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So far Diana has created 13 blog entries.

An authentic dude ranch experience

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.

By |June 30th, 2017|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Horsemanship with Carlos Tabernaberri

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Working with a large herd of horses requires endless amounts of  patience, plus knowledge of how horses see things in their hierarchical world. Patience can be learned through conscious effort and practice. How horses see the world is often more elusive. Working with a horse trainer and clinician who has spent their lives training horses and studying horse behavior is key to keeping consistency in how we treat our horses.

Carlos Tabernaberri is such a person. I first met Carlos at the Apache Springs Ranch, located at the base of the Santa Rita Mountains. With my wranglers and several young horses in tow, we participated in a three day horsemanship clinic under Carlos’s guidance. What I admired so much about Carlos was his philosophy, which is not a bunch of steps, but a bunch of well thought out ways of how to treat horses, and how to create a relationship that puts the horse first always. That with consistency, confidence, kindness and leadership we can achieve the trust, obedience and respect of our horses. By the end of the clinic, and after I brought my little Mexican horse Chispas back to the ranch, I realized that my relationship had been changed with this horse, and his life had been changed as well. Once untrusting and reactive, Chispas is now a joy to ride and a trusting partner.

I had been to other clinics, and had worked with others who were self proclaimed “horse whisperers”, yet I never felt completely comfortable with how they treated the horses. Snapping the horses on the nose with the reins to “get their energy up” or running them wildly ad liberty in a round pen so they would be “focused” when it was time to work under saddle. Or bumping them harshly on the nose with a knotted halter to get them to back, or to stop, or to behave while doing ground work. These things just seemed wrong, yet I could not explain why. Until I started working with Carlos.2016-12-11-09-58-03

I invited Carlos to come to the Circle Z Ranch the following winter, both to work with my staff as well as to run a week-long horsemanship clinic for our guests. Carlos is the best thing that could have happened for our ranch and for our horses, because he truly gets horses, and has a comprehensive way of explaining why the above techniques lead to behavioral problems, when the horses are labeled bad, or dangerous, or high headed, or head shy. These issues stem from their handling, and not the horses inherent “personalities”. I realized that we had unknowingly created problems, and how with patience and sensitivity to the horses needs we would be able to remedy these issues.

Now I do not mean to insinuate that our horses were mistreated in any way. But sometimes it is refreshing and empowering to hear others, and to take to heart their philosophies, in order to weave them into your own mentality, and your own way of being. For me it is all about the horse, and putting them first, so that what we do with them is merely helping them to understand why it is ok to do what we ask of them. That what we do is never unkind, and is never forceful, and is always in the moment, the way horses are in the moment.  So much of what we do is right on, yet there were some things that were just not working. And the beauty of all of this is that my staff took the teachings of Carlos to heart, and admired him not as a “clinician”, but as a good friend who has excellent advice, and has a way with horses that was quite honestly astonishing.

We can’t wait to have Carlos come back next year, and for our guests to be able to learn from this gentleman who is profound and charismatic and kind. For our staff, our guests, and above all our horses, life is good, we are all grateful for the presence of this man.

For more information, please consider reading “Through the Eyes of the Horse” by Carlos Tabernaberri, available on Amazon.

 

 

By |February 20th, 2017|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Caring for the ranch horses

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New shade port for day pasture

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 concerted effort amongst 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. This year we will be trying a new method called Natural Balance Dentistry. Stay tuned for another article describing the process, and benefits, of this particular method.

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.

By |October 16th, 2016|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Rodeo fun at the Circle Z Ranch

Circle Z Ranch recently celebrated it’s 90th year as Arizona’s oldest continually operating guest ranch, and what a week it was! From a rodeo to a 1920’s party, with the week culminating with a grand afternoon party complete with food, bands and 300 guests; the week was magical.

The highlight of the week for our guests was definitely the rodeo, hosted along with a lunch ride cook out barbeque at our new Z Bar property. In the distant past, the Circle Z Ranch hosted a 4th of July picnic and rodeo, where thousands would be invited from the surrounding communities and ranches. So we thought it would be a fitting throw back event to host another rodeo, just minus the thousands of guests! Here are some photos from the afternoon.

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It takes teamwork to run a Team Roping event. Here, Rick Nash sits atop the chute, waiting for the cowboys to say go. Johnny and George are in the back ground making sure the steers are in their slot.

