Horse Talk - Circle Z Ranch

Join us at the Historic Circle Z Ranch in Patagonia, Arizona for the The Essential Elements of Horsemanship® with clinician and trainer Lee Smith. October 23-27, 2023

To book contact [email protected] or call 1-520-394-2525

You will learn to:

  • Establish a relationship with your horse.
  • Gain confidence to feel safe with your horse.
  • Gain discipline in horsemanship skills.

This “Ranch Clinic” will take place in our covered arena, out on our trails, and at our Creek Ranch location for a day of cattle work. Lee will also have a colt starting demonstration with one of our ranch youngsters. For your participation, you can bring your own horse or use one of our excellent trail horses. We will offer three pricing options: an all-inclusive stay with the use of our horse; an all-inclusive stay and bringing your own horse; and a daily trailer in and trailer out with lunch provided. We only offer the use of our horses if the participant is staying at the ranch. No auditors at this clinic.


NOTE FROM LEE: If you are performing in Reining, Dressage, Cutting, Jumping, Barrel Racing, Endurance Riding, any Competitive Events, or just heading down the trail? Regardless of your discipline, Lee Smith can help you raise your level of performance and presentation. No matter the setting, the partnership of horse and rider working together in harmony is inspiring to observe and even more exciting to experience. Lee will offer insight, skills and instructions to enjoy the events you like now, while developing your horse and horsemanship in the process through feel, timing, balance, and an understanding of equine psychology.

                        PRICING FOR THIS CLINIC                           

  • Package 1: All-inclusive with use of ranch horse – $3600.00
    Includes 6 nights of lodging and meals, use of facilities, use of a ranch horse and tack, 6 night and the fee for Lee Smith. Check-in Sunday 4-6 pm, Check-out Saturday 9 am
  • Package 2: All-inclusive and bring your own horse – $3350.00
    Includes 6 nights of lodging and meals, use of facilities, use of a stall, fee for Lee Smith. Does not include feed for horse. Check-in Sunday 4-6 pm, Check-out Saturday 9 am
  • Package 3: Daily bring your own horse – $2425.00
    Lunch, use of facilities for the day, fee for Lee Smith. Does not include feed for horse.
    *Sales Tax and Service Charge included in pricing
    *25% deposit due upon booking, 90-day cancellation policy



Lee Smith lives on a cattle ranch in Estancia, New Mexico. She and her husband Mark have a cow-calf operation and raise quality Quarter horses at their Harmony Hills Ranch. Lee has conducted hundreds of clinics and demonstrations throughout the U.S. and Canada since 1991 as well as teaching ranch horse classes at the Diamond S. Lee considers herself a student of the horse, and lucky to have shared her experience with thousands of horse people from throughout the world.

Lee is a gifted and eloquent teacher who has extraordinary insight into horses and people. She shares what she sees as if speaking for the horse and thus provides her students with the opportunity to observe the exchange of communication between horse and human. Teaching people to learn from the horse.
Lee leads people on a pathway of discovery to the essential elements of horsemanship. She helps them to unlock their potential to understand the mind, body and spirit of the horse using what naturally happens, and then shows them how to appreciate and build upon the incredible moments of harmony that are possible. Lee believes that through life’s experiences (horse related or not), the answers lie within us.

Clinics around the country are conducted to prepare you and your horse for a greater level of performance. While clinic material may vary, each emphasizes communication with your horse without force or fear to establish a willing partnership rather than resistance. The goal is a horse that is soft, gentle and responsive that moves smoothly and relaxed in every situation. Lee will share her philosophy on building the confidence of the horse and rider through mutual trust and respect.
Whatever your interests, Lee can offer you insight and skills to enjoy the events you like now, while you develop your horse and your horsemanship. Join Lee and learn the essential elements of quality horsemanship.

The Circle Z Ranch is officially open for our 96th Season as Arizona’s Oldest Guest Ranch! Our Ranch family is excited to serve you on your horseback riding vacation this season.

