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Horses on the Move

Who loves horses? Artist Deborah Butterfield also raises and trains them. Gallop along with her and draw these beautiful beasts on the run!

  • Grade 2
    Grade 3
    Grade 4
  • 60 to 90 Minutes
  • Directions

    1. Deborah Butterfield was born on May 7, 1949, in San Diego, California. As a young woman, Butterfield was drawn between the pursuit of a career in art, or a career in the veterinary sciences. She had a great love of horses all of her life, and, although she ultimately chose to pursue art, she continued to work with horses.
    2. Butterfield lives on a ranch in Montana, where she raises and rides thoroughbreds and trains them in dressage, a highly formal, precise method of showing them. Butterfield is fascinated with the horses’ movement and physiology, which is apparent in her sculpture.
    3. Although she began her sculpting career with realistic, plaster mares, Butterfield’s horses have evolved over the years. She now constructs her horses from recycled and natural objects, building them over an armature of wire. The horses each have a natural, realistic pose, although the materials she uses are unusual. She eliminates most of the detail of her subjects, focusing on the horse’s posture and form (see Palomino, 1981, or Riot).
    4. Students create a realistic horse drawing of their own. Find pictures of Butterfield’s sculpture, as well as photographs of horses in motion. Edward Muybridge photographs highlight animals in motion, and would be a wonderful resource for this study.
    5. Use Crayola® Crayons to draw a picture of one or more running or galloping horses. Include the horse’s main parts and eliminate unnecessary details, much as Butterfield does. Color the horse realistically, focusing on the horse rather than its environment.
    6. Students compare their horse drawing to the horses constructed by Butterfield and Muybridge’s photographs. How are they similar? How are they different?
  • Standards

    LA: Ask and answer questions to demonstrate understanding of a text, referring explicitly to the text as the basis for the answers.

    LA: Use information gained from illustrations (e.g., maps, photographs) and the words in a text to demonstrate understanding of the text.

    LA: Read and comprehend informational texts, including history/social studies, science, and technical texts, in the grade level text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range.

    LA: Participate in shared research and writing projects.

    LA: Participate in collaborative conversations with diverse partners about grade level topics and texts with peers and adults in small and larger groups.

    SCI: Develop and use models to compare how living things depend on their surroundings to meet their needs in the places they live.

    VA: Use visual structures of art to communicate ideas.

    VA: Select and use subject matter, symbols, and ideas to communicate meaning.

  • Adaptations

    Possible classroom resources include: Gallop!: A Scanimation Picture Book by Rufus Butler Seder; Horses: Discover Series Picture Book for Children by Xist Publishing

    To construct a 3-D horse sculpture, students build a basic armature for their horse from Crayola Model Magic. Form it in a position natural to a horse. Allow time for it to dry. Collect a variety of recycled materials. Note the shape and size of the collected products. Add moist Model Magic to the dry structure; press the recycled objects into the form in appropriate places. Finish the horse by paying attention to the main forms and eliminating detail.

    Student groups investigate a natural habitat for horses. What type of climate do horses live in? What foods are needed to sustain horses? How do horses socialize?

    Invite a local veterinarian to meet with students to discuss how to care for horses. Students compose interview questions prior to the meeting. After the visit, students post learning to a class blog.

    Investigate the work of earlier sculptors who explored the horse, such as Edward Remington and Leonardo DaVinci. Compare their horses to Deborah Butterfield's horses.


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  • Creativity.
  • Capacity.
  • Collaboration.
  • Change.
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