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Miko Lorta and his roping partner Bo Simpson breaking out of their barrier.

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When they caught up with the steer, the crowd went wild!    Well, maybe not wild, but you get the point.2016-04-26 13.49.33-1

 

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And then there was our own waitress, Kayla, who is a barrel racing champion, and boy did she ever deliver!

2016-04-26 14.22.07Kayla and her horse Fancy impressed everyone, including the Team Roping Cowboys, with her obvious skill. So fun to watch!

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Wrangler Kelly also showed off her amazing horsewoman skills.

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Others participating in this exciting afternoon were our wranglers Davien and Tavo.

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At the end of the day, our young guest Daven from New York told his mom that he wanted to be a cowboy, too, and learn how to rope. So he got his dream, roping the practice steer at Los Corales with Miko’s guidance. Perhaps one day he will be featured in a Circle Z Rodeo!

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Perfect ending to a magical day! Thanks to all who helped organize this rodeo, especially Miko and Tavo for building the arena, for George and Johnny who helped load up the equipment, and to Jennie and Diana, who had the idea for this fantastic day! And of course, our fabulous guests who were game for a new experience. With friends like these, anything is possible. Thanks to Vicki Nielson, Bradley Green, Vannesa Haughtlin, and Diana Nash for contributing the photos.

By |May 14th, 2016|Community|0 Comments

Naturalist Vincent Pinto on Spring at the Ranch

 

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Circle Z Blog – Spring
Although spring officially begins later in March, it has arrived at Circle Z – owing to the warmer climes of southeast Arizona’s Sky Islands. Despite winter rains being down a bit, many hues of green are descending upon the ranch as various native trees, shrubs, and wildflowers send out foliage. Mexican Elderberry trees are fully leafed out and poised to proffer fragrant flowers soon. A nice variety of wildflowers are in bloom along Sonoita Creek and in the surrounding grasslands and desert scrub, adding color to Circle Z’s seemingly endless, wild expanses.

Perhaps most notable among the flowering plants is a medium-sized yellow shrub, sometimes called Willow-leafed Ragwort. You’ll know it when you encounter this stream-side shrub, as it has a veritable explosion of blooms that are often covered in beautiful butterflies, as well as other native pollinators. Rich Bailowitz, who coauthored the book Finding Butterflies in Arizona, recommends Sonoita Creek as the key location for finding them in February in all of the state! Look for Texan Crescents, Pipevine Swallowtails, Fatal Metalmarks, Tiny Checkerspots, and others at this fragrant shrub in the Aster family.

Meanwhile, 2 good years of rain have allowed wildlife populations to rebound nicely in and around the ranch. Guests this season have reported countless sightings of a wide range of species. White-nosed coatis are certainly on the prowl, searching for Netleaf Hackberries and other fruits as well as for any hapless invertebrate or small vertebrate. These fascinating tropical members of the Raccoon family have their main distribution in Latin America, but infiltrate our region as one of our so-called “Mexican specialties” – species who barely infiltrate into the U.S. Adult female and young male Coatis travel in groups, while adults males – the so-called Coatimundis – go it alone, save in breeding season. Sighting Coatis and other mostly tropical wildlife is truly a thrill. In fact, staying at circle Z is akin to traveling into Mexico without crossing the border – something special and exotic to be savored! Most guests come back repeatedly and the natural environments at the ranch are certainly a key reason for this.

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Gould’s Wild Turkeys – the largest subspecies – have made a remarkable recovery at Circle Z from the days when they were over-hunted in Arizona. Flocks of up to 30 birds have been seen this winter as close as the horse corrals. Mike, who helps run the ranch, even spied one in the jaws of a hungry Mountain Lion! Speaking of whom….. Ranch owner Diana Nash took several stunning photos of Cougars this winter from the ranch. One was of a Mountain Lion lounging in a tree, while a second (from a remote wildlife camera) shows a Cougar leaping spectacularly across Sonoita Creek! Seeing wildlife at the ranch is not just hypothetical, it’s a real possibility.

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Birders at the ranch have a treat waiting for them this spring as resident birds are joined by both returning neo-tropical migrants, as well as lingering wintering birds. My recent bird tours have unveiled an average of 40 – 50 species over the course of half a day. These including some Mexican specialties, including Hepatic Tanager, Painted Redstart, Montezuma Quail, Gray Hawks, and others All of these and other birds find safe haven on the extensive conservation easements at Circle Z.

