The Munchkins

Life with identical twins

Ponies

We’ve switched to Monday afternoon riding lessons for the rest of May since softball conflicted on Thursday evenings. It totally throws my week off, since we were in such a routine! The other girls in this lesson are either leasing a horse for the summer, or they own their horse, so they are working on more advanced jumps. It’s been great for the girls to watch and learn from them!

This is Caden riding Daily. She’s ridden her before and feels confident on her. There’s been a lot of cantering jumps the last two lessons which has been great for her confidence. With this she was working on keeping her hands wide, her back straight, and getting her circle wide enough that she comes at the jump straight. She did awesome!

Laney is riding Snowflake. She was not thrilled to get Snowflake this week but here’s the thing, she learns a lot when she rides him. He’s small but mighty, but he’s a great horse if he trusts you. He has a tendency to drop his head which can throw riders off, but Delaney was good about going with it and not getting flustered. This was early in the lesson and she had some trouble keeping him cantering, but they got better and better as a team as the lesson went on. I cut the video off, but she made him back alllll the way up and do the jump again!

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It’s May!

Before we get to the daily pictures I had to post this pic of Laney and Frodo from last night. She’s been riding him for just over a month now and even though she fell off him once, I love this dude and he clearly loves her. They’ve been a great team, and he’s taught her so much!

Tuesday. The very best part of this photo is that as I was taking it the bus was pulling up to the bus stop and I had absolutely no idea how late we were. I thought we were cutting it close, but we still walked to the bus stop, it wasn’t like I thought we were so late I had to drive. And as we leisurely rounded the corner the bus stop moms shouted to us that the bus was long gone. Womp womp! It’s May, I give up!

Wednesday. Caden is having a ton of fun digging through the summer stuff to make new outfits. Delaney sticks to her tried and true, although I’ve had to remind her that it’s going to warm up so maybe short sleeves instead?

Thursday. Love the hip pop Delaney! And Caden’s jacket? So adorable.

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Frodo!

Every month the girls get new horses. As soon as we got to the barn they ran ahead to see who they were riding. Delaney was riding Frodo! So. The more advanced girls ride Frodo, I didn’t think either of my two would be riding him for another year or so? I still give him treats every week don’t get me wrong, but that’s just because he’s gorgeous. I was way nervous and immediately texted another horse mom whose daughter rides him all the time. She assured me Delaney would do fine and he was a good boy. I loved him up while Delaney brushed him, and since he gave me kisses I figured he’d take care of Laney.

They were a great team! He definitely tested her, but she kept her legs tight, sat up in the saddle, and took control. Watching them canter was a beautiful sight to behold. I’m so proud of her. Their trainer said this was a trial run, and if it didn’t go well she’d get a different horse next week. I think I’ll be giving Frodo lots of treats this month! (At the end of the video you can hear my dad say “He’s pretty” and me start to say “I looooove Frodo”.

Big smiles after the lesson!

Velvet continues to be crazy adorable. Everyone wants to pet her and ride her. She’s just so darn cute and little! There were cavaletti poles on the ground that they had to do. Most horses just walk through them, but this was the first time Velvet had seen them. She picked her feet up so high we were dying laughing. Caden had a smile on her face the whole lesson. I don’t think she even minded that Velvet doesn’t canter quite yet.

I think April is going to be a good month for us!

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Big month for progress

The girls rode Ziggy and Daily for two months and it’s been a great two months! They were both really comfortable on their horses, which meant that they could focus on other things and really make great progress with their riding skills.

What does that really mean? For the last two months it’s meant more consistent cantering during lessons. They used to canter some lessons, or maybe just at the end of the lesson, but the last few months they’ve been cantering every lesson, and doing more and more jumps at a canter. In order to do that, you really need to have control of your horse. It’s very easy for the horse to do one thing and the rider to do another when you’re cantering. Two weeks ago they had a loop going where they would canter along the rail and then do two jumps down the middle of the ring, then canter around and do the jumps again. This really created momentum! Maybe a little too much at times, but the girls remained in control and it was fun to watch.

Daily. I’m not sure if you like me, but I love your fluffy coat, and how it looks like your coat is black but there’s really a lot of brown in it. Thank you for being so short and easy to bridle.

Ziggy. My man. I love you and you love me. I love your personality, and I love how you prance when you trot around the ring. And I love how much you love treats. Don’t worry, even when the girls stop riding you I’ll still bring you treats.

Next month, they’ll ride RenoBob and Patrick! Patrick is my very favorite horse so I’m super excited to get to hang out with him again!

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Family lesson

For Christmas the girls asked for a riding lesson with me. We did two of those last year and they were so fun. My dad asked for a riding lesson with the girls. He’s been able to come to quite a few lessons, and when he can’t I try to send him video and pictures. I figured, why not combine them and do a family lesson!

Yesterday we bundled up and headed out to the barns for our lesson. The girls were beyond excited. It was all they could talk about! They wondered which horses we would ride, and if Grampy would be able to trot or do jumps. I wondered if Grampy would fall off! That would not be good. My dad has a lot of horse experience, but it’s all in western saddles. English saddles are a lot different! They’re much smaller with no horn to hang on to.

We got out there super early which gave us plenty of time to get our horses saddled. The girls got to choose their horses. They both chose their regular lesson horses Ziggy and Daily. She chose Rocky for me, and Mike for my dad. Mike is an old horse, but he also used to be a Grand Champion and when he gets excited about jumps, he gets really excited. But! My dad handled him really well.

Riding with the girls always gives me a greater appreciation of their skills. While I could trot around the ring like a champ (even on the right posting diagonal!) once I had to go over the jumps I fell apart. It’s really hard to keep your legs tight and squeeze with your ankles, chin up, and heels down! And yet, when I watched the girls their ankles were glued to their horses bellies. They make it look so easy. After warming up a bit we came to the middle and I looked at Delaney and she just had this huge grin plastered on her face. Made it all worth it. This is why we ride! Our time at the barns is always the highlight of our week. Both girls got to canter a few laps, then canter jumps. The trainer made the second jump higher with each time they passed through but it didn’t faze them. Such a proud mama!

My dad and Mike were a great team. He even kept him in a trot through the jumps better than I did with Rocky, much as I hate to admit that. I was worried it would be hard on his hips, but that wasn’t an issue. My mom said he didn’t stop talking about it once he got home.

It was a super fun afternoon. Our trainer even said she had fun! And it was kind of cool because Wednesdays are private lesson day at the barn, and the one after us had canceled so we had the barn to ourselves and didn’t have to hurry. Maybe this will become a yearly tradition?

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Another month

The girls had their riding lesson last night and it was another really great lesson. This is Daily. I forget, have we shown her before? She’s so pretty. She looks all black but she has some brown on her nose and her chest and I love it. She got a little spunky at the beginning of the lesson, but Caden pulled her into line and everything was fine after that.

Mr. Ziggy. This guy. He’s so playful. He knows I bring treats and so he’s always trying to eat my hair, my coat, my hand. Doesn’t bite, just nibbles. Love him!

Two big milestones tonight. The girls got to bridle their own horses! Normally either one of the trainers or one of the older girls will check the girths and do the bridles. The girls are short, but some horses are also tricksy with bridles so they haven’t been allowed to do it before tonight! They were thrilled. Also, they got to do a bigger jump! I was inside the lounge watching since it was so cold so from there it wasn’t apparent, but as soon as they came out of the ring it was all Delaney could talk about. She was pretty excited.

Their trainer said these horse/rider pairings are going so well she’s going to keep them for another month. Things are clicking for everyone in their lesson group right now and it’s so fun to watch!

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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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