The Circle Z Ranch owns one of the largest private horse herds in Arizona, and keeping our herd healthy, both physically and mentally, takes diligence and a concerted effort amongst our staff. Giving the highest levels of care is what good ranches do, and the rewards are reaped every day by our guests and our happy horses alike. So what all goes into the care of our family? I sat with Miko and Jennie to list all the things we do for our horses.
Here are some interesting numbers: We feed an average of 250 tons of alfalfa each year, give on average 200 influenza and tetanus injections, and deworm 200 times. The herd is supplemented with 750 pounds of psyllium each year to prevent sand colic. We also supplement their regular diet of alfalfa with grain, bran, and fodder.
Starting in the Spring, when we close the ranch to guests, we prepare our horses to be turned out onto their 3000 acre summer pasture, where the grazing is unlimited. We brand our 3 year old horses and the new horses that have passed Circle Z scrutiny. We use the freeze brand method which is a more humane method than burning on brands. We also vaccinate each horse with the Tetanus and influenza injections, as well as de-wormer. We allow their shoes to fall off naturally as they roam the property.
The horses’ summer pasture has 3 large stock ponds, access to the creek, as well as plenty of shade trees for those hot days. We check on the horses at least twice a week and sometimes more, especially after a big storm. The horses tend to stay in their small group of buddies, and hang out in the same areas, making it easier for our cowboys to keep track of them. Our staff carries along basic horse first aid for those rare injuries, and are able to provide most of the vet care needed. Only rarely do we have to bring a horse in for extra care. A few of the horses get tender footed, so they are kept shod, helping them move about easily.
Spring is also our time for breeding our five brood mares. We are currently using a stud by the name of Shiny Sparks, who is an AQHRA registered horse. He is a stocky sorrel stallion with a white blaze. We pasture him with our mares at our Creek Ranch property for one month, and usually know by three to four months if the breeding “took”.
As the summer months’ wane, it is time to round up our herd. Some of the horses start heading back towards the corrals as their internal clocks wind down, but many like to hold out for the last minute. Once the horses are all in, we start getting them ready for the guests. During one season, there are over 900 horse shoes expertly placed on our horses by Miko and Tavo. Once shoed we give them another dose of influenza/tetanus, and de-worm them again.
As our staff clears the trails from the summer storms, they also start exercising and tuning up each horse. We try to get 2-3 rides per horse before the guests arrive, which helps to get them back into shape and get their minds back on work.
Once the guest season starts the end of October, our winter schedule of care begins. We feed 16 bales of alfalfa daily between the morning and evening meals. The horses are on a strict time schedule. They know that when the feed truck runs, and the gates open in the early morning and at the 4:30 pm bell, it is time to move to their day or night pasture. For the horses who are working any given day, we feed them prior to their ride with 1 ½ scoops of grain and ½ scoop of bran. We give each horse 1 cup of psyllium daily for seven consecutive days each month to prevent colic. Each horse is also rotated into the fodder feeding area at least once, and sometimes twice, per week for that extra boost of nutrients from the freshly sprouted barley.
For most injuries we are able to take care of our own vet care. Minor cuts, abscesses, and saddle sores are treated with stitches, medications, and rest. For cases of colic, which happens rarely, we administer Benamine and Dyperone, and call the vet for tubing only if not relieved with conservative treatments. We have found that the psyllium works very well for colic prevention.
To keep our paddocks and corrals clean, there is the daily scooping of manure, which seems endless! The large day pasture is cleaned out 4 times each season with the tractor. The seven water troughs around the property are drained and cleaned with bleach 4 times each season.
We provide dental care for our horses as needed, and with their time spent out foraging naturally is not required as frequently as if they were fed hay year-round. We routinely have chiropractic work done on horses to keep their spines, shoulders and haunches in alignment!
Thanks to our hard working and knowledgeable staff at the corrals, we are able to accomplish all this work on top of providing individualized attention to our guests. We are 100 percent committed to the health of our horses throughout their lives.
Since our inception in 1926 we have been known for our fine breeds of horses. Circle Z Ranch’s first and most notable stallion was a Carthusian Stallion named El Sultan, and this is his story.
Heavy in foal, a Spanish mare from the Spanish royal stables of Marquis de Domecq of Jerez de la Frontera was gifted to a stable in Havana, Cuba. Arriving in Cuba in 1931, she soon foaled El Sultan, who would become the stallion for the Circle Z Ranch by the age of five.
