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By Callie and Trinity Tice
Bandera, known as the “Cowboy Capital of Texas,” is home to a well kept secret: The Sugar & Spice Ranch. Through my work with COWGIRL, I heard about this ranch, “Bonding Mothers and Daughters through horses!” It’s been on my wish list for trips, so when opportunity knocked, my daughter Trinity and I packed up and made the road trip for a spring break weekend. She was just a few days shy of her 13th birthday.
The Sugar & Spice Ranch is not for those seeking a typical dude ranch experience. There are no luxe accommodations, no trail riding on dead-head horses, no dinner prepared by a 5-star chef. But don’t let that turn you off because The Sugar & Spice Ranch is so much more! The experience available here has been thoughtfully crafted by owner and resident cowgirl, Ms. Leigh. Having grown up on a horse farm, she knows the power that horses can play in one’s life. After years of being away from the horse lifestyle she loved (and starting a family of her own), Ms. Leigh felt the pull of the cowgirl life calling her home.
Leigh purchased her ranchette in Bandera with the hopes that she could teach her own girls a different way of life via horsemanship, hard work, and the pride to be realized by working on a ranch, big or small. Her dream took on a life of its own when she realized her true calling was to help other mothers and daughters bond though horses, just as she wished to do. The Sugar and Spice Ranch was born.
The premise is simple and so is the ranch. It’s a lovely place. As you drive up, the main house and attached bunk house are kindly perched along the hilltop amongst big oaks covered in Spanish moss. There’s a picturesque view of the arena and beautiful hill country as you overlook the pool and picnic area along the front side of the house. The barn is just behind the house and the pasture is full of horses to help make the most of your time at the ranch. For our weekend trip, everyone arrived on Friday evening. and grabbed a bunk in the bunkhouse. Yes, they are actual bunk beds in one room with a single bathroom to share. It’s all part of the experience! Think slumber party and you’ll do just fine. The bunks are covered in graffiti from past guests: love notes to favorite horses, drawings and “Thanks for a good time” by previous visitors.
After settling in, we sat down in the main house for a home cooked meal by Ms. Leigh and her daughter Patricia. We all introduced ourselves and engaged in casual conversation, after which Ms. Leigh shared some expectations for the weekend. Part of the evening’s task was to match up guests with the horse that will be their equine partner for the weekend. Trinity and I were really the only cowgirls who needed a match up; the other moms and daughters had visited the ranch multiple times. They all had favorite horses they wanted again, or had their hearts set on a different horse they had met but not yet gotten to ride. Our matches were made: Trinity and I were partnered with Jackson and Captain for the weekend.
After dinner, us moms continued to visit at the table over a bottle of wine while the girls made their way back to the bunkroom. Trinity was a little nervous, as she was the oldest daughter in the group. Luckily, within a few minutes we could hear giggling and shenanigans from the bunkhouse. I knew then we were going to have a great weekend.
Sugar & Spice guests are invited to wake early and help feed the chickens, goats, and dogs if so inclined. Either way, don’t be late for breakfast!
The day is structured around two riding sessions. You’ll be expected to groom and saddle your horse, with help when and where needed. Since this is a mother/daughter weekend, helmets are required. Luckily, Trinity and I got to test drive a new cowboy style of hat called Ride Safe by Hatco. We don’t customarily ride with helmets at home so this was a great chance to try something new. We happened to have an extra hat available and found a little cowgirl who was more than happy to trade her traditional helmet for the chance to look like a real cowgirl. The morning ride consisted of getting to know your horse, warming up, working on some horsemanship basics, and then an introduction to the obstacle course.
After a relaxing lunch break and some exploring and photos taken by the girls, it was time to ride again. This time, we worked on the obstacle course individually, getting timed so we could see our progress as the weekend progressed. There’s nothing like the challenge of a timed event to bring out everyone’s competitive side! The arena is a place of fun, respect, listening, learning, and working in teams. It’s a time to fine tune your own skills and learn how to work with your four-legged partner. Ms. Leigh is fun and demands respect for the sake of safety. It works.
After settling the horses in for the evening, our group cleaned up and enjoyed another great home-cooked meal in the main house. There was time for reviewing our day, laughing at ourselves, and learning more about each other. The night was too windy for the outdoor firepit so we opted for s’mores via the house’s indoor fireplace, which didn’t slow the girls down a bit. This was a great way to wind down our day.
On our final morning’s ride, we got one last chance to turn in our best time for the obstacle course. There was much encouraging and cheering for our fellow cowgirls as they gave it one last go. The final exercise was a team obstacle course, with mothers and daughters working together in a timed challenge. It definitely took some practice, listening, and patience to make this work. Remember, the activities here are all carefully crafted for an experience for you and your daughter. When it was all said and done, Team COWGIRL was victorious in the arena!
This trip was memorable in unexpected ways. I got to spend an entire weekend with my soon to be teenage daughter. We acted silly, took pictures, and talked about life on our road trip. The Sugar & Spice Ranch was simple, but the memories are not. We got out of our comfort zone a bit, made new friends, bonded with new horses. We helped one another, built each other up—and us moms slowed down to appreciate the experience of quality time with our daughters.
Thank you Ms. Leigh and Patricia for providing a place for mothers and daughters to bond through horses. When you make your own trip to The Sugar & Spice, be sure to ask Ms. Leigh about the hitchhiking cowboy that changed her life, and also being the opening act for Aerosmith! It turns out this cowgirl has an adventurous past. Perhaps she’ll write a book about it someday. #cowgirldreams