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  • Debbie Taylor

Arizona Dude Ranch - Sept 2018

ARIZONA DUDE RANCH The trip started with a very civilised meeting time at Heathrow of 10.15 so no silly early starts! – then we checked in and had our first champagne of the day in the BA club lounge.We flew out on a very old 747 – the crew were amazing and the food and service were the best that I had ever had with BA . Then 10 and half hours later we landed in Phoenix. Immigration was quick and easy – Phoenix pride themselves on being the friendliest airport in the USA and I have never met so many smiley immigration officers.

After a two hour transfer we arrived at WHITE STALLION RANCH – our home for the next 3 nights. The 8 hour time difference really messes with your sleep patterns but fortunately at the White Stallion they have fresh coffee and fruit available 24/7 – so no matter what time zone you are on there was always a freshly brewed cuppa to revive/refresh you!

This was a beautifully maintained ranch – the bedrooms were clean and large, no TV’s anywhere! Food was good – not an amazing amount of choice but different every day and they dealt well with vegetarians and food intolerances.

With over 170 horses here they were amazingly well looked after and were all very happy – they had a few ‘riding school horses’ – those which any beginner could get on and go for a ride, but they also had many horses for the experienced equestrian! You were matched with your horse on the first day and then you stayed together, so that horse and rider could form a strong bond.

There was a good sized gift shop and the bar was an honesty bar, where every evening at 6 they would serve nibbles, sometimes hot and sometimes cold, but it was a great place to sit, relax and have a well earned drink and chat with fellow cowfolk.

There were plenty of activities apart from the riding – lists were put out every evening where you could sign up for whatever activities you wanted for the following day, so a typical day may have been 0800 slow mountain ride 0815 – 3 hour trail ride

0900 fast ride 0930 slow trail ride 1000 Mountain hike

1200 – lunch

1300 – lessons (at extra cost $20) 1400 – fast flat ride 1415 - slow flat ride 1500 – hay wagon ride 1600 Leather working

1800 drinks and nibbles in the bar 1900 dinner

There was some sort of entertainment every night, from a cowboy singing to rope work and gun slinging.

It really was an emotional moment when we left and we were the only ‘first timers’ all other guests were on their 5th , 6th, 12th and even 27th visit! – That must be saying something.

Many western films and programmes had been filmed here in the past! And the countryside was dry, very rocky and covered with all sorts of Cacti, including the typically Mexican looking Saguara and the very nasty ‘Teddybear’ Cholla, which if you get too close leap at you and imbed their barbs into your skin – very painful !!

In fact many guests love the ranch so much that they return as volunteers to help care for the horses for short periods of between 1 and 6 months!

From the White Stallion we made a scenic 4 hour tour to the Mexican Border where we stayed at the RANCH DE LA OSA

This is like arriving at someone’s home – no locks on the doors one large table for everyone to eat at,

On our brief tour of the ranch we were warned to watch out for the tarantulas, rattle snakes and scorpions – what a welcome ! I really wasn’t sure that I wanted to stay.

But Rancho del la Osa was really a special place. Definitely for the more experienced riders and with a lot less horses and very demanding riding terrain our rides did not go without incidents!! - Food was more limited and they weren’t really geared up to food allergies and requests. We did smile as for one lunch the food was chicken and pasta – the vegetarian option was pasta without the chicken and the celiac option was the chicken without the pasta!!

Evening entertainment was more limited but we were entertained one evening with Cowboy poetry – I must say it wasn’t something I was looking forward to but wow it was moving!

Lynne and Ross (the managers)were real characters – and what a horseman Ros is – he could literally make his horses dance using just his legs – the ranch does need some improvements but for anyone wanting pure authentic ranch life living as part of a family then it cant be beaten!

Again many films have been made here and so many famous actors from the past have been regular guests including John Wayne!

After another emotional departure we headed off to Tombstone! – This was our final ranch and very different from the previous two. I would say this is perfect for non riders as there was more going on and it was a lot less authentic as the rooms were built to look like an old western town – so more theme parkish!! – Again we met some fabulous characters including Arizona Bill who taught us poker in the evening and cooked us a real cowboy breakfast before we left.

The horses were definitely aimed at beginners and the riding terrain was fairly easy, so no previous experience was needed.

This was the only ranch that had TV’s in the bedrooms and we all felt a bit ‘ put out’ that the outside world was allowed to encroach on us!! – not that we had to turn them on of course!! Food again was limited but what we were served was tasty and fresh.

Not used to a proper ‘pay bar’ and no obvious prices on show I for one ended up with a sizable bar bill – but for such an amazing experience this was a small price to pay!

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