Do you like horses and horse riding? How much do you know about these animals? Anna Sewell’s much-loved novel, Black Beauty (1877), introduces us to the world of horses through the adventurous stories of Black Beauty, and his friends, Ginger and Merrylegs. Before you read this adaptation, do this interactive lesson with us to get familiar with the background.
- You will need a computer, Internet connection, and a projector or an interactive whiteboard to do this lesson.
- We recommend it for elementary, pre-intermediate and intermediate level students (CEF A1-A2, B1).
- Do activities 1-5 in class, and introduce the two projects. Then ask your students to choose Project 1 (Horse breeds) or Project 2 (Fair treatment of horses) and they can do some research at home.
- Do the activity about expressions with the word ‘horse’ in class. We recommend it for intermediate level students.
1 Who is Black Beauty?
Look at the image of the horse on the cover of the Helbling reader. Why do you think the horse is called Black Beauty? What kind of horse would you like to own? What would you call him or her?
2 How much do you know about horses?
Visit these two pages:
When you are reading the information about horses, find answers to these questions:
- How long do horses usually live?
- How do horses sleep?
- How many bones does a horse have?
- How fast is the fastest horse?
- What do you call a male horse?
- What do you call a female horse?
- What do you call a young male horse?
- What do you call a young female horse?
- What do horses eat?
- What is interesting about a horse’s eyes?
3 How do horses move?
Horses have different ways of moving. We call a way of moving a gait. Horses naturally have four different kinds of gaits. Some special breeds have more than four. Let’s see the four gaits now.
- Go on YouTube and look for videos that illustrate the four gaits.
- Type in the following words: horse + walk / trot / canter / gallop.
- Which is the fastest movement?
4 What are the parts of a horse?
- Search the Internet (for example you can use Google Images) to look for the following parts of the horse.
- Draw a simple picture of a horse and label the parts.
- Words to find:
5 What do you need to go horseriding?
If you are interested in horse riding, you need to know what equipment a horse needs to do this activity. Look for the following objects on the Internet (use Google Images or another search engine). If you cannot find any good images, use an online dictionary.
Remember, you always need a helmet for your safety!
6 Project 1: Horse breeds
There are several famous and very expensive horse breeds in the world. These horses have been bred and trained for centuries. Which are the most famous ones? What do they look like? Find information about the following breeds on the Internet, choose your favourite one and describe it.
- Quarter Horse
- Paint Horse
- Tennessee Walking Horse
7 Project 2: Fair treatment of horses
In this article on the NPR website about the novel we can read about what an important role Sewell’s Black Beauty had in changing the way we see horses today. Search the Internet for information about the way we used horses in the past. Think about the 19th century when there were no cars or trains to help people in their everyday work.
- What types of work did horses do?
- Where did they work?
- Where do horses work today?
Read this extract from the article. Find the meaning of the underlined words in bold. Ask your teacher to explain the idea of this passage. Look for images of the following expressions: ‘bearing rein’, strap and docking.
“Black Beauty is widely credited with helping to change the way horses were cared for. There is little doubt that the book helped hasten the abolishment of the “bearing rein” — a strap used to pull a horse’s head in toward its chest to force the appearance of a noticeable arch of the neck. (This was a highly desired look in aristocratic society, but it created great pain and difficulty for the horses. The animals could not use their neck and chest muscles to pull weigh properly or to breathe correctly. The unnatural arch weakened the horses and usually led to respiratory problems.) Black Beauty also placed a harsh spotlight on the practice of “docking” or cutting short a horse’s tail, largely for the sake of appearances — a practice that is still widely debated.”
(Michele Norris: “How ‘Black Beauty’ Changed The Way We See Horses”. Retrieved on 25/03/2015. Source: NPR website)
- Search the Internet or your library to find information about the fair treatment of animals.
- What other animals are affected by cruelty?
- How can you prevent animal cruelty?
8 Vocabulary focus: expressions and sayings with the word ‘horse’
This is a higher level activity, it can be interesting for intermediate level students and for the teachers. Use a dictionary to answer the following questions.
- Who is a ‘dark horse’?
- What is a ‘one-horse race’?
- What is a ‘one-horse town’ like?
- Is a ‘shire horse’ strong or weak?
- What is a ‘rocking horse’? Have you ever had one?
- What can you put on a ‘clothes horse’? Do you have one at home?
- Do you have a ‘hobby horse’? What are the two different meanings of the expression?
- If he is ‘horsing around’, how is he playing?
- ‘I could eat a horse.’ How hungry am I?
- What are you like when you ‘get on your high horse’?
- If you say ‘hold your horses’, are you going to wait?
- What does ‘don’t look a gift horse in the mouth’ mean?
- Is it a good idea to ‘put the cart before the horse’?
- What are you doing with your time if you are ‘beating a dead horse’?
- He ‘eats like a horse’, is he messy or does he eat a lot or a little?
Would you like to read more or watch more?
Search the Internet or IMDB for films adaptations of Black Beauty.
Do you know any other novels about horses? For example ‘The Horse Whisperer’ by Nicholas Evans was a successful novel which has been adapted for the screen (directed by Robert Redford). Another contemporary example is the war drama film War Horse directed by Steven Spielberg (2011). Do you know any other titles?