Although I'm a western writer, I've never stayed at a dude ranch. At least not until this week, when my wife and I spent time at the White Stallion Ranch outside of Tucson, Arizona. I discovered I had missed out on a lot of fun.
I had always assumed dude ranches were for Easterners who wanted to experience a controlled Old West. To a degree that's true. We found ourselves riding, eating, and drinking with people from all over the nation, as well as from England, Germany, Sweden, and Japan. Some were novices, but most were experienced riders who loved horses and beautiful, wide open landscape.
It surprised me how many had been coming back year after year. One reason many returned to White Stallion was the ranch staff. They were always gracious and at your elbow whenever you needed something. The ranch hands' politeness seemed contagious. All of the guests were in a holiday mood and eager for the next adventure. This was resort living, seasoned with bit of adrenalin. What a combination.
And the biggest surprise … the adventures seemed genuine. This was especially true for the popular riding lessons. The lesson occurred in a huge corral, and focused on pushing skills to the next level. I had ridden a horse many times, but never had a wrangler give me a private lesson. It made a world of difference, and I'm sure my horse appreciated it.
It was a great stay. We relaxed, ate too much, met interesting people, and became much better riders. We intend to be back in the spring with friends. Maybe we can even get the grandkids out here to race around the corral on a pony. It never too early to help them become Western enthusiasts.