White Stallion Ranch
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- 9251 W. Twin Peaks Rd.
- N 32° 22' 51.24" W 111° 9' 43.21"
Secluded 3,000-acre ranch adjoining Saguaro National Park West. 45 rooms, heated pool, indoor hot tub. Recreation, meeting rooms, fitness center. Tennis, volleyball, hikes, horseback riding, rodeos, hayrides, cookouts.
Saddle up at White Stallion for a real taste of Tucson dude ranching
When the average city slicker thinks of horseback riding at a dude ranch, they probably imagine sitting atop a scraggly animal, plodding along in a nose-to-tail procession at a snail’s pace. But at White Stallion Ranch just north of Tucson, the riding is anything but.
Imagine galloping into a herd of steers, cutting three from the herd, and maneuvering them into a small pen with the help of two fellow “cowboys.” Stay at White Stallion, and you can do just that on your very first day.
On a late-summer trip to the ranch, I saddled up with a group of city slickers for a day out on the range. Upon arrival, I filled out an information sheet with my height, weight and riding experience. Based on that information, the good folks at White Stallion chose a horse that would be “mine” for the duration of my stay. Knowledgeable ranch hands saddled up my group’s horses and met us in a corral, where we mounted up and got our basic instructions from owner Russell True.
My equine companion for the day was a chestnut cowpony of mixed breeding – Tequila – who’d come to White Stallion from a cattle outfit in Mexico. (A big binder housed in the front office gives photos, details and backgrounds of all of White Stallion’s horses.)
Our first order of the day was the “slow ride,” a fairly typical slow-moving ride through the picturesque Sonoran Desert countryside in Marana, to help the uninitiated get to know their horses. Once everyone proved they could handle the basics of “giddyup,” “whoa,” and “don’t eat that,” we headed to the big corral half-filled with steers.
This was “team penning” – the goal of which is to drive three cows at a time into a pen, as fast as possible. Though there are no prizes, but the winners get to take home both pride and the swagger of the saddle-sore.
After passing a quick test to make sure my group could spur our respective horses into a lope, as well as turn them quickly and stop on a dime (well, a quarter…), the real fun began. Russell True himself, along with two of his ranch hands, demonstrated a proper, speedy round of penning.
In a nutshell, three riders line up along one side of the rectangular pen, at the opposite end from the cattle. All at once, the riders gallop toward the cows, and the “cutter” of the group selects three from the larger herd, which the other two help drive into a small three-sided pen near the middle of the corral. Russell and his staff are on hand for support in getting the sometimes-ornery cattle into the pen. When the last steer is in, time is up!
Each team of three riders gets three chances to prove their best penning time. My group’s first time was well over a minute, but by the end, we’d honed our skills enough to clock a fast 39 seconds! Seasoned rider or not, team penning at White Stallion is a great way to experience a taste of real life (and work) on Russell True’s authentic working dude ranch.
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