Lily's Birthday Trip - Ruislip Park Stables

Instead of big parties for the children's birthdays, this year we decided on 'treat days' instead. Matt and I chose this to save on money and effort but also as a way of gifting Lily and Ollie with memories of fun days out. I didn't want years of birthday parties, no matter how fabulous, to blur into one.

And so we intersperse parties with treat days and over the years have had some great days out at places like Chessington World of Adventures, the Natural History Museum earlier this year and, for Lily's 6th birthday we had a morning with the horses and ponies at Ruislip Park Stables.

Since watching Netflix favourites like Spirit: Riding Free and Free Rein on repeat, Lily has become a huge fan of horses and horse riding. This summer we visited the Dartmoor Pony Centre and Lily's most anticipated part of the day by far was the pony ride.

I spent a lot of time considering whether to have a 'Pony Party' but found it difficult to justify the expense. Instead, I suggested that she pick a friend or two and take them riding with her before having a little lunch and she jumped at the idea.

I found Ruislip Park Stables using good ol' Google. I really liked that they had a range of options available and that the rides were through the woods which I thought sounded far more exciting than a ride around a paddock or a field.

They were really helpful when I called to book a space. Lily chose two of her best friends from school to ride with her and one of them was a bit anxious. I explained this to the staff member on the phone who kindly suggested that we book the pony grooming for before the ride, helping the girls get used to the horses and having the time to get to know the animals before jumping on.

The pricing is clear on their website and they accept payments by cash and card. I booked in advance and paid on the day which was quick and easy. For the three girls to groom two ponies and then have a 15 minute ride in the woods it cost £45 which I felt was a bargain!

Finding the stables was straightforward and although we used the postcode on the Sat Nav we found that it was well signposted as you got closer.

The girls were fitted for riding hats on arrival and some young volunteers explained how best to groom the horses, to not stand behind the animals and to stroke them. Then it was time to mount up and have a ride.

Each horse was led by a volunteer from the stables. They had a sign up advising that tips were welcome and I wish I'd known this in advance as the helpers were friendly and some were really knowledgeable and happy to chat. One woman was particularly amazing with Lily's more anxious friend who was quite scared at the beginning, but really enjoyed herself in the end!

For Lily, it was wonderful. She loved cuddling the horses and was so confident when it came to getting on her horse and riding around. The 15 minutes weren't rushed and altogether we were at the stables for approximately an hour.

Although busy, the stables seemed to be well organised and the staff were kind and solicitous to the horses which was lovely. I do worry a bit with animal activities because I hate the idea of any creature being mistreated but, to my admittedly untrained eye, the horses looked really well cared for.

The woods were quiet and peaceful and walking alongside the girls as they rode, talking with the volunteers, was a lovely way of spending time on a Sunday morning. We saw a number of other riders, both young and old, and I would even be tempted to ride myself - impressive seeing as the last time I rode a horse I fell off!

Realistically, Matt and I are never going to have the sort of income that would support Lily in having a full-on horse riding hobby but I'd be more than happy to encourage her in this current passion for ponies by taking her riding at Ruislip Park Stables again. It's also something I know Ollie would enjoy - he too had a great time riding his little pony at the Dartmoor Pony Centre this summer.

After our treat we headed back to Wycombe and had a lovely lunch at our local Pizza Hut (Lily's choice). Despite not being a big fan of party bags filled with plastic toys, I put together a memento of the day - a bag with some sweets, pony stickers, a pink rosette and a friendship bracelet with a pony charm (purchased here from eBay).

Stuffed full of pizza, unlimited salad bar and ice cream factory, Lily was a very happy girl. I had been worried that she'd miss not having a party but we got round this on her actual birthday by inviting a few friends over after school for cake.

It was crazy but worth it. Not just because we saved money but because of the memories we all take away from a great 6th birthday celebrating our lovely little Lily. Her hobbies and interests will come and go but I like the idea of her parties and these birthday treats reflecting her as she as right now. That way, when she looks back as an adult, she gets to remember all she has done and experienced.

And I get to look back on these memories and treasure them too.
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