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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.

shoeing 2

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.

shoeing 4

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

A Conversation with Kelly, Circle Z Ranch Horse Trainer

kelly

Many of you have seen Kelly working with the young horses at the corrals, marveling at her patience and ease with these horses, as though they are talking the same language, which is her objective. Here is some background on Kelly, and her thoughts on Natural Horsemanship.

Kelly has attended numerous horse clinics over the years, from Tom Lynch to Chris Cox. She “lived horse” for twenty years, working with colts at the racetrack. By practicing with young colts everyday she developed her own style, one she uses with the “babies” at the Circle Z.

“I teach the colts how to get along, and to make things easier on themselves. Horses are reactive by instinct. The reactive side of their brain is huge while the thinking side is small. I teach them to use more of their thinking side, to figure out that they can trust me to help them make the decisions. It’s important for them to make good decisions for themselves, as opposed to simply reacting to every situation.”

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This is where the partnering is key, and when communicating on the horse level—as opposed to the human level—is so imperative. “I always look for the “try” from the colt when I ask them to do something. These can be the smallest of indications, like a slight lowering of the head, or are they looking at me instead of through me, even a flicking of their ears. After a lot of repetition, and consistency, they begin to learn that it is easier to give the “try” than to give the attitude.”

allie

When not leading guests out on rides, Kelly is with her babies in the corrals. “I love to teach. I love to see the light go on. With some, it just takes more time, more patience, but with a positive approach and giving lots of rewards, it really pays off in the end. I am only 100 pounds, I can’t compete with 1000 pounds of attitude. Giving respect, looking for the smallest of tries, and always starting with the simplest first. It makes all of our lives easier.”

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We will see the results of these “tries” this fall as our wranglers take the training to the next level. The babies Kelly has been working with since she started at the ranch are now 3 years old, and it is time for them to be ridden out on the trails, and to learn how to get along outside of the corrals. They will spend another three to four years before they are completely ready to be ridden by guests. But these early steps are critical ones. These young horses are so fortunate to have had Kelly as their leader, which makes us confident that they will ultimately be amazing horses for our guests.

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By |September 18th, 2015|Horse Talk|0 Comments

The Story of El Sultan, a Carthusian Stallion

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 |September 18th, 2015|History, Horse Talk|0 Comments

Visiting the Sonoita Wineries

Flying Leaf Vineyard

Photo courtesy of Flying Leaf Vineyard

 

Visitors to the Circle Z know what a delight it is to ascend from the arid desert surrounding Tuscon and into the refreshing mountains around Patagonia. In addition to the magnificent scenery and prime land for grazing livestock, this terrain is also proving ideal for vineyards.

Credit for this discovery goes to Gordon Dutt, a PhD with expertise in soil science from the University of Arizona. Dr. Dutt discovered that the red clay soil of the area (think Red Mountain) was very similar to that of Burgundy, France. In 1973 he purchased land near the tiny town of Elgin, just southeast of Sonoita and planted the region’s first vineyard.

Award Winning Sonoita Vineyard Wines

The success of Sonoita Vineyards started a trend, and soon other would-be winemakers began arriving in the area. Today the grasslands nestled between the Huachuca, Santa Rita and Whetstone mountains are a designated AVA (American Viticultural Area), a federally recognized wine-growing region.

Over forty years later, the Sonoita AVA is thriving. Today there are thirteen wineries in the region, many producing award-winning wines. Several have even been served at the White House. Varieties differ somewhat from one winery to the next, however most focus on grapes that like hot, dry days and cool nights, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo and Sauvignon Blanc.

 

 

Wilhelm Wineyards, Cab Sauv

Cabernet Sauvignon grapes bask in the Arizona sun at Wilhelm Vineyards, photo by Wilhelm Vineyards

 

Visitors are welcome. The Arizona Wine Growers Association has created a Sonoita Wine Growers Trail, with a map highlighting the wineries’ locations in and around Sonoita and Elgin. A tour of the wineries makes a nice half day trip from the Ranch; most are open between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. In addition to wine tastings, many wineries also offer light meals and snacks. Be sure to appoint a designated driver, or ask the ranch for help in arranging transportation—there are several local companies that specialize in wine country tours.

Upon returning from a day of Sonoita wine tasting, take a look at Red Mountain and see if there’s any resemblance to Burgundy, France.

Click for a printable map of the Sonoita Wine Trail, with wineries and opening hours.