Our off season  was filled with fixing fences (always!) and working with our young horses. The progression of our 3 and 4 year old youngsters has been very positive under training with Kelly, Diana, Jennie, Miko, and Omar. We were finally able to get Ginger, Lexi, Flash, and Dolce under saddle and riding out on the range this summer. We look forward to many more rides with them!

The summer monsoons started late but brought an above average amount of rain, always appreciated with our drought conditions. If you are here earlier in the season you will see the lovely green grasses and the trees lush with leaves. This Fall should bring some amazing colors to the Sycamore, Cottonwoods and Ash trees  which adorn our native habitats.

We are looking forward to introducing you to our new staff so check out the article below introducing the new and the return staff. This is a talented and friendly bunch and we have all been having a great time getting the ranch ready and doing some team building.

Please join us this Season at our beautiful ranch property. We continue to fuss over every detail from the corrals to the kitchen and in the rooms.

We can’t wait to see you!

The Circle Z Family

Our 96th season runs from October 30, 2022-April 23, 2023. We look forward to welcoming our friends from around the world back to the ranch for our 96th year!

                                                                         Order Our New Circle Z Ranch Cook Book!

The Circle Z Ranch Cookbook features over 150 recipes by Pastry Chef Lydia Fairlamb and Chef Eric Williams that have been branded with an “outstanding and seriously good” approval rating by our valued Ranch Guests, A culinary tradition of our fine cuisine from The Circle Z Ranch kitchen can now be recreated in the comfort of your own home. This historic collection of recipes is now available to you in the first edition of The Circle Z Ranch Cookbook, available in our gift shop or from our online publisher. ORDER ONLINE


                                                                                   Our Staff for 2022-2023!
George, Jennie and Miko Lorta have put together an incredible and talented staff and look forward to introducing them to our guests. Jenna is back in the office and will be assisting you with your reservations. In our kitchen we are happy to have Lydia and Eric returning, and they are joined by the equally talented Natasha. Our waitresses are all new and so much fun: Diana, Sarah, Savanah and Taylor, and Chris will be helping them with dishes and other duties. Our wonderful housekeepers Myrna, Maria and Anna are back, and Raul will be keeping our grounds beautiful. At the corrals are Kelly, Alice and Omar, and the new faces are Wade, Brittany, Peyton and Mariah, all expert at handling horses and people!

Equine Dentistry is an important piece in the health of any horse. The teeth of horses are designed to grow and change throughout their lives, and physical issues can arise when the teeth grow unevenly or become damaged. The digestion of food begins in the mouth from the side to side chewing motion of the horse’s mouth. When their normal chewing motion is affected by hooks, broken teeth, or sores in mouth and tongue from sharp points, horses can display a variety of physical problems: Inability to keep on weight; sensitivity in the pole, topline and hocks; and a change in the level  of performance on the trail or in the arena.

For 5 years, we have worked with Equine Dentist Morgan Pearce. Morgan likes to begin her dental checks of our horses once they are 3-4 years old and ready to get under saddle . Morgan comes to the ranch 2 times a year and spends a full day assessing and floating teeth. We have done as many as 25 horses in a day! Each horse has their own needs for how often they need to be floated, depending on their age and their previous dental care. With diligent care over the years, most of our horses are purely maintenance and are on a 2 year schedule for floating. The floating is done with a speculum to hold the mouth open, a power float to even out the teeth, and light sedation to keep the horse calm.

Morgan grew up in South West, Virginia and moved as a young child to a ranch in Arizona with her parents. Morgan is a true cowgirl, raising and training Quarter horses and competing in rodeo events, mainly roping. Morgan also raises AKC Pembroke Welsh Corgis. Morgan is a certified equine dentist and studied dentistry at the Academy of Equine Dentistry in Glenn’s Ferry, Idaho. She now does yearly continuing education to keep up her certification. Andi if this isn’t enough, she is studying Pre-Veterinary Medicine at Arizona State University.

