Marion County elementary schools receive first set of library books on horses

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Posted December 10, 2021 | By James Blevins


The Ocala Horse Alliance (OHA) delivered its first set of library books to Marion County elementary schools via its Black Stallion Reading Project (BSRP), according to a Nov. 18 press release.

The five-year project, which is a partnership between OHA and Marion County Public Schools, is scheduled to deliver a set of 13 reference and reading books relating to horses to 26 Marion County elementary school libraries every year until 2025.

Additionally, each year, every fourth-grade student will receive their own free copy of “The Black Stallion,” a novel written by Walter Farley and first published in 1941.

The project was originally intended to begin in 2020, but the pandemic interrupted the program’s original delivery plan. Instead, the BSRP began by distributing copies of “The Black Stallion” to fourth-grade students last year to get the ball rolling as early as it could.

The books, selected specifically for the fourth grade reading level, will include reference books on various breeds and disciplines as well as books meant to be read for pleasure.

Along with the books, teachers will receive a curriculum guide and a set of horseshoes from real horses in Marion County to be used as incentives for students. The in-class curriculum of the BSRP was specifically designed to meet Florida’s Educational Standards.

Teacher Karen Hayes, who taught “The Black Stallion” in her fourth-grade classroom at Marion Oaks Elementary last year, said the program was wonderful for her students.

“Every day, they were excited to read, discuss key concepts about the horses, and keep a journal about the adventures,” she said, adding that after the students finished reading the novel, they wrote thank-you notes to the farm that sponsored their class—all books have the name of the BSRP farm partner in the inside cover.

Hayes said that studying the novel in class enhanced the students’ overall reading comprehension, vocabulary, and writing skills.

The books selected for the first year of the project and finally delivered this year include: “All About Horses,” “American Quarter Horses,” “American Pharoah Triple Crown,” “Little Squire,” “The Black Stallion Returns,” and “The Son of Black Stallion.”

[Photo courtesy of Kathy Ziegler]

A set of seven breed reference books concerning Appaloosas, Arabians, Clydesdales, Mustangs, Przewalskis Horses, Shetland Ponies, and Thoroughbreds were also included in the delivery.

The BSRP’s core program, according to the press release, is designed “to promote reading as well as an understanding and introduction to horses, equestrian sport, and careers in the horse industry.”

OHA Director Ellie Trueman, who was first involved in the project as it previously existed in Maryland, said that what impressed her about the program, and why she wished to bring it down south to Ocala, was how it affected the students’ reading levels.

“It is first and foremost a literacy program,” Trueman explained. “And what it really does is use the power of the horse to motivate kids to read. And with Ocala being the ‘Horse Capital of the World,’ we thought it was a very appropriate step to bring this program to this community.”

Other items that come with the set of library books include a curry comb, a halter, hay, sweet feed, and a set of laminated picture cards, detailing subjects mentioned in the book such as grooming, tacking up, and stable terms.

“We’re still building the program,” Trueman added. “And the local horse farms are very excited about the project, and the link between horses and children, and using horses as a motivator in the classroom.”

New elements for the 2021-2022 school year include a BSRP Brag Tag Program to be done in partnership with area horse shows and a set of videos for classrooms on careers in the horse industry such as veterinarian, vet tech, farrier, event manager, and farm manager. Additional career videos will be added to the collection each year.

“The addition of these books will ignite a love of reading while the students dive into researching and learning about horses,” said Hayes. “It is always appreciated to see the community contributing to the education of our students.”

For additional information on the BSRP, email the OHA at