Horse Talk



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!

Jenn

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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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