Whether you are a non-birder, beginner, or advanced birder, know that when you come to the ranch and Sonoita Creek you’ll be at one North America’s birding Meccas! When you’re at the Ranch look for free the free, weekly Nature Walk by Naturalist and Wildlife Biologist Vincent Pinto – usually on Wednesday morning prior to your ride. He’ll introduce you to the flora, fauna, and geology of the region and help you to find local wildlife. Vincent is also an expert Wilderness Survival Instructor and will share some intriguing tips during the walk. Each week he also offers either an Astronomy Program or a Full Moon Walk, depending upon the Moon’s cycle. If you would like to go beyond your rides and these free programs, then he also can be hired as your private Nature Guide for exploring the region at large.

I can honestly say that despite traveling the world in search of wildlife and adventure (Africa, Asia, Europe, South America….) my favorite places to immerse in Nature are in southeast Arizona!

Written by Vincent Pinto, naturalist at Circle Z Ranch

By |March 14th, 2016|Nature|0 Comments

Training colts with Wranglers Val and Johnny

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We take great pride in breeding and training many of our horses right here on the ranch. Getting each one to the point of being a good guest horse takes time, consistency, and patience. We rely upon our wranglers, who are expert equestrians, to work with the young horses. Two of our wranglers, Val and Johnny, are doing an exceptional job with their three-year olds: Athena, a beautiful sorrel filly, and Charles, a handsome paint gelding.

Consistency is the key when training young horses, with the majority of their early learning taking place from the ground. The trainer uses lead ropes and training halters to teach them to walk, trot, and lope on cue. Backing up, yielding the fore and hind legs, and flexing are important to teach as well. Moving their feet from the ground makes the process smoother when they are under saddle, and each horse requires a different amount of time and energy to make this happen.

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For both Val and Johnny, their horses had already been through basic ground work when they started working with them in October. Val shared her thoughts on her early days with Athena “We struggled a lot in the beginning. I had the same experience with her that I had with a lot of mares, it takes a long time to gain their respect and trust. You really have to prove yourself, and once you get it, they will give you the world. They try real hard and never give up”. At first Val’s time spent with Athena was short, often only 10 minutes, and when Athena got something right the lesson would end. The key to successful training is in building the trust and respect, so the horse knows they won’t be put in danger. “Now we get along great. She understands the cues, and what I want her to do.”

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Charles and Johnny have a trusting relationship, and Charles is often seen searching over the fence for Johnny from the day pasture. “He is super good, really calm and patient with me because this is a learning process for me too.” Johnny does not profess to be a horse trainer, yet his laid back personality and ability to be consistent is making the work with Charles go smoothly. Not much bothers Charles, and it did not take long for Johnny to have him under saddle. “Laying over him and hanging out there on his back, petting him on his butt and shoulder while laying on him. Then it was super easy to swing up and start sitting on him. We worked on flexing to each side, then started getting forward movement in there. He’s a little like me in that any work to the left is a bigger hurdle.”

It takes time for the young horses to figure out how to balance with a load on their backs, so starting them with easy walking, trotting, and working in circles helps them figure out how to move under saddle. They are also still growing and are susceptible to injury if pushed too hard. “I am a big guy, so I will probably have someone smaller lope Charles when he is ready,” Johnny said.

Val has come a long way with Athena, and she is frequently seen riding her in the large round pen. They practice working on leads, steering while in a lope, and side passing on cue. Together, she and Johnny took the two horses out on their first trail ride down the polo field, across the creek, and back to the corrals via the railroad bed. Charles spooked a little at the sound of a tree branch scraping Johnny’s hat, and Athena didn’t like the shadows of the cottonwood trees, but they’ll get used to it. With consistency and lots of miles under saddle, they will make fine trail horses for our guests.

By |March 2nd, 2016|Horse Talk|0 Comments

A guests guide to birding and horseback riding at the Circle Z

Yes, I was the kid who always hoped for a pony under the Christmas tree. But if one wasn’t going to be forthcoming (and it wasn’t), another good choice for Santa would be a new field guide or better binoculars for my other outdoor hobby: birdwatching. I’ve continued to pursue both hobbies pretty well life long and love finding vacation spots where both are readily available.

Enter the Circle Z.

