Riders on the storm

    The bar at the White Stallion Ranch.

    Saturday morning I awoke before everyone (why is it the mom who always wakes up first on vacation?) and started thinking about our day ahead. It was 7:30am and we had to be at the ranch to ride horses at 9am. I roused Solvay (my breakfast-getting buddy) and we headed down to TO/GO at The Ritz Carlton, Dove Mountain to procure some pastries, juice and coffee to fuel us for the morning adventure. On the way back to the room, we stopped by the concierge to find out exactly where we were going. I found out that the stables were about a half-hour away, so I hurried back to the room to get everyone going. (We later found out from Jennifer Pelczarski, director of public relations, that there are plans to bring a stable onto the property so that future guests don’t have to drive so far).

    Laura and Vista wait for us to saddle up.

    We arrived at White Stallion Ranch a little before 9am and after filling out the mandatory paperwork we were ready to ride. Now, it has been 20-plus years since I was on a horse (same for Evan) and the kids really have never ridden (except around a circle, while someone was guiding the horse with a lead). The gal in the office assured us that we would be matched with a horse that fit our riding level. Out we went to the stables, past a quaint Spanish courtyard with vines growing wild.

    Mylan getting pointers on proper bridle-handling.

    Mylan was the first to mount. They make it really easy because they have you stand on a platform and they bring the horses over to it. Her horse was Dusty — blonde and flighty, just like its rider. I was next. My horse was taller in stature than Mylan’s and his name was Yankee. I managed to get on and waited for instruction as Evan boarded Packer and Solvay boarded Cherokee. Solvay loves animals and immediately began bonding with Cherokee, petting him and talking softly in his ear. After brief instructions, we were off, with our two trusty wranglers leading the way. There were some clouds in the distance; we were informed if there was lightning, we would have to get off immediately.

    Solvay and I at the beginning of the trail ride.

    As soon as we passed through the gate (and its “Vaya con Dios” sign), we were off. That is, everyone, but me. Now I am not sure if horses get depressed, but I think Yankee was. That, or he just wasn’t into taking a full-figured girl out and showing her a good time. Either way, we fell farther and farther behind the group. Laura (head wrangler) came up to me and told me, in her delightful English accent, to “give him a little kick.” I did, and it helped a little. That, and the fact that Laura was on Vista — a stunning beauty with a chestnut mane and feisty prance — made Yankee step it up a little. I cheered him on by saying, “I think she is so into you, dude.” That helped for a while.

    Meanwhile, Mylan was having her own issues. It seems that Dusty had an itchy tummy, and kept hi-centering himself on random bushes to cure his itch. We rode along, enjoying the cloud cover that was keeping everything cool and the amazing smell of the desert pre-rain.

    Then it started. Drip…drip…drop. “Just a little sprinkle.” Laura commented. “Oh, a little rain feels good,” I said. Then bigger drops and more intensity. Then a deluge. Now, there is really nowhere in the desert to hide from a rain storm, so we decided (becaise there was no lightning) to ride it out and head back. It always amazes me how it can rain so hard, so fast. All of those gulleys we rode through a bit earlier became rushing mini-streams and washes of water.

    At first, Yankee would approach these crossings and tip-hoof across them gingerly. But the wetter we both got, the less he cared, and we would go splashing through them. I truly have never been that wet while fully clothed. When I went to adjust myself in the saddle, a stream of water ran down the inside of the leg of my jeans! Laura kept asking if I was all right. I assured her that it was an adventure, and that’s sometimes how adventures go! Finally, we arrived back at the stables, all but sliding off the horses when we dismounted.

    My soaking wet family!

    Back inside the lobby of the ranch, we were given towels to try to sop up some of the water but we still created a ginormous puddle on the terra-cotta tile floor. We also received steaming cups of hot coffee and cocoa. Then trusty Laura appeared with White Stallion T-shirts for us to change into. We hung around in the lobby for a while, talking to some of the other guests, who giggled at our appearance. We were laughing too.

    “You are never going to forget this ride!” one guest commented. And I thought, no, my kids are NEVER going to forget their first trail ride!

    Read the first part of our adventures in Tucson in Puttin’ on the Ritz.