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Idalia, a 16-year-old high school student in Manhattan, has been thinking of becoming a veterinarian since she was a little girl. But she had never had the opportunity to interact and learn about horses – until a recent class trip arranged by AWESOME.

“I’ve never been this close before,” Idalia said after petting and feeding some of the carriage horses in Central Park and a West Side stable. “This was fun, and educational.”

Blair and 20 classmates from the High School for Environmental Studies came to the park and the stable on May 16. An expert equestrian and AWESOME volunteer gave the students a “Horses 101” lesson that touched on several of horse-related topics – including the history of horses in New York City. They learned, for example, that Dutch settlers arriving on ships brought the first horses to Manhattan in 1625. (The Dutch brought 101 Fresian horses, a breed developed thousands of years ago in the northern Netherlands. There is an example of that striking breed in the park today.)

Idalia, far right, and classmates, meeting Katie

After a carriage ride in the park, the high school students toured the stable. This is where the horses are fed and groomed, and receive other services, like physical exams, vaccinations, dental care, hoof trimming and new shoes. The stables are staffed 24-hours a day, 7 days a week.

“I’ve always been interested in working with animals, so this trip was good,” Natalie, 16, said. “I could see how they take care of the horses, and maybe I can do the same with other types of animals.”

The students asked plenty of questions, including: How much do horses eat? What are their favorite foods? How long do horses live? What does it mean when they stop a foot and snort? How do you become a carriage driver?

“I think the trip was wonderful,” History Teacher Paulina Chan said. “The kids were asking a lot of good questions about environment-related careers and the maintenance of the horses, and they learned about a side of New York they don’t often get to see as city kids.”

Visiting the stable was “a country like experience,” Chan said.  

Science Teacher Bridget Mahoney said: “The kids thought it was awesome. They had a really good time. They met a lot of interesting people, and they asked a lot of really good questions, and you could see they were very excited to be spending time learning about the horses and their history in the city.

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