SHEDDING SEASON might be about over for some, but up north it’s still happening. The FURminator (found on Amazon) has been best my best friend for the past several years, however there is a different tool available. A good friend introduced me to Weaver Leather’s Shedding Comb for Cattle. It works great on horses and just as well on dogs with a medium coat like heelers and shepherds. I got mine from Horse.com and it costs about $30.00. My dogs just love the feel and beg to be groomed. I have never seen their coats look better. Give it a try, I think you will love it.
Tip by Carol Moore
The 104 year old Homeplace Ranch is making their lodge available on an exclusive self-catering basis. Imagine watching a horse herd while making your morning coffee. Located in the high cattle country between Calgary and Banff Alberta, Canada. Cost: $120/US or $150/Canadian. Visit website for more info.
VISTA VERDE RANCH, CO. Families find their way to Vista Verde for many different reasons. Some come because they want a family vacation where they can share experiences together. Others are time crunched and want to fit in an adventurous vacation for mom and dad while also knowing their kids are having fun. And others want to marry the two and have a little bit of both. With an engaging kids program summer and winter, and a specialized teen program in the summer, families can try out adventures together, or split up and take advantage of those programs to know their kids are having the time of their life while mom and and dad have a little fun. Regardless of what appeals to them about the ranch, most families choose Vista Verde because of the diversity of activities, luxurious accommodations, high level of service, food that walks the line between ranchy and fancy, and a beautiful, remote setting in the Colorado Rockies.
Summer time at the ranch is all about an authentic Western experience. We combine the best of “Old West” and “New West” with the variety of activities offered to our guests.
For those looking for “Old West”, they can immerse themselves in the cowboy lifestyle. Riding horses is much more than just a boring trail ride here at Vista Verde. The horse program is designed to educate and enlighten riders—from introducing a rank novice to the depth of horsemanship skills to challenging the more advance riders. The foundation is laid with well-trained horses, some of whom are bred and raised here at the ranch. From there, the wranglers kick off the guests’ stay with an in-depth orientation that lays out the main principals of the ranch’s training philosophy, and gives the guests a feel for how much they can dive into really understanding horsemanship if their interest has been piqued. From there guests can choose to just enjoy the scenery on trail rides that vary from relaxing walk-abouts to rigorous “bushwacking” outings or they can dive into cattle work, and a variety of clinics back at the ranch to round out the learning, and the fun. Most new guests are surprised by the depth of the horse program, and how much more they learned than they expected prior to their vacation.
Although many guests enjoy spending all their time on horseback, most are looking for a little more variety in their vacation. This is where the “New West” experiences enter the equation. All guided by highly trained professionals who specialize in their chosen sport, the options for guests are overwhelming for some, as there is no way to fit it all into one week! One day might bring a mountain biking skills clinic where the guests learn to ride obstacles on high-end dual suspension bikes in the morning, followed by a scenic wildflower walk to a high alpine lake. Some prefer to drop a line in one of the nearby rivers with a fly fishing guide, or learn the art of the cast on the ranch’s stocked pond. Others will head out to an aspen grove for “Wild Yoga”, while others might give rock climbing a try, or hop on a paddleboard on a hot afternoon at one of the nearby lakes. Some folks wear themselves out and find the cooking class, wine tasting, or photography workshop an appealing option to give their sore muscles a break. And, when all is said and done, a soak in the hot tub followed by a nap is pretty inviting.
Many of these activities can be enjoyed by families together, or the kids can head off with the kids program (typically the kid’s preference, despite the parent’s pleas for family time) and enjoy wild West adventures with engaging and enthusiastic kid wranglers. My kids join the kids program every week of the summer, and they never get tired of the fun activities from zip lining to riding horses to panning for gold. And, as a mom, I never get tired of the great role models that our staff are for the kids and teens. It’s pretty typical for the kids to be bawling as they leave the ranch, say good bye to their horse and their newly found friends. Those are good tears to have, as they mean it was a really impactful vacation.
Come winter time, the ranch turns into Vista Blanca. The blanket of snow creates a magical winter wonderland, and the “New West” activities turn into Nordic inspired adventures. Backcountry skiing is one of the hallmark activities of the winter season, with guides taking guests all over in the National forest, exploring frozen lakes, enchanted forests, and hidden meadows of sparkly snow. Alternatively, guests who want to burn calories can snowshoe either in the backcountry or on ranch trails or classic or skate ski on the ranch’s groomed trails. For those wanting to stay inside, the above mentioned culinary options are still available each week, as is yoga, Pilates, a beer tasting, and dance lessons.