A Carthusian Horse, El Sultan’s bloodlines dated back to the late twelve hundreds. After the Moors left Spain, the Carthusian monks in Andalusia bred this larger Moorish Arabian stallion with a larger type of mare from central Europe. This original stallion was named Esclavo. The mare’s bloodlines went so far back into antiquity that her exact breed was unknown.
After 300 years of breeding and meticulous record keeping, the Carthusian monks considered their breed firmly established. Taking the purity of the bloodlines seriously, it is said they even refused royal orders to mix their stallions with other breeds. When the monks disbanded in the 1800’s, the horses were taken in by Juan Jose Zapata, who diligently continued the purity of the bloodline. Called the Saintly Horse because of its extremely gentle disposition, these pure bloods were jealously guarded by the Government and the Spanish remount system as they were excellent cavalry horses.
The Carthusian horses are known for their proud and lofty actions, a showy and rhythmical walk, and a high stepping trot. Their canters are rocking in nature, with natural balance, agility and fire. Today Carthusian horses are raised around Cordoba, Jerez de la Frontera, and Badajoz, Spain on state-owned farms. Nearly all of the modern pure Carthusian horses are descendants of Esclavo.
In 1934 El Sultan was the first Carthusian to live in the United States, and at the time only the sixth to be let out of Spain. Given as a gift from the Cuban Stables to a family in New York, he ultimately ended up in the hands of Mr. R. A. Weaver of Cleveland Ohio. Mr. Weaver was a sponsor of the Kenyon College polo team and a frequent guest at the Circle Z Ranch. Not interested in breeding, he decided that the ideal place for El Sultan would be the Circle Z Ranch, where breeding him with the smaller Mexican range horse would make an ideal guest horse. And he was right.
El Sultan not only sired countless foals for our guest ranch, his gentle disposition led him to serve many functions. Taking well to stock work, he was used for roping at the fall, ranch sponsored rodeos. He also was a frequent show horse at the Tucson parades, winning numerous awards for first of show. Standing over 16 hands, he was said to have been able to jump 6 foot high fences. He was also used during the polo matches at the ranch, which Mr. Weaver helped to establish. He was so gentle that guests rode him as well.
El Sultan was much beloved by the ZInsmeister family, so much so that he had his own stable and corral, and was insured for $10,000. When the Zinsmeisters sold the ranch in 1948, El Sultan stayed with the Zinsmeister family, and was exercised every day until his death on January 2, 1953. In the words of Helen Zinsmeister, “He was more than anyone could expect, and a natural performer and jumper.” His stunning profile still adorns our ranch walls, where El Sultan will forever be remembered as the Circle Z Stallion.
New for our 93rd Season
We were busy this off-season making improvements to our ranch! The complete restoration of the historic Hill House went beautifully, and we are excited to show off this colorful cottage to our guests. Hill House will be a favorite for families or friends vacationing together. Featuring new bathrooms, a large porch and a coffee service area. This cottage sleeps 7 guests.
At los corrales we completed the addition of 4 new covered stalls for ill and injured horses. We also built a chute for brandings, vet checks and vaccinations.
Guests will notice our front lawn looking a little different. We created a covered pavilion with views of Red Mountain and relocated our campfire nearby.
We also spent some time building new staff housing and remodeling the adobe staff rooms.
Our 93rd season runs from October 28-May 5, 2019. We look forward to welcoming our friends from around the world back to the ranch for our 93rd year!
News from Los Corrales
This summer’s monsoons were a little spotty this summer, but the rains were enough for our horses to kick loose and get in some green grass! We can never underestimate the importance of any amount of rain for the health of our horses and for all the wildlife our property supports.
Our ranch-bred youngsters are continuing their training, and are closer to being introduced as guest horses. Bourbon, Louie and Comet spent the summer working with Tavo, and they are looking great. Martina, Corona, Aztec, Charles, Boomer and Lavina are well on their way, getting the miles they need to become willing partners for our guests. Our two year olds, Cocoa and Apollo, began their ground training last season and will be started under saddle this Winter. We welcomed 3 babies this Spring; Lexi, Flash, and Ginger now are out with their mamas. They will be joining our young colts Fargo and Pablo this coming Spring. It is great seeing these young ones come of age and we are so grateful to our staff for nurturing them along! Lots of work ahead!
