The Munchkins

Life with identical twins

December horses

New month, new horses! Caden was supposed to ride Daily, who is a black pony with spunk. (Is there a pony who isn’t spunky? I’m beginning to think no.) But, their trainer switched her to Lacey. We’ve all ridden Lacey and love her. She’s a bigger horse, very sweet, and has a great canter.

Delaney is riding Ziggy. Ziggy used to be the horse Caden rode all the time, I think this is the first time Delaney has ridden him? She loved him clearly, by the grin on her face.

Some months based on the horse/rider combo, they keep things relatively tight and there isn’t a lot of cantering. Last night they did a super fun jump combo that was perfect for some cantering between jumps if they wanted to, but if they didn’t, they got to canter a few laps after. I love to watch the girls canter. It’s such a display of their confidence and skill!

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Mr. Snowy

For the majority of the summer the girls rode the same two horses, but now that they’ve moved into fall lessons their trainer has assigned them a new horse each month. It’s been really good for the girls because learning to ride a new horse really stretches their skills. They both LOVED their November horses and were excited to ride them one last time!

Mr. Snowflake. Delaney rode him in October and then Caden had him in November. He’s this little dude, with so much sass, we all love him so much. He was so sassy last night as she was getting him ready that I thought for sure they would battle all lesson, but she is so confident on him she had zero issues. And she cantered on him! Just for a short distance, but he’s little and he canters like a crazy horse, so I was proud of her for handling him perfectly.

I will miss styling his crazy mane.

Reno Bob. Do you think they love each other? I want to ride this horse! He was so great for Laney and they were a perfect team. He was the perfect horse to show case just how far her riding skills have progressed in the last six months. Love this guy.

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High priced activities

I was telling a coworker that there is a sweet spot of a few years once your child goes to school, where you aren’t paying for expensive childcare, and they aren’t in expensive activities yet. Oh how I wish I would have savored that time!

Because I know how much research I did before committing, I wanted to do a post on how we’ve done horseback riding lessons. This sport is expensive, and when we first started lessons I spent a lot of time researching costs and wondering how in the hell I was ever going to afford two horses plus boarding fees (spoiler alert, not necessary). So, here’s how we’ve done it in a way that has not completely broken the bank.

Equipment
My biggest piece of advice here is to space out your equipment purchases. Also, I’ve tried to make friends with the other barn moms to see if there are any hand me downs we can purchase. The barn generally has a pile of free stuff as well, but it’s never been in our size. Just keep in mind that you don’t need everything right away.

June 2016. After the first week of horse camp last year, when I realized how much the girls loved riding and that they were actually fairly good at it, we went straight to the saddle store and bought helmets. You can use the stable’s helmets, but a lot of kids go through there every summer so I really wanted to have our own. Helmets were about $40 each, and Caden uses hers to ride bike/scooter as well. Excellent purchase.

August 2016. Once we decided to do lessons, I bought the girls each a pair of riding breeches. Breeches help them grip the saddle and the horse better. They wore leggings for camp last summer, but the breeches are nice. Again, $40. A single pair of breeches got us through the entire winter and spring. We didn’t buy a second pair until this summer. (I think Caden outgrew her first pair of breeches though now that I’m thinking about it?) Some people like the fleece breeches for riding during the winter, but we haven’t found them to be necessary.

December 2016. We had bought $20 cowboy boots from Target for summer camp. I didn’t buy them their boots until they outgrew those boots. Boots are expensive! When we bought the boots I bought Delaney’s half chaps. Caden got her half chaps a month later. The older kids who don’t have feet that are growing do tall boots, which combine the boot and half chap into one. While this was our most expensive purchase, it’s also my favorite because it makes them look very official.

March 2017. For their birthday, I bought the girls grooming kits and bags to put everything in. I spent about $75 for each bag, but this was also a great purchase. Each bag has a curry comb, hoof pick, and all of their brushes and horse treats. It’s nice to have all of their stuff in one bag, and the bag I bought is a purselike so they can carry it easily. We store all helmets and grooming kits in the back of the truck always, so we never forget them for lessons.

