We are thrilled to announce the hiring of our new chef, Chris Andrus, a truly amazing chef and all around great person. What stood out to us in our conversations with him was his sincere passion for food and his creativity in the kitchen. Get ready to notch another hole in your belts as we ratchet it up in the dining room! Read more here from Chris’s bio and take a look at some of his creations!
Chef Christopher Andrus Bio
A Long time Houstonian with Latin Roots and Southern influences, Chef Chris Andrus was lured into the culinary world when his passion for this industry and for food was recognized at an early age. Chris interned at the Marriott Intercontinental Houston as a junior and senior at Humble High School. Chris attended classes at Austin’s Culinary Institute and the Arts Institute of Houston. He went on to study at San Jacinto College, where he learned to develop his own unique style and flair. He continued with his career at exclusive restaurants and hotels such as Bank-Hotel Icon (interned under Jean George Vongerichten and Brian Caswell), Cullen’s Upscale American Grille, and Sous Chef for the Astros Diamond Club, Peska Seafood Culture and Eloise Nichols grill and Liquors.
Over the years, Chris worked under influential leaders of the Houston culinary profession who helped shape his style and depth of knowledge. In recent years Chris has competed on and won Cooking shows such as the Food Networks Cutthroat Kitchen.
Chris’culinary philosophy and passion reflects the growing trend towards staying local with an international flair. Chris won Future Farmer’s of America (FFA) awards for his Horticulture skills and created an award winning organic garden in his backyard at an early age. So working with neighboring farmers to seek out the finest in regional and local organic produce, is the essence of his cuisine. Chris’ preference is to allow the natural flavors of food to express themselves…You eat with your eyes.
In addition to cooking, Chris’s passion is music and is known to be caught singing during dinner service. As a Cancer survivor, Chis believes whole-heartedly in staying active and being physically fit, continuously learning and always having fun. And he has been known to double as the singer for weddings he is also catering!
As horse owners, we find the need to move horses from one place to the other, whether it is a few miles or a few hundred miles. When I first started hauling long distance with my horses, I searched for helpful tips on doing this safely. With research and experience, I found that the more we plan and are prepared for a long haul with our horses the more successful the outcome.
A month before traveling, I carefully plan my route. I don’t like driving in a lot of traffic, so if going through high traffic areas I try to plan during non-peak hours, such as weekends or mid-morning. If going for more than 1 day, I search for stables or fairgrounds where the horses can have a nice break from the road and get some needed rest. Call the stables in advance to make sure they have room and inquire about types of areas they have. I prefer a nice turnout area for the horses, but some prefer indoor stables. To find places to overnight board, I do a google search for stables or fairgrounds in the areas I plan to stop. I look along the routes and try not to make it longer than 8 hours between the overnight stops. I do not have a trailer with LQ, so I try to find hotels near to the stables. Most stable and fairgrounds have ample room for parking trailers. There is a lot to say for stop overs that are not too far off of your path and are easy to locate, especially if you arrive after dark. Most places are very good at giving good directions and information about your horses’ accommodations.
If you are traveling across state lines, you must have a Coggins test (which are good for 1 year), and a Health Certificate. You should plan at least 2 weeks in advance so to be sure to have the results by travel time. My vet will also send along Prevail, Bute and Antibiotic eye ointment in case of veterinary emergencies. Also have your trailer stocked with vet wrap, scissors, knife, duct tape, fly spray, linament and anything else you may routinely use for your horses.
The week before traveling, I make sure my vehicle and trailer are all in top running condition. Check the tires, check all fluids, make sure bearings are packed, and that the floor under the trailer mats are in good shape. Also make sure there are no fuses blown when you hook the trailer to your truck and that all lights are working.
Hauling long distance can be stressful for horses, but it doesn’t need to be if you plan ahead and pay attention to detail. First of all, make sure that the horse is comfortable loading into the trailer that you will be taking them in. Loading into an enclosed trailer is much different than loading into a stock trailer. I find the slant trailers with butt bars are much easier on the horse for long trips. Also make sure if you are using the butt bars for the horses’ first time you let them get used to that before-hand. If your horse has never ridden in the trailer, make sure to get them out on the road a few times before the trip so they get the feel of the movement.
To prevent colic and encourage water intake on the road I give psyllium to my horses the 7 days leading up to departure. The day before, and during travel, I add a powdered electrolyte to the grain to encourage water intake.
When preparing the day of, I make sure I have enough hay and feed for the journey. The Cashel Hay Bale Bags are nice for storing the hay and keeping it dry in the back of the truck. Or, you can also store hay in the front stall of the trailer if there is room. I use hay bags for feeding the horses on the road, and make sure I have physical access to more hay to fill their feeders while on the road. I also clip a water bucket in front of them and use the Horse Spa Hole N Hole to keep the water from spilling while allowing the horses to drink. I always put down wood chips on the trailer floor to absorb any urine and prevent slipping while offering a soft cushion for their legs. Most trailers have a 25 or so gallon water tank so make sure this is full to use out on the road.
I also tie my horses in the trailer when hauling. You can use either their lead rope or a strap with a safety release. I do use one of the latter for my young horse who likes to untie himself. When tying, make sure the tie is secure, that there is enough rope length for them to eat their hay and drink water but not to drop down too far below the level of the feeder. No-one wants a horse getting their legs tangled and panicking, causing real harm to the horse.
After loading the horses, and before hitting the road, I do a thorough walk around to make sure all doors and windows are secure, the trailer running lights and brake lights are working, and all safety straps are in place.
While on the road, I make sure the horses have plenty of air circulating, but do not allow them to stick their heads out the windows. Most trailers have bars and/or screens over the windows that allow the horse to look out and to get plenty of air circulating. These also drop down if you need access to the horses head and for placing more hay and water for the horses during the trip. Be aware of the temperatures outside in case you need to adjust the circulation pattern.
While on the road, I make sure to stop at least every 3 hours, to gas up and give the horses about ½ hour to rest. Make sure to figure in this time when you are mapping out your trip, especially if you are on a tight schedule (and the looser your itinerary the better because the unexpected always happens!). I do not unload my horses along the way. Horses are fine for up to 9 hours in a trailer as long as they have food and water, and unloading during the trip just adds to your end time considerably. Rather, get to where you are going and let them –and you- have a long rest.
And if you decide to hire a hauler to transport your horses, do your research and ask plenty of questions! Assure that they have overnight stops with unloading, that they provide water and feed on the trip, and that they clean the trailers well between hauls.
When travel becomes necessary, please consider some of these tips to help you and your horse have a stress-free trip!
CIRCLE Z RANCH
This all-inclusive, family-friendly dude ranch delivers on an authentic, horse-focused experience. Continue HERE
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.