In the vein of “Old West” guests can enjoy the heated indoor arena to continue to improve their riding skills with daily horsemanship clinics as well as horse training demonstrations and foal handling clinics. Bundling up and riding around the ranch with the snow crunching under the horses feet is a special experience, as is a classic sleigh ride—complete with jingling bells. A family sleigh ride is always a memorable event!
Just like the summer, families are welcome to try most of the adventures together, but also have the opportunity for the kids to take part in the kids program. Tubing is one of the most popular events, with snowmobiles pulling everyone back up the hill before they whoosh down to the bottom again. We get the kids out on horseback, and they usually help feed the herd of horses from the big feed sleigh every day as well.
During both the summer and winter seasons, evenings alternate between a casual family-style meal where the guests and staff all mingle together and share stories from their day’s adventures. Then, on other nights the adults get to enjoy a quiet, multi-course formal dinner while the kids devour their Dine-n-Dash and goof off with the kid wranglers. This gives a balance between time as a family and time for mom and dad to enjoy a beautiful meal, a nice glass of wine, and adult conversation.
Back in their cabins that the guests call home for the week, the housekeeping fairies tidy up each day and leave little surprises each evening during turndown service. A bubbling hot tub sits on the deck of each cabin, and the units are all spacious and comfortable for a family. Ranging from one to four bedroom, the cabins are rustic on the outside and anything but on the inside. Italian linens, robes, a refrigerator stocked with drinks and some snacks, a wood burning stove ready to light, and local soaps and amenities make the guests’ homes cozy and comfortable.
One of the biggest drivers for all of us who work at the ranch is making this more than just a vacation. We hope to inspire guests to renew relationships, make shifts in their lives, and revive their faith in the young people of our world through their interactions with our staff. There is a lot of energy poured into creating a healthy and growth-focused community here for our staff, and we want the guests to experience how amazing these young people are and get to know them during their stay. We say that they come here the first time for the amenities, the recreation, and the views, but they come back for the relationships. I believe that’s why there are so many tears at the end of a week!
For some quick facts, summer stays are all week-long stays (Sunday-Sunday) while the winter season has the option for stays as short as 3 nights (except during the Christmas and New Year’s holidays). There are also adult-only times during the fall and winter season, so those are great times for mom and dad to sneak away for a romantic getaway. Summer runs from the first weekend in June through mid-October and winter runs from mid-December until late-March. We close for the times in between as it can get a bit mucky around here as the snow accumulates in the fall and then melts away in the spring.
By Eileen Ogintz
VISTA VERDE RANCH, CO. — The secret to successful, happy vacations with grown kids: Plan something they love to do. In our case, that means a winter ski trip. And with one daughter now living in Colorado, it made sense to come here, rendezvousing with family from Los Angeles. But this year, I decided to mix it up—opting to spend half our winter ski week at a dude ranch, Vista Verde Ranch, on 500-plus gorgeous acres about 25 miles outside of Steamboat Springs and as far away from the crowds and tumult of a major ski area as you can get. There are guided snowshoe treks through the forest, Nordic and backcountry skiing, tubing, snowmobiling, winter fishing and of course horseback riding as well as the chance to take a clinic to learn more about horsemanship. There is also yoga, wine and beer tastings, Pilates classes and the chance to sit on your cabin porch in a hot tub or wooden rocker and watch the horses in the snow covered meadow below you.
There are just 10 cabins and three lodge rooms that fit a maximum of about 54 people; there are less than 35 here, including a honeymooning couple from Texas, a doctor and his pharmacist wife back for their ninth winter visit from Tampa, a family with two middle-schoolers from Texas, father and his grown son from Miami, couples from as far away as Honolulu, the UK and California. I love that unlike most of our previous ski trips, no one has to worry about planning meals, shopping for groceries, cooking or cleaning up. We just show up for meals—and it’s all delicious: Eggs benedict, pancakes or an omelet for breakfast. Three kinds of chili – veggie, meat or chicken for lunch accompanied by a salad bar and brownies for desert. Braised short ribs, pulled pork with Ramen and Onion Broth and Noodles for dinner. Did I mention wine, beer and soft drinks are included?