We are fortunate to have many of our staff returning this season, as well as welcoming a few new faces. Our new cooks Denise, Cliff and Carlos have many years of combined experience cooking around the globe and we are confident our food will remain outstanding. Jenna is back in the dining room and joining her are Annette, Stacey and Lanna. Katherine and Crystal will be in housekeeping. Our groundsman is Scott, and all around float is Preston. Our returning wranglers are Maddie, Johnny, Alice, Omar, Omar Junior, and Tavo. Brianna will be a new wrangler. And of course, the Lortas will all be back to keep the ranch in order! We couldn’t be happier with our staff and appreciate their hard work.
Remembering and Honoring Mrs. Lucia Nash
Lucia Nash, owner of Circle Z Ranch for over 40 years, passed away at her home outside of Cleveland, OH this past December. A staunch conservationist, Lucia will be remembered for her work in preserving these special places around the globe. Thanks to a loving and dedicated spirit, the lands making up Circle Z Ranch will forever be wild. This summer we created a memorial pavilion in her honor, taking center stage on the front lawn, and overlooking her beloved Red Mountain.
We have 9 weeks of special offers this coming season, from a Pre-Holiday Special to a Christmas Get-away, plus our always popular Adult-only weeks. A new special added last year is our Rough Riders week, created for our old hands who are intermediate to advanced riders.
Christmas and New Years at the Ranch
This holiday season, give yourself and your family the gift of a no-fuss, fun-filled retreat. Whether you are looking for a getaway on Christmas or New Years, we would love to have you at the ranch. Cookouts, great riding, trimming the tree, a special visit from Santa in his horse drawn surrey, and live music on New Years Eve. Make this holiday special!
The newest special at the ranch, and one to be an old hand favorite, is our Rough Riders/Best of the Circle Z Season Finale. This week is geared towards guests who are wanting more adventure in their riding and are at least intermediate riders. To make sure a guest will get the most out of the week, our managers will help you decide if this is a good fit.
This years Rough Riders Week, we entertained 16 guests. The first ride, to everyone’s delight, was not the usual walking ride, but a loping ride for those who wanted! Because this is a week where we know all the guests are competent riders and are known by the wranglers, we gave more lee-way to our staff for turning it up a notch
During our steak night cook out on Monday, we invited musician Joe Barr to entertain the guests during the meal. This made a wonderful backdrop of music while we dined on the ever delicious steak night dinner.
On Tuesday, we took guests to the Wagon Wheel Bar. Although the day was windy, the views and sky were just amazing. Many said it was the best ride ever! Because of the abilities of the riders, we did a little more exploring and bush waking on our way, discovering a few new trails in the process.
On Thursday evening, after the all-day ride to Castle Butte, the ranch hosted Margarita Party during Cantina Hour.
The highlight of the week was the Red Rocks/San Rafael Valley ride. This ride is about 6 hours long and is definitely a ride for competent riders. With one of our deliciously prepared sack lunches securely packed, we loaded the horses and headed to the trail head of the Arizona Trail. The views on this trail are stunning, starting a winding uphill climb past beautiful red rock cliffs with Red Mountain in the backdrop. We end the ride up in the San Rafael Valley.
Our week ended with the Sonoita Horse Races and our Cinco De Mayo party. The excitement built all week as our Wrangler Omar worked to get his horse Canejo (Rabbit) ready for the Big Boy Ranch Horse Race, and boy did he do a spectacular job, beating out 6 other ranch horses to take home the trophy.
One thing we will be adding next year is having Mariachi’s Play for our Cinco De Mayo Party.
The best thing about this week was the camaraderie among the guests and staff. There was a lot of laughter and stories being told and some great riding! We look forward to offering this week every year during our final week of the season, a great way to celebrate a successful year.
The welcoming social atmosphere of the Circle Z Ranch lends itself to those who find that traveling solo is a reality. The inclusiveness of our horseback riding program, plus the family atmosphere at dinner and social hour, breeds a camaraderie that is rare at other resort type vacation spots. Our small size makes it easy to meet new friends, and whether you want to mingle out on the trails or find a peaceful place to read, your time at the ranch will be exactly what you are seeking.