Sonoita Winery Picnic

Enjoy a picnic at Sonoita Winery, photo by Sonoita Winery

 

By |August 15th, 2015|Community, Day Trips|0 Comments

Camels of the Southwest Desert

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Artwork from Smithsonian Magazine

The colorful history of Arizona draws many visitors to her borders. The true spirit of the West lives here, with memories of Apache raiders and brave settlers, mining giants and cattle barons. And into this mix is thrown an anomaly that perhaps makes sense to those who know the Southwest: camels. Yes, the U.S. Camel Cavalry, a brief but memorable experiment with this non-indigenous breed, sporting indigenous traits. The year was 1855.

With the transcontinental railroad decades away, the expansion into the West and Southwest seemed a daunting, yet much desired, venture. Secretary of War Jefferson Davis had an epiphany. Why not use camels to help move supplies between military outposts, and to help in the settlement of the West?

By nature and design, camels seemed a perfect fit for desert life, much more so than the mules being used by the military. Able to travel long distances with no water, our arid climate was a breeze for camels. They also thrived on desert flora, making the thorny, dried, and basically unpalatable forage a meal worthy of consumption. Adding in their ability to carry up to 1000 pounds over 30 miles, the westward push seemed less daunting.

Jefferson Davis was able to convince Congress to appropriate $30,000 for the procurement of camels for military purposes, a fortune in that time period. Over the course of the next two years, 75 camels were imported from the Eastern Mediterranean for this camel experiment. Expert handlers who knew the camel’s quirks were soon to follow. Their job would be to assist the hump-backed creatures in their assimilation to life abroad.

Soon after landing in the states, the camels were sent to military forts in Texas and California. They were mostly employed as pack strings to move supplies between the outposts. The camels were also used for expeditions in search of supply routes along the U.S./ Mexican borders.

But these hard working camels were not popular. In Washington the mule lobbyists opposed further camel purchases, and petitioned to protect the mules’ foothold in the Government packing contracts. And in the military forts the reputation of the camels were tainted: horses were annoyed by them, the soldiers found them to be contemptible, and they had the inconvenient tendency to wonder off at night.

The outbreak of the Civil War put an end to the official Camel Cavalry experiment, and after only six years, the Government wanted out of the camel business. But what do you do with unwanted and out of vogue camels? The U.S. Government ordered the camels to be put up for auction. Some were sold off to the salt and copper mines. Others were sold to zoos and traveling circuses. The railroads in Arizona took on some to help in the construction of the transcontinental railroad. The Confederate Post Office Department even employed camels for mail delivery. And others were simply turned loose to graze in the desert, finding their way into Mexico and the grasslands of Arizona. They roamed the desert, along with commercially imported camels that had been turned loose by owners who had also lost interest.

And so the camels became feral, surviving for a few years in the desert. But there numbers were not enough to support a thriving population, so they quickly and quietly diminished. In the early parts of the 19th Century, reports of the feral camels were made by crews surveying the international boundary between Mexico and the U.S. Passengers on the Pacific Railway would also see the occasional camel out their windows as they traveled the long routes. By the 1920’s the camel sightings came to an end.

These Army camels, which had once been destined for greatness in the settling of the west, are now a blip on our historic radar. Imagine what our Sky Islands of the Southwest would be like if the camels had taken hold and survived in the wild. Or perhaps it is best that we do not know.

By |August 14th, 2015|History|0 Comments

Guest Profile: A family reunion and anniversary celebration

Dick and Bert Wolf-Circle Z 2014

A couple that’s been married for a long time must have a few things in common. But interestingly for Dick and Bert Wolf, horses weren’t always one of them. Bert grew up in the horse country near Louisville, Kentucky, but her husband was more of a city guy. According to Bert, “Dick’s only riding experience was on a pony at the Cincinnati Zoo for a nickel when he was a kid.”

But that was 24 years ago. In 1991 Dick, good husband that he is, thought it might be fun to take a ranch vacation, and selected the Circle Z. (He clearly knows a thing or two about a happy marriage!) That started a tradition: the Wolfs have come back to the Circle Z annually for the past 24 years.

Dick and Bert Wolf-60th Anniversary Circle Z

Bert and Dick Wolf: 60 (yes 60!) years of wedded bliss

So when it came time to celebrate their 60th (that’s not a typo, sixtieth!) wedding anniversary, Dick and Bert knew just where they wanted to spend it. But they also wanted to share this special event with family. Everyone in the Wolf family knew what the Circle Z meant to Dick and Bert, so they worked to join them for their special celebration.

After much calendar coordination, the Wolfs determined the best time to get the most family members to Patagonia was from December 19-26, 2014. In total, 20 family members of all ages made their way to the ranch to help Dick and Bert celebrate. “The ranch lends itself very well to this kind of an event,” says Bert. “We had riders of varying ability, and family members of all ages. There was always something for everyone to do.”

