The Munchkins

Life with identical twins

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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Mama’s In

For the girls’ horseback riding lessons, I buy packages of 10 lessons. When Caden broke her arm she sat out a lesson, which meant we had this one dangling lesson that wouldn’t get used. I told their coach to let me know if there was a night when some of the kids cancelled, then I would ride. She suggested an even better idea – a group lesson of just the three of us! In! We set it up for the Friday before NYE.

The cowboy boots that I bought at the beginning of the summer were crunching their toes, so we headed out early to the saddle shop to get them riding boots. Horseback riding lessons are expensive, and so is the gear, so we’ve been buying things one at a time. Last summer I bought helmets, in September I bought breeches, and now we were doing the English riding boots. As we were getting dressed, I realized that Caden’s riding breeches were about two inches short. I guess she needs new breeches too?

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Once in the store we divided and conquered. I got Delaney set up to try on boots, and helped Caden find a few styles of breeches to try on. It’s hard to see in the picture, but the boots are just ankle boots. On top of that you add what are called half-chaps. They help protect your legs, and help you grip the horse better. They are v. important. Delaney was THRILLED to be getting some. How official does she look? It’s so adorable. Caden found some super cute green patterned breeches, and a pair of riding boots as well. Luckily for my wallet, Caden is a little too short for the half-chaps to fit her, they would go up over her knee, so for now she is chapless. (On top of all of that, we realized Caden was wearing ankle socks, which wasn’t going to work, so I had to buy new socks as well. Of course socks at a saddle shop aren’t cheap, but we now own very cute pink and teal socks with horses on them. Yay.)

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Onto the barns! I have been helping the girls saddle their horses since the fall so I knew what to do. It was very fun to have my own horse to groom and get ready! I rode Lacey, who is a gorgeous chestnut. She’s an awesome horse, although maybe a little sassy and needed some extra encouragement to trot.

We started out walking, then moved to trotting. I rode horse a ton as a kid, but we did trail rides, not proper riding in an arena. It took me a while to find my rhythm! Then she had us trot in two point stance. I’ve seen my kids hold this position for five minutes as part of a conditioning exercise once, and yet I could barely hold it for 10 seconds! It was incredibly humbling. Luckily we went back to posting and then did some jumps! Delaney told me that the gold jump was the highest jump she’s ever done. It was SO much fun! And extra fun since it was just the three of us. Caden even got to ride her favorite horse Ziggy. (Delaney’s horse Trueman had the day off, she was bummed but Rocky was awesome in his place.)

By the end of the lesson I was out of breath, my legs hurt, and I had some fairly sizeable bruises on my calves from encouraging Lacey to trot. But it was amazing! So fun to be in the arena with the girls, and so fun to be on a horse doing jumps. Lessons are expensive enough that I can’t do this regularly, but we decided we’ll do it again for their birthday. After that, we shall see.

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Horseback Riding

I’ve wanted to do a dude ranch vacation for years, but it’s never been the right time. Last year I started researching dude ranches in Arizona and there are so many! That may be a future vacation, but in the meantime, we decided to go for a two hour horseback ride to explore the Arizona landscape on four legs instead of two.

My dad found a ranch near Saguaro Lake and was able to go visit to see the horses and make sure things looked good. They had at least 50 horses, and were on federal land, although anyone can ride horse there. The scenery was amazing! The mountains on one side, Saguaro Lake on the other, and giant saguaro cacti everywhere.

I thought the girls might be bored just walking for two hours, and they were pretty quiet, but when we got off they were all smiles.

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Back to the barns

I don’t think I’ve really talked about this here, but after adamantly telling people that we were just doing the horse camp over the summer, DEFINITELY not lessons, we signed up for lessons. The girls enjoy riding so much, they’re actually good at it, and it’s been such a great experience, that I definitely wanted to keep going. At this point we have lessons once a month. Lessons are expensive, and with ballet and piano added in, I needed to keep it at a financial level I could handle. After the new year we’ll move to twice a month, and then next fall the girls will likely have to choose between ballet or horseback riding. I’d love to keep them in both because I think they’re complementary, but there is only so much time and so many dollars available for kid activities.

Time at the barns continues to be the best possible way to spend an evening. If you love horses and ever want to join us, let me know. Also, these pictures are Delaney heavy. I took a bunch of Caden as well, but there always seems to be a bunch of other people in her pictures.

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Delaney with Trueman. Trueman has been an amazing horse for her. Very calm, very steady, just perfect for Lane. I love watching her groom him and get everything ready to go.

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Caden had Sassy for this lesson. You may remember Sassy from Horsecamp Week 1 when Delaney rode her. Sassy has a mind of her own, she trots fast, and she wants nothing more than to get her canter on. She gave Caden a run for her money! Caden has had Ziggy for all of her riding though, so I think a change in horses was good for her.

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You’re a handsome boy Trueman! So sorry we forgot treats this week. I’ll make it up to you next time!

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Their saddles are so teeny, I had to get a picture.

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A cute picture of Delaney grooming Trueman. Notice her breeches? They wore jeans or leggings for horse camp, but once we started lessons we bought riding breeches. I intended to buy paddock boots and half chaps, but most of the other kids aren’t wearing them, so we’ll wait until their cowboy boots don’t fit to change up their boots.

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Caden warming up Sassy. Technically their lesson starts at 5:30, but you really need to get there by 5:15 at the latest in order to get your horse saddled. The girls need help with the girths and bridles, so sometimes they have to wait for that help. The quicker you get your horse saddled, the more time you get in the ring.

