National Agricultural Literacy Curriculum Matrix
Horse and Rider (Grades 3-5)
3 - 5
1 hour per activity
Students will explore the role that horses have played in culture and history by learning about draft horses in agriculture and mapping Pony Express stations across the state of Utah.
- Energetic Equine video
- Utah Pony Express Map, 1 per student
- Computers for student use
- Google Earth
- Utah Pony Express Stations
- This file contains all of the Pony Express stations in Utah, as well as a brief description of each station and/or firsthand accounts of visitor experiences.
- Red pencil or pen for each student
- Envelope, 1 per student
- Postage stamps, 1 per student
Essential Files (maps, charts, pictures, or documents)
draft horse: a large horse used for pulling heavy loads, especially a cart or plow
horsepower: a unit used to measure the power of engines
quarter horse: a small, strong horse that can run very fast for short distances
Did you know? (Ag Facts)
Horsepower is a measurement of work. It was created by James Watt who lived from 1736 until 1819. Watt wanted to measure the amount of energy required to raise coal out of a coal mine, so he created “horsepower” as the unit of measure. How much is one horsepower? One horsepower is equivalent to 33,000 foot-pounds of work performed in 1 minute, which can be achieved in many different combinations of feet and pounds.1
One horsepower equals all of the following:
- Lifting 33,000 pounds up 1 foot in 1 minute
- Lifting 1 pound up 33,000 feet in 1 minute
- Lifting 1000 pounds up 33 feet in 1 minute
- Lifting 1000 pounds up 330 feet in 10 minutes
- Lifting 100 pounds up 33 feet in 6 seconds
Background Agricultural Connections
Interest Approach – Engagement
- Show students the America’s Heartland video clip Energetic Equine.
- Discuss the video using the following questions:
- What are draft horses and mules used for? (These are work animals bred to pull heavy loads and work well with people. Prior to the invention of gas powered tractors, people relied on draft animals to pull tools that would till and plant fields and harvest crops. Draft animals also pulled carts and wagons, transporting goods from farm to market.)
- How do you think plowing a field with a team of horses compares to plowing a field with a tractor? (Horses were much slower and less efficient than tractors. As farm technology improved, farmers were able to produce more food with less labor. In 1850, it took 75-90 hours of work to produce 100 bushels of corn. In 1930, the same 100 bushels of corn could be produced with just 15-20 hours of work. The first gas powered tractor was built in 1890.)3
- Explain to students that draft horses are not fast; different kinds of horses were bred to run fast and carry less weight. Before gas powered engines, people also relied on horses for transportation. The following lesson explores the importance of horses in Utah historically and today.
Activity 1: Utah Climate and Geography
- Share the background information with students. Ask the students to describe the unique challenges of riding a horse as a Pony Express rider across the state of Utah (e.g., lack of water, extreme temperatures, Indian encounters, steep mountain ranges, lack of populated areas, wildlife challenges).
- Give each student a copy of the Utah Pony Express Map. Using a red pencil, have each student outline the county where they live. As a class, ask the students to identify the counties with Pony Express stations. Write these counties on the board.
- Ask the students to identify the cities that are now nearest the Express route (i.e., Henefer, Salt Lake City, Draper, Calleo, Ibapah). Write these cities on the board and then determine whether they are rural, suburban, or urban areas of Utah today.
- Emphasize the importance of the horse in Utah history. Have the students place a capital “H” in Salt Lake, Utah, Davis, Weber, Cache, and Box Elder counties. Horses are found in all counties of Utah, but these counties have the greatest number of horse owners.
- Explain to the students that they are going to use Google Earth to determine the topography of the Pony Express Stations and explore what it may have been like to pass through the station. Each student will need access to a computer (students can be paired if technology is limited), or if a projector is available, this can be done as a class activity.
- Assign each student or pair of students one or two Pony Express Stations from the list below.
- While using the computers, have the students access the file Utah Pony Express Stations with Google Earth. Students will find that each of the stations is marked across the state with a pushpin symbol.
- Have the students click on their assigned pin and read the information.