Dick and Bert 60th Anniversary, family trail ride

Dick & Bert Wolf 60th Anniversary, family by the fire

 

“Whether riding the trails or just hanging out by the fire, there was always something for the family to do together”

Dick and Bert were happy just having family around them at one of their favorite places, but the family had a few other plans. Working with Jennie, they arranged to have a surprise anniversary party for the Happy Couple. Saturday night the Game Room was transformed with music, decorations and a special cake. “We were surprised and thrilled,” said Bert. “Everyone had a great time–even two other family groups staying at the ranch that week got involved. The atmosphere was such that they were automatically brought into the fold.”

 Cathy shares family stories at Dick and Bert’s surprise anniversary party

Circle Z has always been about family; whether its aunts, uncles and cousins, the Nash family, the Lorta family, our family of horses . . . or simply the “family” of good friends getting together. We’re delighted that Dick and Bert chose to spend their special event (60 years! We’re still shaking our heads in amazement!) with the Circle Z family. And once you’ve visited the Circle Z, you’re part of our family too.

Dick and Bert, 60th Anniversary cake, Circle Z

By |July 3rd, 2015|Community|0 Comments

Day Trip: Kartchner Caverns

Kartchner Caverns by MRP, flickr

The eerily beautiful “Big Room” at Kartchner Caverns; photo by MRP, flickr

 

The southern Arizona scenery is beautiful, but there are some treasures that lie below ground as well. Visitors to the Circle Z might like to take an excursion to explore Kartchner Caverns, a truly stunning underground wonder.

Located at the eastern base of the Whetstone Mountains near the town of Benson, the caverns were discovered in 1974. Gary Tenen and Randy Tufts were exploring the limestone hills searching for a cave rumored to be in the area. What they found was a “live cave,” where stalagmites and stalactites are still evolving. Despite the fact that the cave was on private property, Tenen and Tufts continued to explore the cave in secret for four more years. In 1978 they shared their discovery with property owners James and Lois Kartchner with the intent of both preserving the unique caverns and making them available for others to see.

The existence of Kartchner Caverns was made public in 1988, when the caverns and surrounding land was purchased by the Arizona State Parks system. Extensive analysis of just how to admit visitors while still preserving the unique geological and eco systems, coupled with political red tape, delayed the opening of the park until 1999.

The entrance to Kartchner Caverns is tucked into the base of the Whetstone Mountains, photo by Lance & Erin, flickr

 

But the caverns were worth the wait! They are divided into several “rooms,” which can be toured separately or together. Highlights include:

  • One of the world’s longest soda straw stalactites: 21 feet 3 inches (Throne Room)
  • The tallest and most massive column in Arizona, Kubla Khan: 58 feet tall (Throne Room)
  • The world’s most extensive formation of brushite moonmilk (Big Room)
  • The first reported occurrence of “turnip” shields (Big Room)
  • The first cave occurrence of “birdsnest” needle quartz formations
  • Many other unusual formations such as shields, totems, helictites, and rimstone dams.

Even if spelunking is not your thing, Kartchner Caverns are magnificent and worth a detour. Tours are about 90 minutes each. There is a Discovery Center/museum, as well as picnic grounds on site. The caverns are about 50 miles northeast of Circle Z Ranch, which make them an excellent day trip destination. Bring a picnic lunch from the ranch, and enjoy a day exploring some of southern Arizona’s underground beauty!

NOTE: In order to preserve the caverns guest admission is limited and reservations are recommended. For more information go to Kartchner Caverns State Park.

For a video preview of the caverns, see below:

By |July 2nd, 2015|Community, Day Trips|0 Comments

Flux Canyon and the Civilian Conservation Corps

Shortly after the Circle Z was established in 1926 America found itself in the grip of the Great Depression. When Franklin Delano Roosevelt took office in early 1933 he faced a challenge of an economy in a shambles with rampant unemployment. His administration established several New Deal programs designed to get people back to work and energize the economy. One of these programs was the Civil Conservation Corps (CCC), which reached right into Patagonia at Flux Canyon.

CCC Camp at Flux Canyon, taken by Murphy Lloyd Musick

A panoramic view of Flux Canyon Camp, facing northwest toward Route 82. Note the concrete slabs in the left center, which were the foundations for lodging tents. Photo by Murphy Lloyd Musick for the Patagonia Museum

The CCC had a dual goal: to conserve natural resources and salvage America’s out-of-work young men. The National Park Service had been established about 20 years earlier, increasing awareness of the value of the landscape. Yet public land outside the park system sorely needed irrigation, reforestation and overall land management. The CCC and its new workforce provided the perfect solution. In total the program established over 2,600 camps that employed over half a million men to address these public land needs.