As far as shirts/jackets go, they wear regular t-shirts for most lessons. We bought cute riding shirts earlier this summer and they love those, but they are totally not necessary. Last winter Delaney wore an Under Armour fleece pullover and Caden wore an Old Navy zip up jacket. The barn stays surprisingly warm, being cold has not been an issue. If they someday compete, they will not competition shirts, blazers, and a different helmet (and possibly new breeches). Yikes.

Lessons
Riding lessons are expensive. We started out doing lessons once a month. I will be honest and say the girls likely lost a lot of the skills they gained during two weeks of summer camp, but it was what it was. I just couldn’t afford to do lessons more often. Once the new year hit, a few other bills dropped off and we were able to move to every other week. The girls started making consistent progress at that point. This summer we moved to lessons every week and we all love this. I love being in the barns every week, and the girls are able to work on things more consistently when they are there every week. We’ll continue weekly lessons this fall. I will admit, we forgo a lot in order to do these lessons. I don’t buy a ton of new clothes for myself, I don’t grab Starbucks very often at work, and we limit our meals out. When I sold the rental house, I took my extra escrow money and threw it all at lessons which should help for a bit.

The next step beyond riding the school horses for lessons is leasing a horse. I’ll be super honest, I only know a bit about the leasing program they do during the summer. For that one, you pay a monthly fee and that includes lessons three times per week, and four competitions. I have heard that at other barns you can your horse whenever you want to outside of lesson times, but I’m not sure they do that at our barn since there are lessons going on almost all the time. Leasing is expensive. It was really good for all of us to see just how competent of a rider you need to be to be in the competitions. We are nowhere near that! And to be perfectly honest, that fact calms me down a lot since it’s not a path we could go down financially right now anyway. The girls and I have discussed it many times, and leasing is off the table until they are 12. Also, in order to lease, they would have to give up softball since it wouldn’t be possible to do both sports at the same time and we are not wiling to give up that sport at this point.

I’ll be honest, I have no idea the costs of owning a horse. This was another scenario that I sweated big time when I first started investigating lessons. Would I love to own a horse? Absolutely. But, it’s just not in the cards right now. Once you own a horse, you have to pay a boarding fee, plus any vet fees. I’ve heard that you can get a horse relatively inexpensively, it’s the boarding fees that break you. Unless we win the lottery, we may never find out!

To close this out, riding lessons is one of the best things we’ve done. Even though the girls are the only ones riding every week, it’s absolutely a family activity. I have absolutely loved everyone I’ve met at our riding school, from the trainers to the parents to the girls to the horses. Everyone is so supportive of each other and encouraging. Being at the barns truly makes us all happier.

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Horses make me feel better

I still don’t have many words for the mundane, but I did take my camera to riding lessons yesterday morning so we at least have some pictures. To note, it was cloudy and rainy, so not much natural light and a lot of glare from both sides of the arena. Also, I took a chance and brought my zoom lens, knowing it has a lower aperture and wouldn’t let in as much light as I needed so shots might be blurry. It is what it is.

Caden is on Trueman (a horse that in the past Delaney has ridden a lot) and Delaney is on Reno Bob (a horse neither of them has ridden). Both are brown unfortunately, but Caden has a pink riding helmet so that’s your tell. Most of their lessons lately have focused on form, so less cantering and big jumps, and more control your horse around the arena. It’s definitely interesting.

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Throwback Thursday 

We’re throwing it back! Back to Horse Camp Week. I have videos and pictures from that day and with the holiday right after, there was just never time to share them.

Disclaimer: I saw a meme on Facebook that said “No one wants to see your kid’s dance recital Jan!” And I totally get that. Feel free to just scroll on by this one, it’s mostly for archival purposes since the grandparents and others have already seen the videos. But, I like to have things on the blog and on vimeo so there you go.

I was very excited to see the end of week show since both girls had been cantering quite a bit all week. There were 14 kids in camp which is a lot! Some of the horse were ridden twice, which was cute after as the girls divided up duties getting the tack off and brushing them down. My two were the last two to go. There is a small space where you can get good video and pictures and the parents were good about letting you up front when it was your kids turn. With that many kids I was a little worried about being able to see, but it worked out well.

Caden first! They wore their new outfits, but she also wore her horse shirt over her other shirt. The night before she sat at the kitchen table and wrote out her route. They wouldn’t let me look at it, but I did catch that it said Trot 1, Canter 1. She trotted through all of her jumps, and took a different path than Delaney did. She did awesome with Ziggy, I love to watch them ride together. She had an awesome week, and was super happy to ride her man Ziggy after not riding him for a month.

