I Went on a Trail Ride with Tweens... And Didn't Die
May, 2019 - Issue #176
As far as risks go, a slow-moving horseback ride on a flat trail ranks pretty low - but before I got to Santa Clarita Valley Equestrian Center for our one-hour excursion, I was still pretty sure I might die... or kill someone.
Why? Because I'm the mother of hormonal, kind, easily offended by the existence of others, funny, dirty look giving, generous, "I'll cut you in your sleep and then ask if we can cuddle" tweens.
My first dalliance with death came when I announced on a sleepy weekend that we would be heading out and that they needed to wear sunscreen, jeans and close-toed shoes. "What could we possibly be doing that's fun that needs real shoes?" said one, while the other asked, without knowing anything beyond clothing requirements, if they could stay home alone and play video games.
My husband, who privately shared that he also would like to stay home alone with the Xbox, rallied the troops. "Mom's taking us on a trail ride!" he announced with the tone that says, "She birthed you, it's important to her and if you ruin this, it's dish duty for a week."
As we drove over, I thought about how rare it was these days for us to "do" something together. We still hang out a lot, but sports, school, work and interest levels now vary so much. Having kids with opinions and schedules can be a real downer sometimes.
"It's dusty here," was the first conclusion drawn when we pulled up to the Center just seconds off Copperhill Road. "So are you," the other replied.
The one who sucks at insults was the first out, petting the velvety nose of a horse seconds later. That's when the tone shifted - for a moment. "Do you think this one's mine?" they asked excitedly. "No way, that one peeing is yours, this one's mine," was the reply. "At least they're arguing out in nature," observed the husband.
After a few forms were filled out, kids helmeted and stairs that make it way too easy to mount your steed were climbed, our two patient trail guides gave us some basic instruction and we were on our way.
The Center is adjacent to the riverbed, which made our mozy "out of town" last only a few seconds. Near instantly, we were transported to a different world with sunshiney smells, wild flowers, rolling green hills, a stream and... grinning kids.
They were talking to their horses. To each other. To us! They asked questions about the ecology and history of the space. They ooh'ed at panoramic vistas. They only bemoaned their lack of technology when they wanted to take pictures.
About 15 minutes in, my husband said to me, "We need to take my mom here. She'd love this view!" I knew he was talking about the scenery but when I agreed, I was thinking about how the sight of her grandkids happy on horseback would be what she really dug the most.
During the hour ride - which was relaxing, interesting, fun and entirely enjoyable - my tweens turned back to toddlers, and not the tantrum sort. These kids were wide eyed, tickled by the novelty of it all, utterly in love with "their horses," happier than I've seen them in a while. It was a reminder that the little kids I've loved and nurtured for more than a decade are still in there, hidden under the occasional bad attitude that comes when your body is changing and navigating peer groups is hard.
The only disappointment levied the entire day was when the trail ended and we had to say goodbye to our trusty steeds, but it was quickly alleviated when our sweet, informative trail guide invited us to wander the beautiful ranch and share some treats
with horses we hadn't yet met. Noting the enthral of our kids, we asked about summer camp (They have one, it's awesome, we'll see you there.), parties (The 10 year old has declared this the spot for their 11th.) and repeat trail rides (They'll take us on a different one next time so that we see different sights.).
Talk of our Saturday trail ride rode into Sunday and most of the following week. That one hour did more to reset our family than our last long weekend away, something my husband and I continue to reflect upon two weeks later. At only $40 a person, we're planning on doing it again soon - with Grandma - so she can see her favorite tweens in their new natural habitat.
I took two easily-underwhelmed tweens on a trail ride at Santa Clarita Valley Equestrian Center - and didn't die.

Publisher's Note: I just turned 40! In honor of my big birthday, I've committed to trying things "outside the box" with only one caveat:
It has to have little likelihood of killing me physically. (I do have three kids.). But for someone famous for shutting down to-do suggestions with, "I'd rather die!" these activities are plenty of stretch for a gal who's spent four decades trying to get out of leaving the house.
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