NOT SINCE the days of the old ’60s sitcom Mr. Ed have I felt so close to a tucson-004horse. But my time in the saddle with Scatter Gun has changed my life.

Bonding with horses is a rewarding experience — in some ways better than bonding with humans. People have opinions, and rarely do they keep them to themselves these days.

But equine are too smart for that. They have enough horse sense to steer clear of politics — and other relationship killers.

And so it was that a dapple brown horse and I came to be friends at the Tanque Verde Ranch near Tucson, recently.

Scatter Gun wasn’t the only horse in the herd, but he certainly caught my eye. Yet the first day I rode him, he seemed distant and aloof. I took each snort to mean when will this irritating woman get off my back?

Then I met horse trainer Tom Chambers. “I’m not a horse whisperer,” he said, “but a horse listener.”

He showed me how to work with my charge, to establish myself as dominant, and to gain the animal’s trust. Within minutes, my horse stood adoringly by my side, accepting me as its leader and its friend.

“Horses want security more than anything else,” Chambers shared. But unlike other animals of prey, horses will give humans their trust.

“Heart,” said Chambers “is the single trait in a horse that allows us humans to ride them in the first place.”

A survey of travelers finds most want an emotional tie to their destination these days. They want to come away feeling they’ve made a connection and learned something valuable. It’s not just about relaxing, but about growing — which brings me back to the Tanque Verde Ranch.With the economic downturn, even the best family destinations can seem quiet. That means amenities like riding lessons (all inclusive at this dude ranch resort) are practically private. With fewer people traveling now, you can have peaceful walks in the desert, surrounded by blooming cactus and snow-capped mountains in spring.

A typical day at Tanque Verde Ranch may see you taking a morning trail ride, high in the hills overlooking Paul McCartney’s sprawling desert mansion. Your afternoon activities may include tennis, mountain biking, or a riding lesson. Or, you might choose a nature walk or birding — or a massage”… or a nap.

The point is the timing may never be better for a visit to the largest dude ranch in North America. In the words of Mark Twain, “Twenty years from now you’ll be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do, than the ones you did.”



  1. Pingback: Bay Area Travel Writers » Blog Archive » “Vacation Escape on Horseback” by Ginny Prior

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