Delaney next! She’s riding Lacy, who I love. Delaney finally taught me that Lacy has two white socks. There are a bunch of brown horses, and I can never tell them apart even though every other mom seems to be able to, so it’s nice to be able to pick her out at least. Delaney also went with Trot 1, Canter 1, but then takes her own path through the jumps. She even canters the last two jumps which is a pretty big deal. For our Wednesday morning lessons, the girls are the youngest, least experienced riders in their lesson. I was worried that because Delaney wasn’t confident cantering, she would hold the group back. I was so happy to see her canter with confidence! She really needed that to keep improving.

After the show we headed to the event room for ice cream and train rides. They have a little train that takes you around the farm and we all love it.

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Advanced Riders

This is what happens when your kiddos come out of their first day of horse camp, excitedly talking about how they cantered (even the kid who has been afraid of cantering!). You go to the saddle shop to pick up a couple bags of $1 horse treats, and you come out with all new breeches and riding shirts! Oops.

Delaney has not been feeling super confident lately during their riding lessons. She’s ridden a few different horses, some of whom are cooperative and some who aren’t. Some of their lessons are outside which adds to her nervousness, and when asked to canter she would immediately panic. We’re doing lessons every week this summer and she told me at one point that she was fine with every other week. I figured a week of horse camp would push her one way or the other on things, and I really wasn’t sure which way it would be. I was beyond thrilled (and surprised!) when she said that she cantered and had fun doing it.

They are definitely the most experienced riders among their fellow campers, and their trainer had them demonstrate trotting, posting, two point stance, and cantering. They were so thrilled! We went to the saddle shop just to restock on horse treats, but you have to walk through the clothes to get to the treats and I couldn’t resist just checking their prices on breeches since the girls will need a new pair soon and well, the next thing I knew we had multiple outfits in our hands and were heading to the dressing room. Don’t they look adorable though? The shirts and breeches are big enough they should last for at least a year, and with lessons every week plus camp, it will be nice to have an extra pair of breeches so we aren’t digging through the laundry all the time.

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Rain and Snow

The girls had riding lessons last night and once again, they had a really great lesson! They are doing more cantering now and Caden is beyond joyful about it. She just beams afterward. Delaney is working through her feelings about cantering, but with a little more time to get used to it, she’ll be fine. I had no plans to do lessons this summer beyond the two weeks of camp we’ll do, but then I decided I really want to keep the momentum going so maybe just lessons in June. But when I was talking things through with their trainer I pretty much signed up for the whole summer. Every week. Wednesdays at 7:45am. Does Caribou let you order ahead from your phone? I’m going to need that enhancement completed by June 14.

Tuesday. I finally moved us outside! They really look like twins here don’t they?

Wednesday. Rain. Although Caden loves that umbrella so it doesn’t bother her. No picture from Thursday because it was so cold we all had to get out our winter jackets! No bueno.

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Birthday ride

We tried to do their birthday ride so my dad could ride with us, but the scheduling didn’t work out. I really wanted it to just be the three of us in the riding ring, so we had our lesson on Sunday afternoon. I had no idea how busy the barn is on Sundays! There were lessons before and after us! Lots of kids there riding.

Caden has been riding Ziggy consistently since late December. I have mixed feelings about this because they are such a good team together, and she rides very confidently with him. On the other hand, I don’t love how nervous she gets with any other horse. That said, another barn mom told me some years are confidence building years and some years are growth years. That put things in perspective. She’s in a confidence building year and Ziggy is integral to that. I love watching the two of them together. They are such a great team!

How awesome is this picture? So much love right here! Trueman, you are such a handsome boy. Trueman has a little sass to him, and tends to canter out of jumps. Delaney gets nervous when he does this, but always handles it well so I’m not sure why she gets nervous at all.

The girls wanted to do some bigger jumps which we did. Ahhh! They were so fun. And addicting! We all really had to learn how to handle them, so it was great that Hanna could give us quick feedback and then we could circle around and do the jump again. Riding is a lot like any other sport. There are so many things to think of – heels down, hands down, short reins, grab the mane. We all loved it!

