I couldn't stop smiling; at the end of each ride, my face hurt. There is little that can make me feel freedom like loping on a good horse. Weightless and flying. Skiing does, except horseback riding adds the connection with another being: the horse who carries me, responding to my request to turn, pick up the pace, or back off the speed to match the horse in front of us. The sunshine washes the desert, illuminating the needles on the saguaro and dances with the shadows against the paddles of the prickly pear as we pass.
This trip was my daughter's idea. Each year, I take one of my two girls on a trip alone to build memories together, just the two of us. No competing sibling or agenda, just a mother-daughter trip, alone, to a destination chosen by the latter. My 13-year-old chose a dude ranch. We own horses which we keep at a stable just twenty minutes from our home, but her passion for all things equine and her knowledge that a dude ranch is also about much more than riding made it her first choice.
We'd stayed at White Stallion Ranch as a family when she was a baby. Although neither girl remembers the trip, her older sister fell in love with Russell True, the ranch owner, and would toddle to him in giggles every time she saw him. When she asked to go to a dude ranch this year, it seemed like the perfect fit.
ACCOMMODATIONS: And, it was. The room was nicely decorated and very comfortable. The good beds kept the sore muscles the trail from compounding into real aches and pains. I enjoyed the living room space and the great little patio in the shade of the trees outside our front door.
MEALS: The atmosphere at meals brings people together, creating a place where guests meet and swap stories. Many of the people we met had stayed at the ranch before, some for many years. Not surprising, as it is an experience I think most anyone would want to repeat. We ate on the patio of the lodge, under the giant olive tree, but our favorite meal was the breakfast ride where we took to the trails early and ate pancakes and eggs in the shade of awnings built of saguaro ribs, under the backdrop of the Tucson Mountains.
FOR KIDS: Soon after we arrived, my daughter met a handful of other young guests; people whose energy level matched their own. This allowed me to watch her over the top of my book from my shaded, poolside lounge chair while she laughed and swam. They shared each other's company not only in the pool, but feeding treats to the horses as well as the goats, donkeys, emu, and other animals in the petting zoo, and hanging out in the recreation center. As we shared stories at the end of the day, all of the other parents I talked with would sigh and tell me how much their children loved the freedom they can experience at a place like this. Few other vacation choices would provide it; they'd never let their children run off with other kids they just met at an amusement park or beach.
ACTIVITIES: There are a lot of activities, other than horseback riding. Although I didn't use the spa myself, other guest told me the massages were fabulous. We watched the staff demonstrate rodeo events and other guest try their hand chasing calves, team penning. I sat in on a horsemanship talk, and learned a few new things. They offered nature hikes, creating art, and western dancing, although we did not participate in all of them.
RIDING: The horseback riding was quite enjoyable. My horse was very responsive and willing, a good match for me. The wranglers were happy to change out my daughter's mount when she decided she wanted to try another horse. She likes to go fast, and loved that their solid-but-sandy trails offer some great terrain loping rides, as some dude ranches are limited by the steep mountains or rocky trails.
STAFF: We ended up staying during a week when the ranch was full, yet the staff were all helpful and welcoming, nonetheless. I might have preferred to stay during a week when they had more leisure time and could stop to chat, but the service certainly did not suffer because of the large number of guests. We were consistently greeted with a smile, and every request was treated as important.
We had a wonderful stay at White Stallion Ranch, and certainly hope to join the ranks of the repeat guests. Even if we don't return any time soon, my daughter and I created an experience together that brings us closer together, one we will not ever forget.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- EXCEPTIONAL HOSPITALITY AND FAMILY TRADITIONS At White Stallion Ranch, the personal touch and hospitality of a traditional dude ranch is carefully blended with the service and amenities of your favorite resort. This dude ranch has a history of more than 50 years of ownership and daily management by the True Family and over 75 years as Guest Ranch. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- White Stallion Ranch Hotel Tucson
- White Stallion Ranch Tucson, Arizona