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"Hay Days" Teacher Guide

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Horses Make History

Whether aiding us in battle or helping out with farming, horses have played a major role in Iowa's history. In this issue, you learned that horses became extinct during the Pleistocene (Ice Age). The Spanish reintroduced horses to the Americas in the early 1500s, and even though they banned Indian ownership of horses, American Indians acquired them through raids, rebellion, and by capturing the wild animals. What's more, Indians developed superior equestrian skills and this allowed for increased mobility on horseback which made Indians more difficult for American soldiers to defeat.

Riding High

Why were horses used in battle? They could move armies into position faster than foot soldiers, and troops on galloping horses could attack opponents with greater speed. Calvary tactics involved swift flaking movements, head-on charges, and the use of weapons designed for mounted soldiers. In fact, weapons makers and military strategists realized the need to make guns matching the needs of mounted soldiers. Those making a charge on horseback required weapons capable of firing in rapid succession; they also needed to reload their weapons quickly without dismounting. Imagine how history would have been altered had it not been for horses in Iowa.

Horsing Around

In this issue, we emphasize the importance of horses in work. What about play? In our feature on rodeos, we report that one of the biggest and best rodeos in the country is held in the small town of Sidney, Iowa. It all began in 1923, when two brothers decided to liven up an Old Soldiers' Reunion. Today, the Sidney rodeo features bronco riding, steer wrestling, bull riding, barrel facing, and calf roping.

Racing To Be The Best

Ever wonder how Rush Park came into being? Our article on Charles Williams emphasizes that by training two horses, he was able to sell one of them (Axtell) for $105,000! Because of his passion and love for horses, he used that money to buy land in Independence, Iowa, where he built a race track called Rush Park. This track attracted world class race horses from all over the country. In fact, Charles Williams' other race horse, Allerton, was crowned "stallion champion of the world" and set records at Rush Park. The successes of his horses brought Williams fame and wealth. So much so, Rush Park was referred to as "Lexington of the North."

Doing Things the Old-Fashioned Way

How does the past merge with the present? In "Horses Set Amish Families Apart," we report that when the Amish first settled in Iowa in 1846, they weren't the only ones using horses for farming and transportation. Today, they are. They live in agricultural communities and believe that using horses on the fann. and on the road help keep family, church, and community bonds strong.

Dick Kohl would agree. In our Changing Times feature, we interviewed Kohl and discovered that back in 1936 when farmers bought something that would replace about four horses, he didn't. Kohl used a horse-drawn planter until 1970 when he sold his last team. According to him, "there is a lot of satisfaction in driving a team. We weren't in a big hurry. It was a good way of life."

Good Horsemanship

This is just a sampling of what your students will discover in this issue of the Goldfinch. They'll read anecdotes about Buffalo Cody, Alexander the Great, and even the Trojan Horse. We also offer interviews of Iowa students who have trained horses and entered them in contests, a historical account of a man in the late 1800s who wrote about the cost of running a farm with horses, as well as a short article on horseshoes! Horses have played an important role in Iowa's past. Can you imagine what Iowa would be like without them?

Summary and Discussion Questions

Page 4-5 

Horse Power: Historical account of horses, from the finding of fossil evidence to the use of horses by the Spanish and American Indians. 

  1. In their chronicles of New World conquests, why did Spanish conquistadors feel they owed victory to the horses?
  2. What kind of impact did horses have on American Indian cultures? 
  3. What would the past have been like without horses?  

Page 6-7

Agriculture/Transportation: Role horses played in agriculture and transportation. Discussion Questions: 

  1. How did the use of tractors affect the agricultural climate? 
  2. What were the benefits of using automobiles and trucks over horses? Were there any drawbacks? How did the cost of either factor into the equation?

Page 8-9 

Changing Times: Interview with Dick Kohl, a farmer who used horse-drawn planters decades after others had switched to tractors. 

  1. What are the advantages of using horses in farming? Disadvantages? 
  2. If more farmers today used horses in fanning, do you think they would succeed?
  3. If you owned a farm, would you use horses or tractors? Why?

Page 10

Horses in Battle: The importance of horses in wars and battles. 

  1. Would it be easy to train a horse for battle? 
  2. Horses would not succeed in battles today.
  3. How has technology affect the kinds of battles and wars that are fought in the present day?

Page 11

Iowa State University: The college's role in developing draft horse breeds. 

  1.  If you owned draft horses, what would you use them for? 
  2. Would you want to be a horse veterinarian?

Page 12-13

Meet Emily Cummins: Article by Emily Cummins about her love for horses. 

  1. How difficult would it be to train a horse for contests? 
  2. What would you do to create a bond between you and your horse?

Page 14-15

If I Had a Horse: Fifth grade students write about why they would want a horse.

  1. Would you want a horse? Why or why not?  
  2. Do you think it is easy to take care of a horse?

Page 16

Horsin' Around: Test where you match horse terms with their meanings.

Page 17

Buffalo Bill Cody: Story of Buffalo Bill and his involvement with the Pony Express and hunting buffaloes. 

  1. What do you think it would be like riding for the Pony Express? 
  2. How important were horses in hunting?
  3. Do you think Buffalo Bill hunted the same way that the American Indians did?

Page 18-19

Horses and Fun: An account of the Sidney Rodeo and how Rush Park came to be built.

Page 20

Horse Quiz: Crossword puzzle testing your knowledge about horses.

Page 21

Selling a Sure Cure: Anecdotes about horse care products, Alexander the Great, and the Trojan


Page 22-23

History Mystery: Feature describing different tools used over the years to care for a horse.

Page 24-26

Fiction: Haying with Old Bolliver- Story of a young girl who learns the meaning of having a horse as farm worker and friend. 

  1. If your livelihood were farming, would you use a horse or a tractor? 
  2. If you could have a pet, would you choose a horse over other animals? 
  3. In what ways is a horse loyal? How would you be a loyal friend to your horse?

Page 27

Horses Set Amish Families Apart: Tells how the Amish still use horses for farming and transportation as they did in the mid 1800s. 

  1. How does the use of horses among the Amish keep family, church, and community bonds strong?  
  2. What are the benefits or using horses? Disadvantages?

Page 28

Dear Diary: Account of a young man who details the cost of running a farm with horses. 

  1. Is the cost of running a farm with horses worth the effort and expenses? 
  2. Could fanning the way Davies did it still be accomplished today?

Page 29

Be a Diary Detective: Answer questions posed in G. Walter Davies' diary.

Page 30-31

History Makers: Three young girls talk about getting horses ready for competitions.

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