These horses in New Ipswich inspire writing, not riding
Author and instructor Emily Chetkowski hopes to inspire young people to create while connecting with nature through her new Pony and Pen writing program.
"I want to give back, and I have found I want to pass that on," Chetkowski said of her passions for writing and the Newfoundland pony during a Wednesday interview at her home, Villi Poni Farm in New Ipswich.
"I want to take some of the kids that have an appreciation for nature and enjoy writing . and I want them to unleash their creativity and know what it is."
The author of seven children's books and young-adult novels - including the Mabel series, based on the adventures of her dog of the same name - Chetkowski plans to hold two sessions this summer, working with students at Villi Poni.
The farm is a sanctuary for the endangered and rare Newfoundland breed of horses. There are only 350 of the animals left in the world, 27 in the United States and six of those at Villi Poni Farm, Chetkowski said.
Nature and writing have always been connected, Chetkowski said. She grew up in western Massachusetts near an unofficial wildlife rehabilitation center where an elderly woman nursed birds, raccoons, skunks and other abandoned or injured animals.
But it was a tragic experience at the age of 14 that led Chetkowski to write her first poem: A 16-year-old friend committed suicide.
"I just didn't understand it, so I wrote a poem to him," she said. "It just helped me. It didn't bring him back, it didn't make sense, but it just helped me to organize my thoughts and express myself."
For Chetkowski, being a writer has never been about publishing books but rather about "expressing yourself and being free," she said.
She wants young people to share that experience.
"It's time to pass it on," she said. "I'm going to be 57 years old, and it just hit me one day that I want to turn this into a place to inspire kids. Whether it's the ponies or whatever, I just want them to be inspired and create."
Students will spend time with the ponies and time writing.
There won't be a riding component to the program, but students will have the opportunity to get as close to the ponies as they wish.
They will learn how to be safe and respectful of the animals, and they also wwill get to groom, feed and walk them.
Newfoundland horses are known for agreeable personalities and sweet natures, Chetkowski said.
In addition to authoring books, Chetkowski has provided instruction in schools for 20 years. More recently, she's given lessons via Skype.
The Pony and Pen program is designed for boys and girls ages 10-18, with a limit of six students per session. The first session is planned for July 21-25, the second for July 28-Aug. 1.
Daily activities will run from 1-4 p.m.
The cost is $150 a week, with sibling discounts available.
In addition to the six ponies, students will get to meet the rest of the Chetkowski's extended family, which includes four dogs, two donkeys, one horse and two kittens.