From Yodeling To Yippee-ing, Yvette Rides The Range.

Riding the foothills of the Tucson Range. Credit: White Stallion Ranch

 I’m not sure if skiing gets you into shape for horseback riding or vice versa, but, yes, a lot of the same muscles are at play. 

Either way, both take strong legs.

I confirmed all of this at White Stallion Ranch just outside Tucson, AZ at the end of last ski season. 

I packed my schedule full because I wanted to do EVERYthing. 

So on my first day, I went on the slow mountain horseback ride. We left the main ranch compound and sauntered leisurely across the valley, following a well worn path through the cactus.

Fast ride. Credit: White Stallion Ranch

At the foot of the volcanic, granite hills of the Tucson Range, we headed up via a rocky trail, passed the tall fingers of saguaro cactus and all sorts of blooming brush: yellow, purple, violet flowers. All in all, a great intro to the ranch rides.

There are also breakfast rides, wine and cheese rides, and a beer and Cheetos ride. Yum.

Such is life at one of the two remaining guest (aka dude) ranches in the Tucson area. Not that many years ago there were a hundred but population growth and development swallowed them one by one.

The White Stallion Ranch has been around since the turn of the 20th Century, first as a cattle ranch, and later home to 30,000 chickens.  In 1945, it became a guest ranch. The True family bought it in 1965, and. when they saw that the area guest ranches had already dwindled to about 30, they started buying land and adding rooms. Today, the 3,000 acre ranch has 43 rooms, a five bedroom hacienda, 160 horses, 120 cows, and wranglers on hand to lead rides, teach, tend to the livestock, cook and all the rest.

 For me, it wasn’t all riding. A couple of mornings I went shooting. I’ve only touched a gun once before in my life, but Bob and Sharon Callan will talk you through everything, how to aim, how to cock the guns, how not to accidentally blow your head off.

They’ve run the firearms training program for the Tucson police department, so they’re used to teaching.

You get to use a six shooter and a rifle, and there’s a set of steel plate targets.

“Consider all guns loaded and don’t point at anything you don’t want to shoot,” Sharon said. And added, “You can shoot the pistol one handed, but if you want to hit something, use two.”

All those cowboy movies where folks at a gallop shooting one-handed pick off the bad guys? Not on your life.

Western star Loop Rawlins does rope tricks during evening entertainment at White Stallion Ranch. Credit: Yvette Cardozo

I also did the movie tour by van. 

The ranch has been a popular site for movies since the 1930s. And for good reason. It’s literally around the corner from Tucson. You leave the ranch, climb a low hill and there, on the other side are the outskirts of the city. Talk about convenient.

Marty Freese, the ranch’s history guy, took us to all the popular sites where dozens of movies, TV shows, and commercials have been filmed,  including High Chaparral, a Lone Ranger movie and enough others to fill a two-page list.

 Each night there an activity. Bill Ganz sang cowboy songs by a campfire. Phil and Hector brought tarantulas and scorpions and a bearded dragon named Stumpy that attached itself to Phil’s chest like velcro, along with a Burmese python so long, it took nine kids to hold it. 

But the star of the week was Loop Rawlins who is an artist with gun and rope. He kept the Spring Break crowd of kids spellbound as he twirled guns, flipping them into his holster, skipped rope with his lariat and did a finale that involved a flaming, twirling lasso. 

On one of my last days, the ranch held its once-a-week rodeo. It’s sort of Rodeo 101, which is great if you’re like me and have never been to one. Russell True, who was five when his folks bought the place and now pretty much runs it, explained barrel racing, bulldogging, where you ride alongside a steer and jump astride it to bring it down (as bone rattling and dusty as you imagine) and team roping which Russell says he calls “cowboy judo” and is even more frenetic than bulldogging.

I also took a horse riding lesson and discovered all the things I was doing wrong. 

So maybe next time, I can actually get my horse to canter.

For more information on the White Stallion Ranch, click here.

Guests leave the breakfast corral on horseback during a breakfast ride. Blooming hedgehog cactus in foreground. Credit: Yvette Cardozo

One Comment

  1. Speaking of ranches, strong legs, and snow, there are close to a dozen guest ranches that offer cross-country skiing in Colorado, Montana, and Idaho. Most are within an hour of downhill skiing, with the biggest concentration nearish to Steamboat Springs. And yep, several have winter horseback riding!

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