As the doors opened on the children’s bedroom for the weekend, there were shrieks of delight. Eleven girls in one big dormitory. New toys, balloons, fairy lights, Spirit Riding Free duvets and pillows on their bunk beds and a whole load of new friends to share it with.
Spirit Riding Free
If you have children of primary school age, you’ve probably heard of Spirit Riding Free. It’s a sweet, upbeat animation shown on the Pop TV channel about a group of children and their relationship with their horses. The central characters are a girl called Lucky and a horse named Spirit. Spirit is wild, but his bond with Lucky allows her to ride him as her own.
Lia was the first to discover Spirit, and since then the two of them have become transfixed. I’ve lost count of the number of times they’ve watched each episode. So when I promoted the Spirit Stable Sleepover competition for children to win a Spirit themed weekend, I was a little disappointed they couldn’t enter.
It was a real wake-up call to me when we were asked if we’d like to go along to the themed weekend along with the competition winners. Those two little girls of mine are so incredibly lucky. In fact, it surpassed all our expectations. It really was a child’s dream weekend.
The first exciting treat of our weekend was a riding lesson at a gorgeous indoor riding school in Newcastle called Stepney Bank. The girls have had a few riding lessons before, but Lia is quite nervous around horses. They started off by grooming one of the bigger horses, putting glitter on its hooves and brushing it. Lia didn’t want to do this, but she did stroke it and came out buzzing for her lesson.
Both girls were excited to get kitted up and onto the ponies, but it wasn’t long before Lia had a wobble. Luckily, the person leading her horse was a girl who couldn’t have been much older than about 11 herself. Her words of encouragement were far more impactive than those of an adult and Lia was soon riding happily.
There were a couple more wobbles but both girls managed to trot. Libby is getting on brilliantly with her riding and loved learning some new skills. Lia was petrified at the thought of trotting, but so pleased with herself that she’d managed to do it.
After their lesson, it was time to head to our accommodation. We were staying at the National Trust Gibside Stables Bunkhouse. All the children would be in one room, with the parents in an adjoining room. On arrival, the anticipation built as the children grabbed a snack. They knew there was a surprise waiting for them in their rooms, but had no idea what it could be.
When they finally headed in there, they were amazed. It took my two about 10 minutes to realise that the toys on their beds were for them to keep. The whole setup was magical. A Spirit Riding Free themed sleepover in an actual stable.
They sang along to some karaoke, watched an episode of Spirit Riding Free and ran the poor cameraman ragged chasing him through the corridors. When it was finally time for bed, they settled down for the night under their Spirit duvets and pillows. Tired but incredibly happy.
Spirit Riding Free toys
The Dreamworks Spirit Riding Free toys have only just been released in the UK. They’re available at Smyths Toys and they’re gorgeous. A big stable comes complete with ladders, a wheelbarrow, fences Spirit the horse and a moveable Lucky. You can then buy other characters to add to your collection, with space for three horses in the stable.
The girls threw themselves straight into imaginative play. Acting out scenarios and managing to play nicely together without fighting. Each chose their favourite horse and human to take part in various rescues. The children at the sleepover varied in age from four year old Lia up to much older children, I think the eldest were nine. The toys appealed across the age range. Even when they all played together with one stable there were no arguments.
Six families were at the Spirit Stable Sleepover. Three prize winners who had all brought a friend along and parent along, and three bloggers – me, Laura and Erin and our children. Added to that were the amazing team who looked after us all and took photos and videos.
It’s not often that you throw a group of people together and they all get along brilliantly, but that’s exactly what happened. The children quickly got to know each other and us mums bonded over a glass of prosecco when the children finally went to bed.
It was one of those weekends that we’ll be talking about for years to come. A first ever sleepover for my two, and so much fun that I don’t think any sleepovers they have in the future will ever be able to live up to it.