I visited Tanque Verde Guest Ranch in Tucson recently and discovered a wonderful resort, some warm and welcoming people, and reconnected with a part of myself I thought I'd lost forever.

Tanque Verde Dog House

Bar at the Tanque Verde Ranch. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

This is a dude ranch for the discerning traveler. The spacious patio casitas offer beautiful mountain vistas. The desert comes right up to the patio — I had a deer walk across my patio and an owl landed on a saguaro cactus just outside my door. The ranch has over 180 horses, 5 tennis courts, saunas, indoor and outdoor pools, indoor and outdoor jacuzzi, exercise room, Desert Habitat Program, and a new spa. There is truly something special and unique for every visitor to the ranch.

Tanque Verde Guest Ranch is operated by owner Rita Cote and my visit gave me the “ah-ha” moment you search for when you travel. I had scheduled a breakfast horseback ride for the first morning of my stay. I was nervous about it because it had been nearly 20 years since I'd been on a horse. For someone who'd grown up on horses, I missed the beautiful animals, but I just wasn't comfortable. But, I was going to throw caution to the wind and ride anyway.

Tom Chambers

Tom Chambers is the “Horse Whisperer” at Tanque Verde

The night before, however, I went to a “Harmony with Horses” demonstration by Tom Chambers, who offers various clinics at the ranch and is fondly called the “horse whisperer”. He worked with a horse in the ring for less than 30 minutes and I remembered why I'd grown up on a horse, why I had always loved to ride.

When it came time to get on that horse the next morning, I remembered Tom's words and got up on my horse (Chip) with absolutely no fear. I have a lot to relearn, but it felt good being up on top of one of the most gracious animals I know.

Tom has a simple philosophy about horses that he expresses this way: “The horse and human must operate as partners in every way in order to accomplish a learning environment in which both can be successful. It is only then that a trainer can experience that magic place in time that I call ‘Harmony with Horses!'”

I thank Tom for giving me the confidence to remember the connection—the magic—I'd always found on the back of a horse. And it wouldn't have happened if I'd not been at Tanque Verde.

Susan on Chip

My experience at Tanque Verde was fabulous. The breakfast ride turned out to be a great start to the day. After an hour's ride through the gorgeous desert tucked at the foothills of the Rincon Mountains, we enjoyed a breakfast of blueberry pancakes, bacon, sausage, and homemade biscuits. Food never tastes as good as it does cooked outside over a fire. The entire stay was just as fun. I enjoyed a treatment at the new spa, soaked in the sun by the pool, wandered along the paths through the desert, enjoyed Rita Margaritas at “The Dog House” saloon, and watched the team penning activity in which ranch guests learn to pen calves.

The last night, I tapped my feet to the music by Tom Chambers as we ate some of the best BBQ ribs and baked beans ever, sitting under the cottonwood trees on the ranch. It's definitely a spot worth visiting if you want to get away from it all, soak up the Arizona sun, find inspiration in the sweeping desert and mountain views, and establish a bond with one of the ranch's beautiful horses.

Tanque Verde Guest Ranch is at 4301 E. Speedway in Tucson, Arizona. You can call 800-234-3833 and you can find them online at www.tvgr.com. High season runs December 16 through April 30, but the ranch is open all year and there are some great deal from May through September and October 1st through December 15th.

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