Part of the Coronado National Forest group, the Flux Canyon camp operated from 1933 to 1935 and was located on the eastern side of state route 82 at the junction of Flux Canyon Road. Circle Z guests pass through the remains of the camp during the full-day cookout ride.

Camp related projects focused on water infrastructure: stream development, erosion control and well digging. Camp residents also took on firefighting duties. According to the U.S. Forest Service, in mid 1934 “all lookouts on the Coronado were manned by CCC enrollees.”

Mess Hall, Flux Canyon CCC Camp, photo by Musick

The concrete slab foundation is all that remains of the original mess hall, photo by Murphy Lloyd Musick, Patagonia Museum

Perhaps the most significant contribution by Flux Canyon Camp to Patagonia concerned livestock and grazing interests. CCC crews built fences, cattle guards and corrals as part of a U.S. Forest Service allotment program to regulate fencing and grazing among ranchers. These efforts improved overgrazed areas and ultimately improved the quality of livestock.

Flux Canyon Camp closed in 1935, with its residents moving on to Apache National Forest. Today all that remains are a few concrete pads that formed the foundations of lodging tents and the mess hall, along with a former administration building that is now a private home. But the effects of the CCC linger, in the fences, in the curves of Sonoita Creek, and perhaps in the cattle that are descended from those that grazed here during the Great Depression.

CCC Camp, Flux Canyon, original Admin Bldg, by Musick

The original administration building is now a private residence, photo by Murphy Lloyd Musick, Patagonia Museum

For more information about the Civil Conservation Corps, go to www.ccclegacy.org and www.nps.gov/parkhistory

 

 

By |June 5th, 2015|History|0 Comments

Patagonia Lake: A Park and Preserve

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Guests riding the higher trails on the western side of the ranch often glimpse the shimmering blue waters of Patagonia Lake in the distance. Despite blending beautifully into the scenery today, the lake didn’t even exist when Lucia Nash first came to the Circle Z as a child.

Patagonia Lake near Circle Z ranch

Patagonia Lake was formed by damming up a portion of Sonoita Creek

In the late 1960s a group of local citizens formed the Lake Patagonia Recreation Association, Inc. (LPRA) with the intent of creating a lake and recreation area. In 1968 a dam was built on the Sonoita creek west of the Circle Z, creating 256-acre Patagonia Lake.

Over the next several years the state authorities worked to acquire land surrounding the lake, which at the time was owned by oil company Conoco. Eventually the State of Arizona also secured title to Patagonia Lake itself and in 1975 Patagonia Lake State Park was established. So when Lucia acquired the Circle Z in 1976 she knew the land immediately to the west of the ranch would always be protected!

Today the park consists of over 2,600 acres in addition to the lake and abuts the Sonoita Creek State Natural Area along with the Circle Z, all ensuring a stable environment for the unique ecosystem found along the Sonoita Creek and around the ranch. Tracks from the New Mexico/Arizona railroad like beneath the lake, the same railroad that forms some of the well-worn tracks at the Circle Z.

Fishing is popular at Patagonia Lake in southern Arizona

Channel your inner angler at Patagonia Lake

The lake is a habitat for bass, crappie, bluegill and catfish, and is stocked with rainbow trout during the winter months making it a popular spot for fishermen. Kayaks and canoes are available for rental. If your next visit to the Circle Z has you “angling” to do some fishing or paddling, Patagonia Lake would be a good choice. For the rest of us, the lake provides a beautiful reflection of that magnificent Arizona sky.

Patagonia Lake is a perfect spot for canoes and kayaks

Quiet waterways among the marsh grasses provide wonderful spots for kayaking.

By |June 5th, 2015|Community, Day Trips, History, Nature|0 Comments

The Tack Room: a Photoessay

Circle Z Tack Room 9

There is something special about a well-maintained tack room. The saddles, blankets and bridles look so natural tucked away and in their places. The glow of the leather in the late afternoon sun speaks of trails well-ridden, horses happily nibbling on hay after a day out, all ready and waiting to go again tomorrow.

Circle Z Tack Room -Saddles

Circle Z Tack Room 6

 

Circle Z Tack Room 2

Circle Z Tack Room 8

 

Silhouette of George at Corrales

 

By |April 25th, 2015|Community|Comments Off on The Tack Room: a Photoessay