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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