Southern Arizona is widely known by birders across North America as being an exceptional place to find birds that are difficult, and even impossible, to discover elsewhere on the continent, as many here are at the extreme northern limits of their ranges. This is true even in the depths of winter, which is when I visit the ranch.

The ranch’s location is ideal for birding in southeastern Arizona, as they are bordered on the east by Patagonia Lake State Park and on the west by the Patagonia-Sonoita Nature Preserve. Just across Highway 82 is the famed Roadside Rest, known for turning up rare birds year after year.
From the other side, any reader of guest ranch guide books knows that the Circle Z has been famous for its great horseback riding program for 90 years.

There are numerous ways of combining the two hobbies at the ranch. One of my favorites is merely watching for the frequently-amazing bird life while you are out on horseback, exploring the canyons, desert washes and mountain foothills nearby. I have found that many birds are less shy of humans when those humans are mounted on horseback than when on foot. As well, birds that prefer the more remote settings are much more easily found on a ride than when it would involve a trek of several miles over frequently-rocky and uneven trails on foot. During my week here in January 2016, I have seen flights of 20 or more Mexican (Gray-breasted) Jays fluttering iridescent blue in Flux Canyon, have been surrounded by flocks of Black-Throated Sparrows in the mesquite scrub, and have seen Montezuma Quail, that secretive skulker, scurry away up the hillsides.

Several wranglers who lead the rides (ranch manager Jenny, and wranglers Alice and Johnny) are all good birders in their own right, and are always keen to help identify a bird or to take a ride to the spot where a specific species has recently been seen. On many days it is also possible to ride for half of the day and then go birding for the other half. Paton’s Hummingbird Sanctuary is only a 10 minute drive from the ranch, and other well-known hotspots such as Kino Springs (one of my favorites) and San Pedro Nature Preserve can be easily covered in a half day. If you can spare a whole day from riding (a difficult decision to be sure!), Madera Canyon and Whitewater Draw would easily welcome you.

Some special birds are also big draws to the ranch area. It is one of the few spots where the Elegant Trogon can be seen reasonably regularly, and the nearby nature preserve was the site of the first sighting ever of Sinaloa Wren in the US. And this is all just during the mid-winter season. Come spring, hosts of hummingbirds, flycatchers and other species that prefer warmer weather, or are on their migratory route, begin to appear within easy viewing, often at the feeders on the ranch grounds.
Come to think of it, I might just have to try a Spring trip ….
Written by Barb Mclintock, long time Circle Z Ranch guest

By |January 22nd, 2016|Nature|0 Comments

A Day in Tombstone

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If you’re staying over a Sunday at the Circle Z Ranch, there is always the question of how best to spend this unplanned day when horses and wranglers have their day off. There are plenty of options – drive to the historic mining town of Bisbee, tour the Karchner Caverns, head back to Tucson for a little big-city life and shopping, or just enjoy a peaceful day on the ranch, maybe doing your laundry in the new guest laundry, hiking or just kicking back.
This year, however, our group of three decided to spend the day in Tombstone, “the town too tough to die” located little more than an hour’s drive from the ranch on Highway 80 just south of Highway 82. (An added bonus of the trip is some spectacular scenery quite different from that of the ranch as you cross the grasslands on the way east.)
Tombstone has a bit of a reputation as a tourist trap. And there’s surely enough kitsch around to make it a tourist trap if that’s what you’re looking for. You can find remarkable numbers of tacky souvenirs, tours by horse-drawn US mail wagons, and so many “genuine authentic” re-enactments of the Gunfight at the OK Corral that I quite lost count. On arrival in Tombstone, it is both amusing and kitschy to be greeted by numerous re-enactors in the dress of the 1880s walking down the Tombstone streets (and sometimes trying to sell you the virtues of their particular “Tombstone experience”).
But Tombstone can also be a great deal more than that. It was truly the center of life in the Arizona territory for much of the late 19th century, and in a few hours, you can get a wonderful glimpse of the life and history of those times.
We had decided it would be fun to see one OK Corral re-enactment, and (thanks to the reviews on Trip Advisor), we chose the one entitled simply OK Corral Museums, located the closest to the site of the actual 1881 gunfight. The re-enactment was indeed quite entertaining with some reasonably good actors involved, but even more interesting were some of the museum exhibits. I was most intrigued by the replica of a prostitute’s “crib” and the discussion of the lives of these women in days when prostitution was entirely legal.
Best of all, however, was the museum in the old Tombstone courthouse which is now considered a state park. There you can learn about life among the Apaches, the final surrender of Geronimo to end the Indian wars, life in the mining communities, and the justice system of the day, just to name a few topics.
The exhibits are nearly all wonderfully illustrated, mostly by the photographs of C.S. Fly, who with his wife Mollie, was considered one of the first photo-journalists in North American history and the only white person to gain photos of the Apaches during their last battles and final surrender. The black-and-white photos, suitably enlarged, really give a feel of life in those times, all the more remarkable when one considers the huge amounts of equipment required for photography in that era.
If you want to continue learning about the history of the area, instead of buying regular souvenirs, several stores sell accurate and fascinating books describing various aspects of life then.
We all voted it to have been a well worthwhile day, and would recommend it to other Circle Z visitors who would like both a pleasant and an educational Sunday.

