually venture that the goats might be going to their school. To investigate if they guessed correctly, we zip up our coats, and head outside to the promising sight of Mr. Sam’s truck and trailer.


Long line of joyful clip clopping friends

After showing their furry little faces, the goats are treated to the generous pats and brushes of their young and curious crowd. Thus wooed into service, the goats oblige our preschool ‘friends’ as each child takes a turn leading them around an obstacle course composed of hula hoops, cones, and a plywood bridge constructed by our resident craftsman, Scott. The others follow behind, armed with their musical spoons. After all goat-leading, bridge-bouncing, hula hoop-hopping, and clippity clopping are finished, our ‘friends’ return to their classroom, with promises of a visit to the farm easing our good-byes.

Posted in EAL, Head Start, Stoney Lick Farm

Classroom Bound!


Sam & Friends admiring a pair of leather chaps

From October to December, we spent four days a week with each of Frederick County’s fifteen Head Start classes. But once our last group boarded the bus, not to return until Spring, our farm seemed a bit quiet. A bit empty. So, to fill up our hearts and widen our smiles, we arranged for three more visits with each class. But, with Winter’s threats of snow and busy schedules in the classroom, our preschool ‘friends’ wouldn’t be able to make it to the farm. So we went to them instead.


Joy tacking up Sam, the horse




Upon our arrival, we found our ‘friends’ in their natural habitat: seated cross-legged on a colorful carpet, looking expectant for a story. Luckily for them, Joy and I had written two for the occasion. The first, entitled Nine More Mias, challenged our listeners to imagine a world where Stoney Lick Farm hosted nine more horses, exactly like Mia. The second story, Vinur and the Goats, introduced our latest addition to the farm: Flint and Arrow.   


Some glamorous cowgirls


Since the coming cold drew out a wider variety of snaps and buckles, zippers and Velcro, the Head Start teachers seized the season to teach a lesson on clothing. To help these efforts, Sam and Scott arrived clad in cowboy clothing, with me as a cowgirl, and Joy as our eastern counterpart: the English rider. To remind our ‘friends’ of our barnful of horses, we brought a slew of horse ‘clothing,’ too. We began by locating and identifying every last buckle and zipper on our own clothes before introducing our horse apparel. With Sam on hands and knees, we had an impromptu ‘horse’ to ‘tack up’ with our saddle, bridle, halter, lead rope, bareback saddle pad, horseshoe, easy boot, and fly mask. Our giggling ‘friends’ tried on some of the gear, too.


One of our friends wearing a fly mask


After our turn in ‘show and tell’ was over, we followed our ‘friends’ to their ‘centers’ to play. In ‘Housekeeping,’ a boy in a fireman costume doused imagined flames while a girl holding a baby doll spooned medicine into her sick baby’s mouth. In ‘Art,’ a girl and her crayon sketched out the mane, tail, and legs of a horse. Over at the ‘Legos’ center, castles were built and destroyed. And us? We played with them all.




Posted in EAL, Head Start, Stoney Lick Farm

Our Other Animal Friends

Most everyone knows that we have horses on ThorpeWood’s Stoney Lick Farm (SLF) but besides our horses, we have many other animal friends.  This past year we added 6 new animals!

oreo nuggetIn April we adopted two lop-eared rabbits, Oreo and Nugget. They have joined us during our Head Start programs. The kids just love to pet and feed the bunnies, although with all the activity the bunnies don’t seem to very interested in food.


A few months later we adopted Tyson, a Yellow Labrador Retriever and quite possibly the happiest dog in the world. He tags along with Sam on the farm and we’re sure he’s smiling all the time.  It is so great to have a dog with such a pleasant personality and willingness to please, but don’t ask Tyson to ride in the Kubota or golf cart – he wants nothing of them.Tyson


In October we heard about 2 Nubian goats that were in need of a new home. 

Flint and Arrow (2) These adorable two enjoy being around people, and living among their new animal friends. Before coming to SLF, they  lived with Llamas, Alpacas and horses and now they have Mia and our Icelandic horses. They enjoy hiking about the farm and ThorpeWood trails, but they don’t like rain, snow or cold temperatures.

arrowThe light brown goat is named Arrow. He is 4 years old. He enjoys being brushed and likes to be loved on. Geysir is his best horse friend.Arrow and Geysir (2)




The taller, darker goat is named Flint. He is 3 years old and a little shy but he will follow you anywhere. He is very athletic and is a great jumper.Flint (2) Vinur was very scared of the goats when they first arrived but now Vinur is Flint’s best horse friend.

Vinur: Are those goats? Can we trust them? Stormur: My, what big ears they have.

Vinur: Are those goats? Can we trust them?
Stormur: My, what big ears they have.








Our newest addition is a Christmas puppy and BIG suprise to Ms. Julie. His name is Tucker, a Russell Terrier (a shorter version of the Parsons Terrier).tucker xmas

Tucker is fearless, loves everyone and every animal, especially his big brother Tyson. He’s energetic and cuddly and loves squeaky toys.  Tyson is about the best BIG brother a little fellow could ask for …Tyson is nearly always patient and pretty gentle most of the time.  Tucker is determined to keep up with Tyson as we walk the steep trails on the backside of ThorpeWood.tucker watching horse eat








Although these two are not full time residents here at ThorpeWood we felt we must mention them because they spend a lot of time here and we consider them part of our animal family.

Greta (a.k.a. Greta Garbo) belongs to Joy, our barn manager.Greta Greta is a rescued dog and Joy adopted her when she was 7 months old. She’ll be 5 this year. Greta is a German Shepard/Standard Poodle mix (Joy sometimes calls her “my Germoodle”) . She’s very affectionate, loves all dogs, loves walking on the trails at ThorpeWood and chasing squirrels.  Her best friend is June, Katie’s dog. They love to play together. Greta tries to play with the goats but they are not interested. When she’s not at ThorpeWood she enjoys hiking and meeting her doggy pals at the dog park.

Our assistant barJune with jacket and hayn manager, Katie, can always be seen here at ThorpeWood with her Patterdale Terrier, June (a.k.a. June Bug).  June gets along very well with all the horses and Greta, of course. Her favorite activities on the farm are running the trails ahead of the horses, snuffling through the hay in search of dangerous rodents, and standing in the pond on a hot summer day.

June will occasionally seek out a little pet from Joy or Sam but generally would just prefer to lick Katie’s face or sleep by Katie’s side in the tack room in a little red cat bed donated by Sam. 



Posted in Stoney Lick Farm