- Using their mouse to zoom in on their location, ask students to look at the topography of the area and identify any landmarks, streams, roads, forests, mountains, or other indicating features of the landscape. To help them with their exploration within Google Earth, students should complete the questions at the bottom of the Utah Pony Express Map.
- Remind students that Utah’s climate varies greatly from place to place around the state. Climates can be affected by latitude, elevation, and distance from the ocean. In general, Utah climates can be grouped as desert, steppe, and mountain. Deserts are defined by very low levels of precipitation. Mountain climates get relatively high levels of precipitation and have very cold winters and cool summers. The steppe climate is in between desert and mountain and favors the growth of grasses and shrubs. Many of the Pony Express Stations in Utah are located within the Great Basin. It may help the students to remind them of the characteristics of this landform region while they view the satellite images of their area.
- Draw a large outline of Utah on the board. Have the students tape their observations and analysis of their Pony Express Stations to the proper location on the map on the board. Facilitate a discussion on the similarities and differences of various station locations throughout the state.
Activity 2: Addressing a Letter
- Ask the students if they have ever received a letter in the mail. Show the students a piece of mail that has been postmarked. Ask them to identify the elements of the postmark (i.e., the stamp, address, city, state, ZIP code, postmark date, and location). Have the students identify how long it took for the mail to be sent from one location to the next. Tell them that generally mail can be received within a couple of days, or even overnight if a person is willing to pay an additional fee.
- Have the students identify other forms of communication that are widely used today (e.g., email, telephone, text messaging, social media). Discuss how we communicate today and the advantages and disadvantages of each method. Discuss the role of penmanship, spelling, and composition in conveying an effective message.
- Instruct students on how to address an envelope and send a letter. Students should then write a letter to a friend or relative that describes, in their own words, the adventures and experiences of a Pony Express rider. Have the students mail their letters from the school to their homes. Students may want to predict how many days it will take for their letters to be delivered.
Concept Elaboration and Evaluation
After conducting these activities, review and summarize the following key concepts:
- Horses play an important role in Utah’s culture and history.
- Historically, horses were indispensable to agricultural production and for transportation. Today, they are more commonly used for recreation.
- The Pony Express was a mail delivery service that crossed Utah in 1860 and 1861. At this time, the fastest way to travel or send a message across the country was by horse.
- Agricultural production and transportation have become much faster and more efficient due to advances in technology.
Make a Horsetail Bookmark
Materials: 3" x 5" cards, pencils, crayons, a paper punch, and yarn
- Sketch a horse and tail from the rear on the card with a pencil. Make sure the tail is wide enough to have a yarn tail later.
- Use a paper punch to cut three holes in the tail. Make sure they aren’t too close to the edge of the paper or the yarn may rip out.
- Cut some lengths of yarn (about six for each hole) and run them through the holes. Now tie another piece of yarn around the tail you made; this will keep it all together. Cut off the ends of the tail to make it even.
- Color the horse.
Have your students watch the one-minute Wonders of the West video Pony Express Story.
Suggested Companion Resources
- Immigration, Migration, and the Industrial Revolution (Book)
- Atlas of the Historical Geography of the United States (Poster, Map, Infographic)
- Changes & Challenges: Utah Agriculture (Multimedia)
- Frontier House (Multimedia)
- Historical Timeline (Multimedia)
- Glidden's Patent Application for Barbed Wire (Website)
- Tractor Timeline- A History of Tractors (Website)
Agricultural Literacy Outcomes
Culture, Society, Economy & Geography
- Explain how agricultural events and inventions affect how Americans live today (e.g., Eli Whitney - cotton gin; Cyrus McCormick - reaper; Virtanen - silo; Pasteur - pasteurization; John Deere - moldboard plow) (T5.3-5.c)
- Understand the agricultural history of an individual’s specific community and/or state (T5.3-5.f)
Education Content Standards
5-12 History Era 4 Standard 2E: The settlement of the West.
Objective 1Explore the lure of the West and the reality of life on the frontier.
K-4 History Standard 2A: The history of students' own local community and how communities in North America varied long ago.
Objective 3Describe local community life long ago, including jobs, schooling, transportation, communication, religious observances, and recreation.
Common Core Connections
Writing: Anchor Standards
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.4Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.