Fam report: Agent falls in love with an Arizona ranch
Jacky Stone - Full Circle Travel, Maggie O'Neill – Cassis Travel, Donna Hill – Western & Oriental, Sally Rushbrooke – Western & Oriental, Rachael Wilford - Designer Travel, Lynsey Perkins - Travel Counsellors
After a relaxing start to our trip in the Virgin lounge at London Gatwick, we boarded our flight to Las Vegas and our private transfer at the other end whisked us to the Mandarin Oriental hotel in minutes.
You can visit Egypt, Paris, New York and Venice on the same day here. Watch the circus, ride a roller-coaster, eat vast meals, play the slot machines, get married. Where else but Vegas?
It was incredible, but what I want to talk about is what we did next.
A one hour flight from Vegas to Tuscon and we arrived at the White Stallion Ranch.
Turning off the main road, we were transported into the breathtaking Sonoran Desert and all of a sudden we were driving among free-roaming cattle, horses, and cacti towards a group of adobe style buildings and beautiful landscape. The best part of the accommodation is the lack of televisions allowing the chance to reconnect with friends, family, children, or whoever you are sharing the experience with.
Run by the True family for the past 50 years, the ranch is located next to the Saguaro National Park. The mountainous scenery alone on this 3,000-acre ranch makes this a perfect place to holiday either for a week or a long weekend. Whether you’ve never been on a horse before or are an experienced rider, this is the dude ranch to go for a time with great food, great company and unmatched horseback riding adventures.
We were paired up with one of the many horses that make up the ranch that boasts the largest privately-owned herd in Arizona. I had the pleasure of riding Cutaway. Cutaway responded to even the slightest tug on the reigns and was sure-footed as we started out on the Breakfast Ride. This ride is an early morning trip into the desert to a group of picnic tables where they serve you a hearty breakfast of eggs, potatoes and pancakes.
The food (included in the cost of the accommodations) was not only filling but absolutely delicious. The hearty meals served us well as the afternoons fast ride,team penning and barrel racing would require it.
The fast rides were amazing. First you take the fast ride test first to make sure you feel comfortable with your horse. The Western style of riding was very easy to learn thanks to the careful teaching and encouragement of the ranch hands and wranglers. They took the time to make sure we were all comfortable. My favourite experiences had to be the team penning and the barrel racing.
The evenings at the ranch were very relaxed as everyone gathered for dinner together. From mid-March onwards the meals are mainly cooked outside and served under the beautiful clear starry skies. We sat at large round tables with braziers burning away in the middle, sipping margaritas among the twinkly lit cacti and watching the horses and the amazing sunsets beyond. I loved the options of chicken, beef, and fish and various sides and salads that were available.?
We experienced a cook out with steak and ribs and also a full blown Mexican buffet – great washed down with the Prickly Pear Margaritas from the honesty bar.
In the evenings there are different forms of entertainment from craft workshops, camp fire sing-alongs? and line dancing classes to astronomy and star gazing. Horseback riding did make me ache, but thankfully the ranch boasts a heated outdoor pool as well as an enclosed wooden hot tub.
Other amenities/activities to enjoy include mountain biking, hiking, a tennis court, basketball court, pool, poker, air hockey tables, a movie screen with a Wii and Netflix. A favourite was the petting zoo which made us giggle like little kids as we walked around and had the emus follow us along the fence. The goats, ponies, and chickens were very friendly and would eat right out of your hand as you fed them the food provided.
Probably the coolest part of the ranch aside from the horses was the honesty bar. The bar is fully stocked with everything from water, soda, and juice (all only $1) to wine, beers, and even margarita mixes. They always have snacks left out for you to take for free and the bar is the gathering place for everyone for cocktails before dinner.
Make sure to stop in at the lovely gift shop for your free commemorative pin, with the number on it to mark how many times you have been there. Don’t forget to vote for the horse of the month too who gets pampered with a bath, massage and carrot cake. And you can’t leave without feeding the horses some of the horse cookies provided and fussing over the gorgeously well-natured dogs who live on the ranch too.
Driving away from the ranch was so hard. The inner cowgirl had been awakened and my whole mind and body had been refreshed by the few days away from it all. Looking back at the ranch as we turned onto the main road I was already planning how to return to that little piece