This past December, I spent a few glorious days at a place called White Stallion Ranch. Ahhh, where do I begin? First, let me clarify some confusion that the title of this post may cause – White Stallion Ranch is actually a “guest ranch” and not a “dude ranch.” I use the term “dude ranch” because for us non-ranch folk, it’s likely a bit more intuitive. Now back to my ranch getaway… and what a getaway it was. Although the ranch is only 45 minutes from the Tucson airport, it seems worlds away from the hustle and bustle of my busy and stressful life in Atlanta.
I’ve now had some time to reflect since several months have passed since my trip. I’ve contemplated how I can accurately describe my experience to my readers, but no matter how much I’ve tried and how many times I have reworked the outline for this post, it still seems to sell my experience short. I’m not certain I’m a talented enough writer to truly convey the experience I’ve had and the impact the ranch has had on me, but here’s my best shot along with my advice why you need to go to a dude ranch (even if you’re not a “horse person”):
You’re going to relax. Even if you usually don’t.
If you want to relax, go to a dude ranch. Any seasoned traveler knows there’s a huge difference between “traveling” and “vacationing.” Although there are circumstances of obvious overlap, “vacationing” typically means something like relaxing on a beach with a fruity cocktail in hand.
I’m not good at this… In fact, I straight up suck at this.
For me, “vacationing” typically means I’m laying out at the beach with a fruity cocktail in one hand and responding to work emails with the other. When “traveling,” I typically favor whirlwind, jam-packed itineraries where I get to do and see as much cool stuff as possible. As amazing as these trips are, they are far from relaxing and can be exhausting at times.
My trip to White Stallion Ranch was different. I found out pretty quickly that it’s REALLY hard to respond to work emails while on horseback (especially when you’re a novice rider like I am). It was probably only 30 minutes into my first breakfast ride through the striking Sonoran Desert that I let out a sigh and came to the realization that, this moment upon my horse named Jeeves, was the first time I had truly relaxed in a long time…
When I later shared this epiphany with other guests, one chuckled and smiled. “The ranch will have that effect on you,” she told me.
You’re going to see some of the most beautiful and breathtaking scenery. Ever.
Some may find this odd, but my trip to the ranch wasn’t motivated by the horses – it came to fruition because I wanted to experience Tucson’s gorgeous desert. There’s something about the stark desert landscape and tall cacti that I had become captivated with. So, I planned a trip to the desert. I figured that if I was going to see the desert, what could be better than immersing myself into the midst of the scenery by staying at a ranch.
The desert did not disappoint. I’ve traveled the world, but there’s not many places that offer scenery more unique than the American southwest.
You’re going to wish you stayed longer. Trust me.
When initially planning my trip to the ranch, I had considered only spending one night there. If you check out my itinerary posts, it’s pretty obvious that I’m super wanderlusty. I often find myself moving quickly due to time constraints and the need to get back to the office. I figured that surely one day of activities would be sufficient since I wasn’t a “horse person” and the Tucson area offered plenty of things that I wanted to do and see. In the end, I was convinced to spend my entire long weekend getaway at the ranch and was warned that it wouldn’t be long enough. It wasn’t. In fact, it was just a tease. Just as I had settled into my new, relaxing “ranch life” and had finally began to develop some equestrian skills (well, for me anyway), it was time to leave… which wasn’t easy to do. (In fact, if I hadn’t had a work commitment scheduled for the next day, I would have changed my flight).
It may be hard to carve out a whole week of your precious vacation time, especially if you’re not a “horse person,” but my number one piece of advice for your ranch vacation is that you should try and stay at least a full week. A few days is better than none, but I’m warning you, it will just leave you wanting more.
You’re going to fall in love with the horses. (Even if you’re not a “horse person.”)
So, no offense to any of my ranch friends reading this post, but as I mentioned previously, my main motivation for heading to the ranch was the scenery and not the horses. This may seem silly to any of you who have had the pleasure of visiting a guest ranch, but all of my research didn’t truly prepare me for what I was about to experience.