Written by Barb Mclintock, long time Circle Z Ranch guest

By |January 22nd, 2016|Day Trips|0 Comments

Arizona’s Spectacular Sky Islands

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Southeast Arizona is extraordinarily endowed with surprisingly high levels of species diversity or biodiversity. Although the stereotype that most people harbor of Arizona before they ever set foot here is often one of expansive deserts, these are merely the the lowest of landforms above which loom a surprising array of habitats. Driving or, better yet, walking from the base of one of our loftier mountain ranges to its highest peak constitutes a virtual trip (in terms of habitats) from Mexico to Canada. From Desert to Spruce-Fir forest in a mere few hours! All things considered we may well be the most biologically diverse area in North America north of Mexico! For within Santa Cruz and a few surrounding counties we have bragging rights to an astonishing variety of taxa. All these figures are for North America north of Mexico:

• About 500 Bird species recorded – representing about 50% of all the birds recorded in North America – including the most Hummingbird and Sparrow species in this area

• More Mammals than any comparable area in N. America – over 100 species

• The most Reptile species, including the most Lizards, in North America • High levels of Ant and Bee biodiversity

• More than 2000 native Plant species

Why, then, do we possess such unexpected biological treasures? In a word – Geology. Landforms and their arrangement as well as elevation changes help in part account for our high levels of biodiversity. Here lofty mountains rise precipitously from normally very flat valleys in a Basin and Range topography so typical of much of the western U.S. and which stretches from Oregon well into Mexico. Nothing too unique in that then. However, our tall isolated mountains lie strategically positioned at a sort of biological meeting grounds or crossroads given our exact latitudes and longitudes. They trend North-South, connecting the temperate and tropical realms, allowing many southern species to reach the northern terminus of their ranges, while many Northern species barely make it into Northern Mexico.

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Looking at a map of the major local biomes or bioregions in the Southwest quickly confirms that a number of such key areas converge right here with Circle Z right in the thick of things. The Rocky Mountains sweep in from the North, lending us their Spruce-Fir Forests and a number of species more characteristic of higher latitudes. The Great Plains and the relatively high and cool Chihuahuan Desert trickle across from the East, providing such species as Scaled Quail, Ornate Box Turtles, and Lark Buntings. To the West we are dominated by the lower and warmer, and hence more diverse, Sonoran Desert. Finally, and bearing an inordinate level of importance, the Neotropical and Madrean (think Mexicoʼs Sierra Madre Mountains) provinces allow otherwise subtropical and tropical species to infiltrate our area. Many people are rightly awed by the presence of Jaguars, Ocelots, White-nosed Coati, and other “Mexican Specialties” in our Sky Islands – species whose ranges are mainly south of the U.S. border. We even used to periodically host Thick-billed Parrots before they were persecuted into their present rarity in Mexico and Mexican Grizzly Bears until they were pushed to extinction.

Add a great range of elevations to this every-which-way directional mixing of species and you have the perfect palette upon which Nature has painted its masterpiece of temperate biodiversity. Traveling from lower elevations into higher ones, an idealized view of our vertically-stacked habitats goes something like this: Desert (either one), Grassland, Chaparral, Great Basin Conifer Woodland, Madrean Evergreen Woodland, Pine Forests, and topping out with Spruce-Fir Forests and Montane Meadows eerily reminiscent of Canada. The very fact that the heavily wooded habitats within this retinue are perched above the relatively open and timber-free ones creates our famous moniker: Arizonaʼs Sky Islands. Islands of isolated forested habitats loom above virtual seas of deserts and grasslands.