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I love Laney’s face in these jumping photos. She’s concentrating so hard on her form!

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Horse Camp Week 2

Last week the girls had their second week of horse camp. I definitely learned from my mistakes during the first week. First, I immediately asked my dad if he would come stay with us a few days and pick the girls up on his way to our house. This was huge! It gave my schedule so much more breathing space and allowed me to work full days and not run pick up the kids, then work more from home. Thank you Grampy! Second, I signed up for before care. I dropped the girls off at 8am rather than 9am. It meant we all got up fairly early, but they loved their hour of barn chores before everyone else got there.

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I took some videos of the horse show but they didn’t really turn out so we’ll skip those. Here’s Caden and Ziggy! Ziggy was such a great horse for her last time, she got to ride with him again. The best part of her week? Cantoring! She was pretty excited to learn that new skill, she even did it for the horse show! Ziggy took such great care of her, I gave him extra kisses (although he kept trying to eat me, I think he wanted his treats!).

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This is Trueman, Delaney’s horse for the week. Trueman was a great horse for Delaney. He didn’t cut corners, he wasn’t scared of mirrors, and he has a nice, fast walk. Delaney tried cantoring too, but is a little nervous about it. I think Trueman went faster than she expected. Next time!

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The sight of them taking care of their horses never gets old.

Riding lessons are expensive, and since we’ve already signed up for ballet and we have piano lessons, I’ve been trying to figure out what to do about them. Truthfully, we can’t afford to do them weekly, and everywhere I looked that’s what you needed to sign up for. I talked with the trainer and she agreed we could do monthly lessons. It’s not ideal, and they won’t progress as fast, but it’s something. They both love horses so much, and they both have gained so much confidence from riding, that I want to help them continue down this path.

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Confidence 

Coming out of their week long horse camp, I have definitely noticed some changes in the girls.

Caden has been so much more confident. She’s not as nervous going into new situations, and she doesn’t get nervous when she needs to talk to other adults. I think realizing that she could saddle a horse and clean out their hooves, even though she thought for sure she was too little to do those things has really been a boost to her self esteem.

Delaney has been super helpful at home. When I had my work call Tuesday evening she made dinner so I could get my computer set up and be ready to go when the call started. Multiple times when things get crazy she has come to me and said “What can I do to help?” The horse trainer had said they were really helpful around the barns. I think she likes knowing that she can really contribute.

Seeing things like this has made it a little easier to save up and write that check for the second week of camp!

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Horse show!

At the beginning of the week when I picked up the girls I would ask them to tell me about their day, starting from right when they got there. The first few days they would tell me everything, but by the time we got to Wednesday they started holding back what they did during their lessons because it was part of the show and they wanted it to be a surprise.

Of course the show was Friday at 1:00pm, smack in the middle of the day. My parents drove over from the lake to attend as well. They started off just warming up their horses by walking and trotting around the arena. Then they all got in line. The first girl was the youngest and she had someone lead her around the arena. The next little boy trotted and even did one of the jumps! (I should mention, this camp is very much English riding, hunter/jumper. I did not think they would learn to jump but I was so very wrong.) Next girl walked her horse through two of the jumps, and the girl after her did as well.

Then it was Caden’s turn. I thought maybe she would trot through a few jumps? She immediately kicked her horse into a trot, got into her two point stance and then proceeded to do two rounds through the jumps! (There are three jumps, you can see it better in Delaney’s video.) She and Ziggy just kept on going! We couldn’t believe it. She was so confident on her horse, guiding him where he needed to go. And they just kept jumping! I got a little of it on video, but stopped recording at some point because I wanted to just watch. Apologies for the poorly lit riding arena and for cutting it so short. Next time I’ll elbow the other parents out of the way and do a better job.

A few girls later it was Delaney’s turn. She’s on Sassy, who wasn’t super cooperative. She had the same game plan as Caden – to trot through the jumps – but as you can see at the end of the video, Sassy just would not do the bumblebee jump. Delaney turned her around and tried again, but she wouldn’t do it. Still, Delaney did a fabulous job! So confident, solid form, very poised up on her horse.

On Thursday as I walked into the barns I saw Delaney finishing up with her horse. She was quietly focused on getting her hooves clean. It has been such a surprise to see them interact with their horses. They asked to do another week of camp, but before I committed to that I asked their teacher how they were doing. Of course she said they were doing well, but she also said they were very helpful around the barn which was good to hear. We talked through the schedule for the rest of the camps to try to find a week that didn’t have many kids signed up so they could get more attention.

Right now we’re targeting middle of July, but I will not do it how I did it last week. While it’s a gorgeous drive, it absolutely wrecked my week to drop off at 9am and pick up at 3pm. They do before/after care which I will definitely sign up for. I’ve also asked my dad if he’ll stay with us a few nights that week and pick them up on his way.

Having seen how well they did at the show, the next question is what do we do after this second week of camp? We’re already signed up for ballet lessons. I thought about backing out of that, but they are likely significantly cheaper than riding lessons so for now, we’ll stick with ballet. It’s honestly a tough choice because if I look at how impressive their horse show was versus their ballet recital, horses win. But, I’ve only paid for half a year of ballet, so if they whine and moan about lessons, we’ll stop at the end of the year. Bonus is that ballet lessons should help their riding form. Maybe we can do some riding lessons this winter, but I’m not going to stress about it.

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