Our solo traveler friends Lindsey and Michelle explain how they felt traveling solo to the Circle Z Ranch.
“To all at Circle Z Ranch, Just wanted to thank you for the most amazing holiday. I had wanted to go on a Ranch holiday for over 20 years but coming from the UK on my own always seemed so daunting when I have never traveled anywhere by plane alone before. Transport from the airport to the Ranch was arranged by the ranch at a reasonable price so I didn’t have to worry about hiring a car and driving on the “wrong side of the road” lol. Unfortunately during my stay I was unwell and the owner and staff of the Ranch went above and beyond what I could ever have expected. They took care of me and made me feel a part of their amazing family. The horses and area you ride are just stunning – even though I was the only “new hand” guest there this week and the only guest from the UK I was welcomed by all the “old hands” and the staff and instantly felt part of the group and have already booked to come back next year with all my new found friends. I would thoroughly recommend Circle Z Ranch to anyone traveling alone because you will not be feeling alone for very long – Awesome place, staff and horses. Thanks again” Lindsey Cox.
“I had been wanting to take a horseback riding vacation for some time but none of my family or friends are riders so I hesitated going it alone. Circle Z turned out to be the perfect solution. Going solo as a woman could have been somewhat uncomfortable but I was made to feel part of the group.” Michelle
CIRCLE Z GUEST RANCH
By Jen Zeller
If you’ve ever dreamed of riding in a place that looks like it could be from a Western Film, then you’ve got to get to Patagonia, Arizona, to Circle Z Guest Ranch.
The ranch was started in 1926 and is the original guest ranch in Arizona! It’s everything you think a ranch in the Southwest should be.
There’s turquoise everywhere. Turquoise is good for your soul. Seriously.
Their dining hall is so cute. And don’t get me started on the food. The foooooooooooood.
They serve continental breakfasts, as well as a hot breakfast. Everyday. Everyday, people! And if you have dietary restrictions, no worries, the staff will accommodate you! You will likely over-eat. At each meal. I don’t know what to tell you except that you’re on vacation. Go for it. That’s what they told me!
The ranch is an incredible home away from home. It’s the perfect way for you to get away from it all. Put your cell phone away during meals, and visit. You won’t find Wi-Fi anywhere but in the Cantina, where the daily happy hour is held. Happy Hour is BYOB — so grab a bottle of your favorite wine or preferred spirit and they’ll have whatever you need to mix with it. Plus, they provide fun little appetizers each night — on Mexican Food day you’ll find fresh guacamole and homemade tortilla chips (and let’s not forget Huevos Rancheros in the morning!)
If you’re looking for a television, don’t bother! You won’t find one.
But who needs a to when there’s a corral full of horses? Everyone here is treated like family! The riding environment is so friendly and the horses are incredibly well trained. They’re great at their jobs, happy with their lives and it shows. Once you’ve been a guest and found your dream horse, you’ll get to hang with them on subsequent trips to the ranch. How cool is that?
The staff are awesome! They’re all very helpful and super fun!
And it’s okay to forget that the staff exist when you meet Tony, the ranch donkey. He’s super lovable. He’s the best distraction!
Every day your ride will find you in a different terrain. You won’t ride in anything that looks remotely similar from day to day! I’m not gonna lie though, one of those trails scared the poop out of me! However my gorgeous horse, Taffy, took great care of me whilst I bit my fingernails, and avoided looking down! I’m not even scared of heights, I’m just slightly claustrophobic and the narrow trail didn’t help me. At all! The view from the top was certainly worth it, however!
Is Taffy not about the most stunning girl ever? Holy wow she’s gorgeous… I wanted to pack her up and bring her home with me. They quickly said “No!!”
Way to rain on a girl’s parade, people! In their defense, she’s super awesome, and if she were mine I’d not part with her either, so I get it!
When you’re ready, if you feel up to it, you can lope on your ride! If you don’t feel up to it, that’s okay too! they’ll send you on a walking only ride!
The scenery will blow you away. Seriously.
Their new covered arena is pretty killer! You can schedule yourself a riding lesson before your day of riding. Not gonna lie — the barrel racer in me thought to myself — I could smoke a run in here!
And speaking of barrel racing — they have a gaming day! You can work cattle, learn the poles and run barrels. For some reason I was chosen to give a barrel racing demonstration. I don’t know how I got volunteered for that gig! Hehe!