According to Morgan, “The overall purpose of equine dentistry is to make sure horses teeth erupt (grow) yearly. This growth can cause uneven wear, leading to sharp points that irritate the cheeks and tongue, causing major issues when eating and riding. This also leads to weight loss, pain and decreased performance. Regular teeth floating enables full nutrition and peak riding performance. If you don’t get this done the horse can have major health issues. It is imperative for overall health maintenance”.

We are grateful for our partnership with Morgan and the difference she has made for our herd! We hope if you own horses that you have a qualified Veterinarian or Equine Dentist to help you with your horses needs.


Announcing our Fall 2021 Re-Opening!

Arizona’s Original Dude Ranch begins our 95th season on October 31st and we are thrilled to welcome our friends back to Southern Arizona! Though much at the ranch has changed over the years, so much has remained unchanged: outstanding horses, great food, comfortable accommodations, and fun for every generation! Each cottage has been remodeled, our horses are fully rested and ready to work after a very long break, and our new kitchen crew is working hard on planning our made-from-scratch menu. Reservations for this season are filling up very quickly, so if you have yet to schedule your vacation, now is the time to do it!

Our 95th season runs from October 31, 2021-April 17, 2022. We look forward to welcoming our friends from around the world back to the ranch for our 95th year!


Here’s What’s New this Year

DINING: Our dining room is fully remodeled and doubled in size, with nice lighting and ventilation, a full- service buffet area, and an expanded outside patio. We have also placed outdoor tables around the ranch for those wishing to grab a to-go container and eat outdoors.

GUEST ACTIVITIES: George and his crew built a volley-ball court near the tennis court and horseshoe area, spreading sand to soften the footing. Yoga is back twice a week with Mariam, helping you limber up after a long day in the saddle. We have a new offering of “Sip-n-Create” with Heather Buton on Thursdays. Show off your creative side while decorating horseshoes, painting, or jewelry-making and have some wine on us. We have purchased 4 new kayaks for our guests’ use at Patagonia Lake! The kayaks will be stored at the Lakes’ Visitor Center, alongside paddles and life jackets. Just let us know if you are interested in some paddling and we will set you up with a day pass at the Lake!

ENTERTAINMENT: We will have Joe Barr back performing music and poetry at the campfire on Wednesday nights and Bill Ganz filling up the cantina with his guitar and vocals on Saturday night. Vince Pinto will still be leading the way with his expertise in local flora and fauna on Wednesday morning. We are sorry to say that Paul Michaelson has retired this year from selling jewelry and Zapotec weavings and it will take some time to fill his shoes! Heather has agreed to bring along some of her unique creations to sell at Thursday’s Sip-n-Create.





At the Corrals

Our herd of horses fared very well over their year off. Rested and healthy, they had plenty of grazing when the record-breaking monsoons hit in July! Over the past year we have been working with 7 new horses for our guest herd, so welcome Bueno, Cinch, Dwayne, Picante, Saffron, Rip, and Taz. They will all be great horses for our guests.

You will be seeing more of our young horses being ridden by our wranglers out on the trails: Fargo, Pablo, Cocoa, Apollo, Martina, Comet, Louie, Bourbon and Aztec. We are so fortunate to have the time and expertise to bring these horses along and to watch them progress as friendly and responsive horses.

While getting the horses ready for our guest season, there are so many details to cross off our list: shoeing, dental work, vaccinations, and cleaning burrs out of manes and tails. The trails have become very over-grown following the heavy rains, and it has taken our wranglers a lot of work to clear them from mesquite, cat-claw, and all the other thorny desert growth.




Our Specials

Along with our always popular pre-holiday, adults only, and rough riders week, we are adding another exciting week: Women’s Only Cowgirl Up Week! Please follow the link for all the fun facts to help you plan your vacation.