Me and Lacy. This was my second time riding her and it was nice knowing what to expect and how I needed to direct her. I also found my rhythm a lot faster this time around. The first lesson it took me forever to remember how to post in a trot, this time I found my groove quickly.

Poor girl got spooked by something Ziggy did (I think his leg hit the wall?) and threw me off. We were trotting around the ring when all of the sudden she stutter stepped and twisted. I thought I was going to be able to stay on, but when I realized I wouldn’t be able to I got my boots out of the stirrups, arms up, and tried to fall backwards. Luckily, there’s about 8 inches of soft material in the barn so it was a fairly soft landing. Little bit of an adrenaline rush though! We walked a lap, then watched the girls do the cavaletti jump a few times. As we were standing there Lacy rubbed her head on my leg to apologize. It was the sweetest thing, she felt bad! I told her I could handle it and we got back out there. Oddly enough, she was awesome after this and we finished the lesson strong.

Better me getting thrown than my kids, but I know their time will come as well. If you haven’t been thrown, you haven’t been riding long enough right? If you know someone who jumps, you probably know someone who has been seriously hurt jumping. They wear helmets, their trainer makes sure they’re as safe as they can be, and yet it’s highly likely they’ll get thrown off a horse at some point. Injuries happen in every sport, we just try to be as safe as we can be in any given situation.

Back to the good, it was an awesome afternoon. The weather was gorgeous, the barn doors were open, and we had an awesome time riding together. I wish I could ride with them all the time, but it just isn’t feasible. Yet another reason to get our own barn and our own horses! (major wink emoji here, lol, oh god I don’t know we’d handle all of that although I so badly want to do it)

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The Big Jump!

This fall the girls did horseback riding lessons once a month. It wasn’t enough. They forgot everything in between, would lose their confidence, and it was not good. In January we started doing lessons twice a month and the difference has been huge! They are much better riders now. They are more confident, they handle their horses better, and every lesson gets better and better. Two weeks ago Delaney’s horse would canter out of jumps. Delaney hasn’t cantered much and is nervous about it, but she handled it like a champ! And grinned from ear to ear. Last night Caden did a high jump! Her horse wasn’t super excited to go over the jump, but she turned him around and made him try it until they went over. She was so proud of herself. Even better, all of the girls in her group lesson cheered her on, even the big girls who own their horses and are exceptional riders. She was so thrilled and so proud of herself.

Another mom was videotaping her daughter, so it made me pull my camera out and record Caden. This was a timed course, so they were trying to get through as quickly as they could. You’ll see her go over the logs, then she goes into the box where you have to turn your horse around, circle around and then do the jump. Of COURSE there’s a pole in the way but you get the gist of things. So proud of her!

** Delaney has another fever so she didn’t ride last night.

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Wine and Conversation

The girls had riding lessons last night. Starting in January we are doing lessons twice a month, which is very exciting. I’m hoping that more consistent lessons will really help them improve. Yesterday was a busy day, and with lessons at 5:30, we have to hustle once they get off the bus to change, eat, and get back out the door. We were running later than I would like, so everyone knew they needed to hustle once we got to the barns. I went to put coats and my purse in the viewing room, and as I walked in another mom announced they were having wine and cheese. So nice! I helped the girls get their horses saddled and then headed back in for a glass of wine.

There are two lessons going on during our time on Thursdays. Along with the group lesson, there are three older girls training with the owner. They all own their horses, are there 4-5 times per week, and are so much fun to watch ride. Their horses are beautiful and they are all excellent riders. Their moms were the ones with the wine and cheese!

They both asked which rider was mine (I have two!) and wanted to know how long we’d been riding. Over the hour I talked with both of them extensively about their experiences as well. It was interesting hearing about their horses (one family has four!) and how and when they decided to buy a horse. They were planning their horse show schedule as well, so it was interesting hearing about that. Overall they were just so nice, which I kind of needed after working at home all day by myself.

When I look at the cost of riding, especially once you move up to leasing or buying a horse, I freak out. There’s a part of me that thinks we will never make that leap, and another part of me that knows I’ll find a way to make it happen if that’s the route we end up choosing. But, it was good to be reminded again to take it one step at a time. The girls and I talked about it on the way home and agreed that we’re strictly lessons only for at least another year.

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