A highlight at the end of each day is watching the horses get turned out.
Each day is something new and exciting. The food is great, the staff is great, and often, you’ll find Diana Nash, the owner, as your host. She’s is so enthusiastic about life, the ranch and the guests you’d have to be a serious cranky pants to not feel welcome and comfortable with her.
A highlight of the week is the Friday ride in the San Rafael Valley. This valley is where they filmed the movie Oklahoma. Several other movies have been filmed here as well.
On Saturday they ride into town, to the local bar, have drinks, lunch and otherwise get rowdy in the way they once did in the old west!!!! I missed that ride, because “home” called and said I had to get back, but if I ever get to go to Circle Z again, I think the bar ride sounds like a must-do event.
If you’re interested in keeping up with the goings on at the ranch make sure you follow them on Facebookand Instagram, and for more photos from my trip, check out the hashtag: CirlceZRanch.
Until next time, Happy Trails!
This post was brought to you, courtesy of Circle Z Guest Ranch. I cannot find the right words to explain how fun this vacation was. I combined my love of the outdoors, photography and riding into one phenomenal trip and I’m so grateful to Diana, and the ranch, for giving me the opportunity to capture the spirit of Circle Z. I hope I did it justice and I hope you’ll choose to come here when you’re in search of an epic riding vacation.
An authentic dude ranch is not a resort, nor is it a place for a typical “vacation”. An authentic dude ranch offers true life experiences, where guests not just take a break from reality, but leap into a reality of a different nature. So what makes a dude ranch authentic? Living the history of the ranching lifestyle is the key to the real experience a dude ranch offers.
In the early days of dude ranching, city folks were drawn to the idea of living on the frontier, but without the danger of trying to fend for themselves in the hostile environments. Ranchers would often team up with hunting guides who were looking for safe, cozy places for their charges to stay, and to experience what life on the frontier was like. Also, the unspoiled landscapes, and deep mystery of the wilderness, drew the wealthy to seek out places of leisure where they could experience the wilderness without the work. Taking on dudes was a great way for ranchers to help supplement their operations, while providing once in a life-time experiences for the city folks.
Ranches opened their homes and hearths, providing meals and beds, but most importantly, the opportunity to live vicariously the life of the cowboy. Branding cattle, riding horses, exploring untamed wilderness, all in the safety and careful hospitality of these frontier cowboys. These dudes, as they were called, would return year after year, and they felt a part of the family, of something bigger than themselves, experiencing a change of pace from the cities.
Ranchers still open their homes and hearths to guests who come from all walks of life, seeking the intangibles of a reality that is quite different from a resort. We as owners and managers share our meals, we educate our guests about the horses and the wilderness we call our homes, sharing stories around the fireplace as our fore-fathers did. And we cherish every morsel, each spoken word, and the intangibles that our lives bring to our guests. It is not just about providing the best vacation of a lifetime, but the opportunity to experience life on a ranch.
Introducing young horses into the riding herd at the Circle Z Ranch is a process that takes several years and starts with the foundation of trust, which is the basis for all future training. Their first year of life is spent out in the mare pasture with their moms, growing and maturing, learning to navigate the terrain with mom in the lead. Our 2 yearlings Cocoa and Apollo, born in the Spring of 2015, were separated from their mares this past spring and spent the summer passing away the hours at the Bar Z Ranch. They are now ready to start learning how to be around humans and to be a part of the herd.
We first had Cocoa and Apollo in a pen adjacent to the main herd’s day pasture so they could all get acquainted over the fence. It was amazing to watch how many horses came to greet them, to touch noses, and how it thrilled these young ones. When they were ready to be turned out with the herd during the day, the process was seamless. Now, they are part of the herd, learning who the leaders are, how to behave in the group, and who to stay away from! The two are inseparable from each other for now, and are often seen running and kicking up their heels, moving in unison, all while being tolerated by the older horses. They still spend nights and Sundays in our corrals rather than being turned out to the night pasture, as they are still too young to protect themselves.
