Whether a seasoned equestrian or a novice cowpoke, the Tanque Verde Ranch outside of Tucson Arizona will keep travelers pampered, entertained and well fed.
After arriving in the high desert outside Tucson, it took a few hours to downshift from city chick to cowgirl. Seeing nothing but rocks and cacti for miles can be slightly intimidating, but it wasn’t like I was lacking in creature comforts, after all, Tanque Verde is a full-service vacation destination. But to this city girl, the untamed barren surroundings were a real change of pace.
Founded in 1868, Tanque Verde is a historic working ranch nestled into the foothills of the Rincon Mountains, between the Saguaro National Park and the Coronado National Forest. So as not to obstruct the breathtaking landscape, the resort is comprised of rustic-themed, single-story, earth-tone buildings.
I checked-in at the front desk and hoofed it up to my room, which was located in a quaint structure, up a winding path from the main office. I opened the door to find charming accommodations but immediately realized there was no television! I found out later there was a method to their madness. Tanque Verde wants to encourage guests to get out into nature and enjoy the resort’s many offerings – not veg-out in front of the tube.
The next the morning, I joined the breakfast ride, which is a horseback excursion up to a plateau where the Tanque Verde chefs prepare an outdoor breakfast with all the fixins’, including blueberry pancakes, scrambled eggs, bacon, coffee and juice.
Perched on a mountain peak, we ate at traditional picnic tables draped with white and red-checkered cloth. The hilltop view was incredible and the air was so fresh. After breakfast, we rode down the hill for a class called team penning. This is where they take a group of 20 riders and break them up into teams of five, who then compete against the clock to herd cattle around barrels, through cones and into pens. I loved this exercise.
I realized when you’re busy trying to coerce a horse to turn this way and that, your thoughts are pulled away from deadlines, your boss, and your ex-husband. There is also a great deal to learn in their intermediate riding class, such as how to lope, drive a horse around a barrel course and steer the horse in and out of cones while trotting. These maneuvers led to the most accomplished nail I ever broke.
Tanque Verde offers a “Lope Ride,” which is a group that goes out to run with the horses in 1-minute stretches. To me, this was the “mane” event. However, there is a prerequisite for this; guests must pass a “lope check” which is a test to see if riders can maintain proper technique while the horse gallops.
There’s a lot of horse riding to be done, so you’re sure to work off those saddlebags. I’m a bit horse crazy, but guests can ride as little or as much as they like. There are over 170 horses at Tanque Verde and the instructors know their names and each of their personalities.
Tanque Verde is popular with English and European tourists. They like to learn “as seen on TV” Western riding techniques, in a true desert setting, which is so foreign to their usual milieu. Although some of them still show up in their English riding attire, their “get back up on that horse” determination is perfect match for the American cowboy’s approach to riding.
Guests with saddle-sores can take advantage of the beautiful pools and spa amenities with facials, body wraps and massages. And for those who prefer to relax in a different manner, the resort features a man-made pond stocked with trout, catfish and blue gill for catch-and-release fishing.
Tanque Verde evenings start out with prickly pear margaritas in the Doghouse Saloon and then dinner in the main dining room. The food is hearty and delicious. There’s something for everyone on the menu and their array of desserts is so tempting, you just won’t be able to say neigh!
Tucson is known as the “Astronomy Capital of the World” and is home to the world’s largest collection of optical telescopes. City ordinances keep outside lights to a minimum, in order to maximize the clarity of the constellations. I was awestruck by the night sky at Tanque Verde because I had not seen that many stars since I was a child at summer camp. If you like watching meteor showers, this is the perfect place to gaze up into an active night sky.
This story is getting a little long in the tooth so I’ll jump to the tail end. When I arrived at Tanque Verde, I was shaking in my boots, but I took the bull by the horns, and learned so much. I can’t wait to get back in the saddle! Happy trails!
Copyright © Barbara Bloom/2017 Singular Communications, LLC.