Our Staff

Our General Management Team remains Jennie and George Lorta, the best hosts anyone could ask for. Their son Miko is still keeping the horses and guests happy at the Corrals. Jenna has taken over in the office and is doing a great job keeping the reservations and gift shop organized! Meg continues as our bookkeeper, and we are very grateful for her watchful eye! Our kitchen crew whipping up meals will be extraordinary chefs Eric, David, and Lydia, plus our Kitchen aide David. Waitstaff is Mariam, Angie, Sabrina, Autumn, and Emily, who will greet you every day with smiles and fresh coffee. Our meticulous housekeeping team is Maria, Anna, and Myrna. Raul is back to help us keep the grounds lush and inviting. Rounding out our staff are the wranglers! Returning are Alice, Maddie, Kelly and Omar, who is now our year-round ranch hand. We are happy to welcome new wranglers Payden, Kim, and Ted, three great horse-people who are excited to get to know you!



This year we spent a considerable amount of time exploring for, and developing new trails around the ranch property for our guests to enjoy come this Fall. Some of the trails open up new terrain and some incorporate  old routes with a new twist! We thought it would be fun to take you along for the ride so you can see what goes into finding and developing new trails, where these new route are, their names, and how we plan on using them!

So the fun part is going out to look for new trails. We always have an idea in mind of the areas we want to explore and open up, so we spend time exploring these spots either by horseback or by hiking, Following old game or cattle trails is super helpful, especially when in steep terrain, because the animals always know the easy ways up or down a canyon! A couple of the trails this year were made to extend particular trails into loops, and it was a matter of visualizing, then hiking to find the best connection.

After we identify the chosen route, the real work begins. We load up chainsaws, loppers, small saws, McCleods and really good work shoes and gloves! With 5-7 staff, we start sawing mesquite trees, chiseling through cat claw (which is a nasty as it sounds) and kicking, lifting, or scraping rocks off of the trail. And just when you think you have found the best way up a steep canyon, Omar or Jennie will find a better way, which is great because that’s team work at it’s finest!

So here are the trails we’ve improved or rerouted.

  • Nancy Howard Trail. Widened this trail in several areas and removed rocks. Also made a connecting loop to Bradford Mine (which was only an out and back trail).
  • Sand Canyon. Removed lots of rocks from a steep area that circle up and around some large boulders in the canyon
  • The Trogan Trail: This is a rerouting of Steph’s Trail by the lake, which had become washed out and was also very steep! The new route is much gentler and adds about 30 minutes to this ride.

And here are the new trails:

  • Preston’s Trail connects Nash ridge with the old Stacy’s trail to the North of Circle Z Mountain. This trail does have some steeps, so is more for riders comfortable with that. It opens up some really beautiful views of Squaw Gulch. A good ride for those wanting a longer trail on the way home from the Chuck-wagon cookout.
  • Hideout Trail is a replacement trail for Smugglers, which had become too washed out and rocky. This trail connects off of Jesses Trail and is gentle,with great views to the North and Mount Wrightson.
  • The DJ Trail heads out of, or towards (depending on your starting point), the Bar Z Cook out area. The views are stunning of the Patagonia Mountain range and of Castle Butte and weaves in and out of some cool rock formation.
  • The Hohokam Trail is another near the Bar Z Cookout, and will be great for all day rides or the Bar Z Cookout ride. Whether you take the loop that goes all the way around Castle Butte, or the straight shot to the South of Castle Butte, you feel like you are using trails that were once used by the natives. And there are some surprises along the way!!
  • The Sierra Loop will make for a wonderful afternoon ride, as it heads in the direction of the Patagonia Mountains, and the lights and shadows are really great in the afternoon. We are considering offering this ride as a “photography” ride for those wanting a photo on their horse as a keepsake.


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 distances 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 board overnight, 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 the stables. Most stable and fairgrounds have ample room for parking trailers. There is a lot to say for stopovers that are not too far off your path and are easy to locate, especially if you arrive after dark. Most places are very good at giving directions and information about your horses’ accommodations.

If you are traveling across state lines, you must have a Coggins test (which is 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 is 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 distances 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 for 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, and 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 horse’s 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!


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 team approach of 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.

el sultan

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.



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.

Apollo is a rising 2 year old ranch bred horse.

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!

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