Ranch Holidays In Arizona, Riding in Apache Country by Claudia Simon

Ranch Holidays In Arizona, Riding In Apache Country
By Claudia Simon

After a week sleeping on the ground sharing a classroom I was looking forward to luxury. A small cabin in the Arizona desert for me alone, 3 provided meals and HORSES, horseback riding everyday in the beloved desert. Grapevine Canyon Ranch is a guest and cattle ranch in the southeast of Arizona in Cochise County, about 1.5 hour drive from Tucson. It was my fifth stay with them, for me it’s like my second home now, and I cannot wait to go again.

You can choose driving there yourself or get someone to pick you up at the airport, I chose the latter. It’s nice to be expected at the airport and not to worry about finding the right way. On the way to the ranch you can marvel at the desert view once you’re outside of Tucson and start to relax!

Once there, it was like I never left, a warm welcome, familiar faces, some new, the mixed smell of desert and horses, and barbeque ribs for dinner, since it was Saturday, so delicious. Riding program starts normally the day after arrival, so I didn’t join the evening ride. A specialty only during the summer months, a relaxing ride after dinner for about an hour, a little bit later in summer it’s truly a sunset ride and you’re coming home in the dark, magnificent!!!!

Talking about riding, what is there to do? The ranch offers a morning trail ride, that’s a 3 hours ride for everybody. During summer as mentioned before, you can go for an evening rider for the rest of the year for an afternoon ride, like the evening ride for 1 hour. Those are walking rides also. If you want to go for faster rides or do some cowboy work on the cowboy rides you need to be loped checked. You can do that during every morning ride just tell the wrangler.

Depending on your experience and how you feel in a western saddle I highly recommend a lesson with Adam (the barn boss), group or single, it’s worth it! The advanced rides or loping rides are morning rides, they include the cowboy rides twice a week, you go for about 2 hours, just bear in mind the terrain is a difficult one, so loping is not always possible.

The terrain is an adventure in itself, we are in the mountains and we are in the desert, that means rocks, small trails, some of them very steep, going up and down and INCREDIBLE VIEWS. If you have a problem with heights tell the wrangler, there are easier ways to go and some of the day rides might be not for you.

Every day except for Sundays the ranch offers varies day rides, saddle time is between 4 and 7 hours, they are from easy to difficult, up in the mountains or in the flats. For some of them they trailer you to cover the distance, and for those there’s an extra fee. They are walking rides, so you don’t have to be lope checked. It’s only that some of them cover more difficult riding terrain or go high up, there’s a description of every ride they offer in a book, you might want to check it, to make sure you’ll enjoy it. Several times a year you can book the roundup, days full of cattle work or you can book extra weeks like history week and horse camp, or a pack trip. During my stays I almost did every day ride except for 1 or 2. They are all great, but I prefer doing them when it’s not that hot.

Let me say something about the weather, you can really go year round, every time of year there’s something special, the monsoon in late summer for instance. Rain in the desert means life and it’s amazing how green the desert can be after rain. And yes it is hot during the summer months, but its dry heat, you get used to it and they have swimming pool to cool off! During the winter it can be very cold, especially in the morning and evening, so pack warm clothes (layer technique is quite practical)!!!

What I’ve also done is “horse camp”. The week is designed for people who want to own horses or just simply want to know more about them. It’s very individual, and you can tell Adam, the barn boss, who’s doing this, what you want to achieve.

This time I was in luck, on my Sunday advanced ride we needed to drive the “holiday horses” back. It was the first time I’ve driven horses and it was quite exciting for me and for my horse Missy, she has never done it before either, so we danced a little bit around and had lots of fun! This is something I like very much, the horses have a strict working schedule with regular breaks and are due for holidays as well.

The next day they gave me a new mare, an Appaloosa called Sassy, it was such a pleasure riding her, I thought I’m really a lucky woman. When she was de for her break I got a Quarter hose named Boots, I knew him well and enjoyed riding him again, his lope is sooooo smooth. This is also something, they try hard to match you and a horse(and the saddle!), and what I could see during my several stays, most of the time the match is perfect.

So what makes Grapevine so special, at least for me? I think it’s the combination of the area, the horses (of course) and the extraordinary people who are working there. They make you feel at “home” and comfortable from your first day on. And you don’t have to wear an evening dress for dinner; jeans and shirt are just fine!

The week went way to fast, and too soon I was on my way back, or so I thought; didn’t count the weather this time…I needed to stay another night in Dallas due to thunderstorms. Good thing I planned enough days off and could reach my cat sitter at home to arrange an additional day! For more information go to www.gcranch.com.

Important for people with kids: Minimum age is 12!!!


Claudia Simon has visited Grapevine Canyon Ranch 5 times and shows a current address of UK in her guest folder. During her first two visits she was a resident of Switzerland. Claudia also contributed to the Rock Buster program.

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