While Friendly Acres maybe a fictional place dreamed up by Georgetown writer Jacki Clark, the author hopes to bring at least part of it to life for an international audience at the upcoming Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games.
The main character in Friendly Acres is a gypsy horse named Lash, who is befriended by fairy Cindy Goodsense and insect buddy Horse C. Fly. Lash meets Cindy and H.C. in Lash's First Adventure. In future books, Lash will meet Scottish highland steer Kirkwood MacMoowan, English springer spaniel Heavenly Dancer, Captain Doodle Doo and Calypso the thoroughbred racehorse.
Those new friends will try to make Lash's transition from his home in England to Friendly Acres in the United States easier, Clark said.
Lash's Lessons will address life skills ranging from being trustworthy, respectful, and caring to being a good citizen and knowing it is OK to be different. Those lessons have the same underlying meaning: It is OK to be a friend to others.
Clark came up with the concept of Friendly Acres when she bought her first gypsy horse, the real Lash on whom the character is based, when she moved to Kentucky eight years ago.
Clark wrote Lash's First Adventure to help teach children about gypsy horses and the importance of friendship.
Clark is a teacher from Kansas who has learned through statistics and personal experience that children learn better when what they are learning is fun and memorable. When children meet Lash, Clark is hoping they will remember the lessons he taught them.
Clark wants to teach children young and old about building character through animals. She hopes kids learn character traits like trust, respect, caring, responsibility, fairness and being a good citizen.
The lessons Lash teaches children are how to handle issues such as bullying and how to make healthy choices. She used Lash, a gypsy horse, because he is described as a "golden retriever with hooves."
The real Lash is the first gypsy horse to be born in the United States and has become known as the American Ambassador for the breed. He lives and is being taken care of by Georgetown residents Todd and Allison Walker at Springhill Stables. The Walkers also take care of Lash's half brother, Merrow.
The gypsy horse is a rare breed, as described by Blarney Stone Acres (www.blarneystoneacres.com) and has two distinctive characteristics. Gypsy horses long tails and manes that feather out and their hooves are covered in hair. The horses are docile, highly trainable, very intelligent and friendly with people.
The gypsy horse has been in America for about 12 years and was originally bred to be with gypsy families in England.
Training Lash has been a learning experience for Todd Walker who trains him 30 minutes a day but takes more than two hours to groom him.
"I have learned to be very patient with that breed because they are very special," he said. "They like more human contact than most horses."
Lash has taught Allison Walker to be a friend because of his overall nature, she said.
Lash's nature is why Clark wrote the books but she also will use the other characters to teach lessons throughout the story series.
Calypso the Thoroughbred teaches children it is okay to be friends with people who are different. A goat, K. Lapz, who falls over when he is frightened and has one horn, teaches children about conflict resolution with the message, "don't butt heads with a force stronger than you."
On Tuesday, Clark presented a sculpture of Lash to the Kentucky Horse Park to display during the World Equestrian Games. The statue, which will be exhibited in the United States Hunter/Jumper Building in the Horse Park, was made by Rose Littrell of Tennessee who created the horses in the Wild Horse Saloon and Opryland Hotel in Nashville.
Clark hopes to be able to bring the sculpture into the schools where she can have children see Lash while learning the lessons he and his friends teach.
The development of Friendly Acre's has been grassroots for Clark who has learned the publishing and toy manufacturing process and has described it as a labor of love.
This month, Lash will be presented to the world during the World Equestrian Games at the Horse Park. Lash will be shown all 16 days in breed demonstrations and as the breed representative in the Parade of Breeds at Festival of the Horse. There also will be Friendly Acres merchandise available to purchase, like T-shirts, stuffed animals, frisbees and dolls.
The books can be purchased at Joseph Beth Booksellers, through the Web site, www.lashslessons.net and at Clark's office in the U.S. Hunter/Jumper Building at the Kentucky Horse Park.
Clark moved to Kentucky because it is the horse capital of the world and hopes, because of Lash, the state will also be known as the friendship capital of the world.
"I just believe that Lash could join the messages of this county," Clark said."When (someone) has a hard time, they can see his name and remember to be a friend."