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

Happy New Year!

We hope you had a wonderful Holiday Season!katies-gift

We received this gift from a friend of ThorpeWood.

It’s in a shadowbox frame. The text is a quote from Jan Struthers.

“Physical weather certainly is beyond our control. But human weather – the psychological climate of the world – is not beyond our control. The human race is its own rain and its own sun.”

Our friend noted “ThorpeWood is that Sun.”

What an honor and a privilege to be the Sun to some of our friends. We hope we get to shine upon you this upcoming year!


*Note the creative and lovely horse rock sculpture made from small stones taken from our pastures.


Posted in Uncategorized

17th Annual Holiday Open House – December 10th!

Our Open House is a week away and we’ve been busy getting ThorpeWood decked out for the holidays!

20161202_100611Our tree is up and decorated! The tree came from the northwest mountains in North Carolina. It’s a 16 foot Frazer Fir. As usual, each year at the open house, if you guess the correct number of lights on the tree you win a night’s stay in our Little Pond Cottage.

Come warm up next to the fire with a cup of hot cider and some baked confections from our cookie buffet!

Santa will be visiting from 5pm to 7pm and children can enjoy storytime, crafts and can help decorate a tree in our tree room.

Enjoy music from local area musicians!

3:00-3:35 – David Selby & Friends

3:34 – 4:20 – The Windtalker (Native American flute)

4:30 – 5:05 – The Scrub Pines (American/Roots)

5:15 – 5:50 – Melissa Main & Friends

6:00 – 6:35 – Alicia & Mike Nunez

6:45 – 7:20 – Peter Roebuck (piano)

7:30 – 8:00 – Todd Walker – to wrap it up!

Reservations are not required. This is a freee event, however, we ask that you contribute to our cookie buffet and bring your favorite cookies (we recommend 2 dozen).

Happy Holidays!

Posted in Holiday Open House

News from ThorpeWood

edited-walkway-thru-arboretumThe Fall Season is upon us and as usual Mother Nature did not disappoint. Although the picture to your right was taken after peak foliage, the fall colors are still quite vibrant.

The season also  brings back our Head Start friends and we are all so very happy to have them back, even the horses.

Fandi decided to greet our Head Start Friends when they arrived one morning.

Fandi decided to greet our Head Start Friends when they arrived one morning.

We are very happy to introduce new additions to the farm, two Nubian goats, Flint and Arrow. They are very friendly and enjoy being around the humans and horses.2016_1030_16533800







Dur20161109_111324ing a short break from Head Start we hosted a long time friend of ours and Icelandic Horse Trainer, Steinar Sigurbjornsson. Steinar  developed a way of working with horses to restore their natural, intrinsic motivation for proud, fluid, agile movement. The technique is called Intrinzen. Learn more here (definetly check out some of the videos!).  In this photo Steinar is teaching Vinur how to do “crunches”, an exercise to help strengthen his back muscles. Vinur’s posture had become poor and was causing an excessive downward curvature in his spine referred to as swayback.  This condition created an imbalance in Vinur’s walk and he began to trip often. After a little instruction Vinur will soon be doing crunches on his own in the pasture. Later he will learn two walks, the “badass walk” and the “panther walk”, all directed to horse play and horse autonomy. It’s exciting work, or shall I say play, for human and horse! 

We’ll end the year with our Annual Holiday Open House. Please join us on December 10th from 3pm to 8pm. Come warm up with a steaming cup of hot cider next to our roaring filit up TWreplace, listen to live music from local Frederick musicians, and enjoy holiday treats prepared by staff and friends, a visit from Santa (4p-6p), holiday cheer, and a spectacular tree! See our Events page for more information.

Happy Holidays from all your friends here at ThorpeWood!



Posted in Head Start, Holiday Open House, Horses, Weddings