I love that the staff is so genuinely friendly and helpful—whether Ben Martin who enthusiastically pointed out animal tracks and different kind of trees on our snowshoe hike or the wrangler named Troy Corless who so loves horses. He delights in teaching us about them as we take in the beautiful vistas. In summer, families come for a week but in winter, many opt for just three or four nights. There are kids’ activities—trail rides and snow games, snowball fights and fort building, a riding clinic and even a cooking class. Several nights a week, kids can opt for an early dinner and supervised activity while their parents linger over several courses. The Wi-Fi is admittedly spotty but we are taking that as a plus. “Off the Grid!” my nephew says enthusiastically. The “kids” – who range from mid 20s to mid 30s — headed over to Steamboat today to downhill ski — the ranch shuttle took them and picked them up — while we opted to snowshoe and horseback ride — a morning activity, lunch (no waiting for a table at a busy ski resort cafeteria) and then an afternoon activity. At dinner, the staff comes around to ask us what we would like to do in the morning.
That and choosing which entrée we want for dinner is our biggest decision. We have lots of unfettered family time hanging out in our cozy cabin with its braid rug and wood-burning stove as well as lingering over dinner. So much better than texting to find out what they’re up to. Is it possible that we’ve really found a no-stress family vacation?
70 YEARS IN THE SADDLE
The Jessup family has been riding the ups and downs of Dude Ranching on their 3,200 acre ranch since Maurice and Mayme Jessup purchased Sylvan Dale in 1946. Their passion to share the beauty of Sylvan Dale with others has been the driving force.
This magical place has been a blessing to thousands of good folks who have come to unplug from the hi-tech world to experience the relaxing environment of the western lifestyle and the great outdoors.
“Sometimes it is hard to put into words the transformation that takes place in the individuals and families who stay with us,” says co-owner Susan Jessup. Guests deepen relationships with family and new-found friends as they share an evening around the campfire or the thrill of a white-water rafting adventure. They connect with their horse as they advance their skills in the arena and on the trail. They gain new appreciation for the land and wildlife. They also experience the quiet of a night under the stars, and respond quickly to the sound of the dinner bell promising wholesome ranch-style meals and home baking!
Sylvan Dale has overcome economic downturns, fire, and two major floods. The Jessups remain forever grateful to those folks who have given their time and resources to help the Ranch recover. They also take their hats off to their competent and dedicated staff whom add their own genuine expression of western hospitality.
In 2014, Sylvan Dale partnered with The Heart-J Center for Experiential Learning, a newly formed non-profit offering hands-on learning experiences for all ages. Already, the Heart J Center programs have enriched the lives of 2400 good folks from ages 5 to 85!
Located 7 miles west of Loveland, Colorado, in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, Sylvan Dale has been called “a treasure to Northern Colorado.” The Jessups and their staff invite you to celebrate 70 years in the saddle in 2016!
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.
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.
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 ………
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.
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
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.
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 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.
Tucson, AZ ~ August 13, 2015 ~ 50 years ago, the True family: Allen, Cynthia, 5 year old Russell and baby Michael were awakened by the gardener at their bedroom door wielding a large knife. He informed his new boss that he was off to kill Louise the cook and then on to Washington to kill Lyndon Johnson. No fan of LBJ, Allen True hesitated just briefly, and then replied, “Well… I can’t let you kill the cook, but I WILL buy you a ticket to Washington!”
And so began the long and colorful history of the True Family at White Stallion Ranch in Tucson, Arizona. Fast forward 50 years to find Russell and Michael running the ranch with their wives and Russell’s sons Steven and David. There have been numerous changes and improvements to accommodate the growing number of guests, while guest activities, comforts and conveniences increase with every passing year.
What remains the same, despite the astronomical changes in society, science, travel and technology is the driving force behind the True family “to provide the best possible vacation for each and every guest.” No easy feat when your guests literally come from all over the world; speak different languages, eat different foods, ride horses differently (or not at all), reside in high-rise apartments, remote country manors and suburban neighborhoods … Or is it?
Core values govern the family’s every decision, values that time and technology cannot erode…Honesty, integrity, generosity and hard work, the 4 points on the family compass, universally reliable and effective, apply to every situation. Success comes in the form of satisfied guests, who return annually and entice their friends with stories about the magic of vacationing at White Stallion Ranch.
Not magic as in smoke and mirrors, but magic as in a Disneyland-ish escape from reality, never wanting to go home, children (and even some adults) crying as they drive down the ranch road. The magic of putting down cell phones and devices and really listening – the magic of communicating face to face with family and friends (old and new), sharing meals and riding and relaxing and laughing for days on end!
The “secret” to success for the True family comes down to good old fashioned values and incredibly hard work. As a guest, you’ll see it, feel it, truly appreciate it and find it so refreshing and simple. No Harvard B School formulas here, just a deep commitment to delivering on their promise to every guest and never taking anything for granted.
And for those of you left wondering – no, the gardener never did make it to Washington.
White Stallion Ranch
9251 W Twin Peaks Road
Tucson, AZ 85743
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.