My family loves all kinds of adventures, but our animal encounters remain most memorable for my children. Whether it’s the calming effect of stroking a horse’s soft coat, or confidence built from facing a new experience, like riding a horse; the power of an animal experience cannot be underestimated.
Introduction to Horseback Riding at Iron Gait Horse Farm
Located in Chester, Iron Gait Horse Farm offers family visits, where visitors will learn about horse safety, as well as how to care for a horse. During our one-hour visit, my daughter particularly loved brushing and feeding the horses.
This is truly a hands-on learning experience. After learning about horse care, children have the opportunity to actually ride a horse. This part was definitely the highlight of our time at the farm. And, while my daughter was hesitant to try at first, her beaming smile said it all as she rode around the arena.
Cuddle with Cats at Richmond SPCA
A place my kids are happy to sit still, be quiet, and read…would you guess it’s at the Richmond SPCA?! Well, here’s why…the adorable cats! You do not have to actively be looking to adopt an animal to love on the precious felines at the SPCA. My children love to bring donations for the dogs and cats, and then head back to the large cat rooms in the back. We pack some favorite books to read (though the SPCA does provide children’s books for this purpose) and let the cats warm up to us, while my children take turns reading. I see this as a great practice in patience, reading, and being calm, as well as a way to serve the community. Plus, how could you not love these sweet cats?!
Party with Goats at Pactamere Farm
What is it about seeing your child in footie-pajamas?! It’s just the cutest thing…except for maybe a baby goat in his pajamas! And, that is exactly what you can see at Pactamere Farm in Glen Allen. PJs & Playtime is a one hour event where families come to the farm and snuggle and play with baby goats…with all the KIDS wearing their pajamas.The fun continues after the event as children are encouraged to visit with the farm’s alpacas and miniature pony.
Enjoy the Gentle Giants of Shoofly Farm
Many of the animals at Shoofly have been rescued and/or rehabilitated at this farm, and hearing their stories is so touching. A few highlights from my family’s one hour experience at the farm: feeding ducks and pigs from our hands, brushing horses, and petting a bunny. Even if your child is nervous around animals, Shoofly’s animals are so gentle that everyone will feel at ease quickly. Private farm tours are free (donations accepted), with the opportunity to add on special experiences like a pony or tractor ride.
Experience Wildlife at Maymont
Starting at the farm, feed goats and sheep. Don’t forget to check out the horses and the orange pig, Gus! Then wind your way down to the wildlife habitats. Maymont is home to bald eagles, owls, a bobcat, bison and more! My family loves to catch glimpses of the resident Red Fox, Finnley. But, the best part for us is watching the American Black Bears. Once we even saw one eating an apple!
Richmond is full of opportunities to learn from and about animals. And, the benefits of doing so are immense. As you plan your warm weather outings, check out these extraordinary experiences.
Prior to visiting the aforementioned farms, be sure to check websites for the most up to date information.