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Circle Zʼs large slice of protected Sky islands habitats include their own high levels of biodiversity. The biological centerpiece of the ranch is Sonoita Creek, which artfully meanders through protected conservation easements. Along its banks youʼll find a Riparian Forest, rich in towering tree species. In the surrounding uplands you will variously see Grasslands, Desert Scrub, and hints of Oak Woodland. Each of these beautiful and unique habitats contain their own distinct, yet overlapping, complement of flora and fauna – all here for you to enjoy at Circle Z.

Come on one of my free Nature Walks on Wednesday after breakfast (no, you wonʼt miss your horse riding!) or schedule a private Naturalist Saunter with me to discover things at you own pace and length. Either way, keep a keen eye open and you never know what might show up. Maybe youʼll be the one to see a Mountain Lion, a Gila Monster, an Elegant Trogon, White-nosed Coati, Gila Woodpecker, Clarkʼs Spiny Lizard, Gray Hawk, Gila Topminnow ………

By |October 31st, 2015|Nature|0 Comments

Shoeing the Circle Z horses

When October rolls around countless tasks need to be completed before guests arrive for their ranch vacations. Shoeing our horses is one of the most time consuming; it demands skill, precision and strength. I visited with Miko, our corral manager and head farrier, along with Tavo from the corral staff for more insight on how this is accomplished.

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The Circle Z Philosophy

Circle Z horses run barefoot for the summer. Climbing over the rocky terrain helps to strengthen their hooves and allows their hooves to breathe and grow naturally. When they come back to the corrals in the fall, their hooves are trimmed from the terrain, making that first shoeing much easier.

During our guest season, we use over 1000 horse shoes, shoeing over 330 horses over the 6 month period. Our philosophy and practice is to have our horses shod when needed, as opposed to a strict schedule. For some horses, this means every 4 weeks; others may keep their shoes for 6 weeks.

Having our own farriers on staff as wranglers—as opposed to hiring farriers to come in—makes the process much less stressful for the horse as they are at ease with our wranglers. Miko and Tavo also know the tendencies of each horse and any issues they may have, making our instances of injury very low. All of our wranglers closely monitor the condition of each horse’s hooves, as well as their performance on the trails, to help determine when a new set is needed.

Each horse takes approximately 1 hour to shoe. Between Miko and Tavo they can shoe 12 horses in a day. Some colts are new to the routine and take longer, or may need a little something to calm them. And there are a few who just don’t like it. For the most part however, our horses are cooperative during the shoeing, accepting it as part of their jobs.

We use a cold shoeing method, while some of the ranches in the colder climates may use a hot method. Over the years, our corral manager has developed a hoof stand that makes it easier for both the farrier and the horse during the shoeing process. The horse is able to support his foot and to balance his weight on the opposite leg, rather than leaning in on the farrier.

The Shoeing Process

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The first thing to determine when shoeing a horse is the size of the shoe relative to the size of the horse’s hoof. We have a large farrier’s closet with shoes ranging in size from OO for the smaller horses to size 2 for the larger horses.

Next comes the meticulous rasping, or shaping, of the hoof. Farriers use a rasp to make the surface smooth and even, being careful not to file too much into the hoof. With a trained eye for detail, they determine the shape the horse shoe needs to take, and return to the anvil to pound the hard, yet pliable steel shoe into the correct shape. It can take several trips from the horse to the anvil to get the shape right.

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Placing the shoe requires precision, making sure it lines up evenly and is centered with the frog. The process of nailing the shoe has a specific sequence to ensure the shoe fits perfectly. The nails must have enough bite on the hoof, and protrude through the hoof evenly. Doing this incorrectly can cause a horse to go lame.

Some of our horses need to have their front hooves blocked; these are the horses that have a tendency to trip. Blocking involves placing a slight upward bend in the shoe on the front feet, allowing the horse’s hooves to glide more freely over the terrain.

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Shoeing horses in an art. It requires not only precision but an intimate knowledge of the horse and is very important for preventing injuries. Correct shoeing is imperative to keeping our herd healthy under a demanding riding schedule. Our ferries are masters of their art, and we are most grateful for the good care they give to our horses.

By |October 31st, 2015|Horse Talk|0 Comments