In fact, if I’m being completely 100% honest, before my time at the ranch, “horse-people” scared me a bit. No pun intended, but y’all are just a different breed. Most of you don’t dabble. You are wholly and completely committed to horses. My confusion and astonishment about you “horse people” may stem from the fact that you’re reading a post written by a girl that has issues committing to anything (save my husband and this time-sucking hobby I call a blog) for more than a fleeting moment.
Now, after spending some time with the wranglers and seasoned ranch guests, I can say that I get it. Jeeves rocked and within just a few days I built a connection with him that I wouldn’t have previously believed was a possibility for me. Trust me – you will fall in love with the sweet, magnificent beast you’re paired up with for the length of your stay at the ranch. Even if you’re not a “horse person.” True, I won’t be anteing up my life savings to purchase/feed/house Jeeves #2, but I will be saving my pennies to purchase a riding lesson or two in the future.
Did I mention you’re going to have the time of your life? Because you will.
I’m not sure Becky or I stopped smiling or laughing during our entire stay at the ranch. (Well, aside from that time when we were hiking and Becky managed to get several small cacti stuck in her various appendages. I was still all laughs and smiles… until her flailing caused one small spiky cactus to fly off her and burrow itself into my arm. I wanted to punch hug her).
“Horse person” or not, novice or expert, the ranch has something for you. White Stallion’s activities change daily, but some of my favorites from my trip were the breakfast ride (you ride into the desert where the ranch staff cooks a “cowboy breakfast” for you to enjoy), the aptly-named beer and Cheetos ride (same concept as the breakfast ride, aside from the fact that the ride takes place at happy hour, and instead of eggs and pancakes, you’ll consume two of my most favorite things in life…beer and Cheetos) and team cattle penning.
If you’re not a “horse person” you may be wondering what the heck cattle penning is. I found out that it’s basically the most fun activity ever. Seriously. Should you decide to participate in team cattle penning, you will mount your horse with three other riders and charge full speed towards several grazing cattle in an effort to pick off three of the cows from the group and herd them into a pen. It’s a competitive and thrilling timed event that got my adrenaline pumping and made me feel alive! (I’m seriously getting excited just thinking about it)!
Are you sold hook line and sinker and dying to try team cattle penning? If not, it’s probably because it either sounds incredibly difficult for a novice rider or my excitement for the sport isn’t translating well enough into this post. If it’s the latter, please cut me some slack – I’m a lawyer by trade, not a creative writer. But, if your hesitation is because the former, I can relate. When I was given the instructions on how to cattle pen I was initially overwhelmed. Strike that. I was overwhelmed and terrified. The technique to successfully pen your cattle sounded really difficult when it was first explained to me. (Seriously difficult… as in geometry or calculus hard).
The thought of galloping on my horse full-speed towards cattle (which were not small calves, by the way – they had huge horns!) in an attempt to push them into a pen was more than just a little intimidating and terrifying for this (very) novice cowgirl. The first round I felt like I was just holding on for dear life and trying my best to follow at least half of the directions the wrangler was shouting at me. But, after the round my fears subsided and I was surprised how fun and exhilarating the experience was.
I promise you’ll be surprised how quickly you catch on after you participate in your first round. (In fact, my travel companion failed her first riding test… So, if she can do it, anyone can). 🙂 You can read Becky’s post detailing a typical day at the ranch and more of the ranch activities here.
I could go on and on and continue gushing about how much I adored my time at White Stallion, but I’ll save the rest of my adjectives and exclamation points for a later post detailing my return trip back to the ranch. Until then, I’ll simply conclude with this: Hands down, my time at the ranch was one of the most surprising, relaxing and enjoyable travel experiences I’ve had to date.
Have I convinced you to consider a dude ranch for your next getaway?
Related Posts: A Girls Weekend at White Stallion Ranch in Tucson
Many thanks to White Stallion Ranch for hosting us. As always, all opinions are my own. I’m under no obligation to gush on and on about my travel experiences… I just enjoyed my time at the ranch that much.
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