I have been working with these two for several weeks now and have seen great things from both. The most important thing is for them to trust me, to see me as a confident and consistent leader, and for me to show them kindness and patience. This means lots of head scratches, touching them all over, and to always show them respect while they are learning. At this young age I am focusing on the basic tenants for the rest of their learning; good ground manners and to be relaxed around humans. This means, in part, to walk confidently on a lead and to follow my feet; to stand calmly while I am at their side; to accept my hands touching them; to stop when I stop and not walk over the top of me; and to not nip at me or use me as a scratching post. This is a time of setting boundaries for acceptable behavior, just as the herd dictates on a daily basis. Interestingly, each took to these things with different levels of ease, revealing their insecurities and curiosities. It is so important during this process not to judge or label their behavior, but to work softly and patiently while they are learning to accept me as a human who means them no harm. It is also imperative to introduce things in a non-threatening way.
Cocoa and Apollo have much different personalities. A small black horse, Cocoa is the more daring and for sure the leader of the pair. He is curious about everything and likes to be at the center of the activity. Apollo is a stunning sorrel with a blaze, a little bit shier but so wanting to please. He would rather hide behind Cocoa, and does not like to be separated from him, and is slowly learning confidence through Cocoa’s examples. Both have very soft eyes, and both are very smart. The more time I spend with these two, their trust in me has risen dramatically. Both now come to me when they see me in the pasture. At first they were both a little resistant to haltering, but with patience on my part they are now very accepting of this. Both take a lead nicely and pass through gates without concern. Some of these things seem like such basics for a seasoned horse, but for a young one it is all new territory.
We are looking forward to starting their official ground work when Australian trainer Carlos Tabernaberri returns to the ranch this January. Stay tuned for more posts and photos as their training progresses!
If you’re staying over a Sunday at the Circle Z Ranch, there is always the question of how best to spend this unplanned day when horses and wranglers have their day off. There are plenty of options – drive to the historic mining town of Bisbee, tour the Karchner Caverns, head back to Tucson for a little big-city life and shopping, or just enjoy a peaceful day on the ranch, maybe doing your laundry in the new guest laundry, hiking or just kicking back.
This year, however, our group of three decided to spend the day in Tombstone, “the town too tough to die” located little more than an hour’s drive from the ranch on Highway 80 just south of Highway 82. (An added bonus of the trip is some spectacular scenery quite different from that of the ranch as you cross the grasslands on the way east.)
Tombstone has a bit of a reputation as a tourist trap. And there’s surely enough kitsch around to make it a tourist trap if that’s what you’re looking for. You can find remarkable numbers of tacky souvenirs, tours by horse-drawn US mail wagons, and so many “genuine authentic” re-enactments of the Gunfight at the OK Corral that I quite lost count. On arrival in Tombstone, it is both amusing and kitschy to be greeted by numerous re-enactors in the dress of the 1880s walking down the Tombstone streets (and sometimes trying to sell you the virtues of their particular “Tombstone experience”).
But Tombstone can also be a great deal more than that. It was truly the center of life in the Arizona territory for much of the late 19th century, and in a few hours, you can get a wonderful glimpse of the life and history of those times.
We had decided it would be fun to see one OK Corral re-enactment, and (thanks to the reviews on Trip Advisor), we chose the one entitled simply OK Corral Museums, located the closest to the site of the actual 1881 gunfight. The re-enactment was indeed quite entertaining with some reasonably good actors involved, but even more interesting were some of the museum exhibits. I was most intrigued by the replica of a prostitute’s “crib” and the discussion of the lives of these women in days when prostitution was entirely legal.
Best of all, however, was the museum in the old Tombstone courthouse which is now considered a state park. There you can learn about life among the Apaches, the final surrender of Geronimo to end the Indian wars, life in the mining communities, and the justice system of the day, just to name a few topics.
The exhibits are nearly all wonderfully illustrated, mostly by the photographs of C.S. Fly, who with his wife Mollie, was considered one of the first photo-journalists in North American history and the only white person to gain photos of the Apaches during their last battles and final surrender. The black-and-white photos, suitably enlarged, really give a feel of life in those times, all the more remarkable when one considers the huge amounts of equipment required for photography in that era.
If you want to continue learning about the history of the area, instead of buying regular souvenirs, several stores sell accurate and fascinating books describing various aspects of life then.
We all voted it to have been a well worthwhile day, and would recommend it to other Circle Z visitors who would like both a pleasant and an educational Sunday.
Written by Barb Mclintock, long time Circle Z Ranch guest