A Review of Ponderosa Stables in Phoenix, AZ

Thursday, October 09, 2008

As part of my birthday gift to myself for a getaway spa weekend, horseback riding in the desert park would align me with nature and emancipate me from daily stress.

I learned that Ponderosa Stables was the closest horses stables in Phoenix, an easy 20 minute ride from my hotel in Tempe. Driving up on the dirt road, I felt I arrived in a midwestern ghost town straight from an old cowboy movie. The wooden boardwalk and railing, and a creaky, rusted, swinging saloon sign with not a soul in sight, spurred my fears that they were closed for horseback tours. But wait, a rustle of some hay and the whine of a parked horse, alerted someone behind a barn-sized door. Apparently I was the only customer and would get a private ride with a tour guide. Yeehaw! The stifling 100 degree weather ended with my arrival, and the cooler 90 degree temperature (with zero humidity, it felt like 75 degrees Fahrenheit) marked the beginning of the horseback riding season. At a price of only $30 for the hour, I was elated at Ponderosa Stable's wallet friendly prices.

Devon, introduced me to my horse Mississippi, a male (pictured above). A little fussy at first, once I mounted him, he was a perfect gentleman. My tour guide was Kelly and her horse a young teenager, Boogie (pictured below). He was quite the stud and the typical male teenager--mischevious at times despite Kelly's reprimands. Aahhh animals--they are like children.

Kelly & Boogie guided me (Mississippi was along for the ride as I suppose he knew where he was going) on a tour through a desert park. The star of the show was the giant cactus as pictured below. Actually there were many. The true name of this cactus is Saguaro, pronounced "sah-wah-roh", a Spanish-language adaptation of the aboriginal American tribe.

The Saguaros have a long life span. It takes approximately 75 years to grow the first arm and 50 years for each additional arm. The Saguaro can live a Bible life span of 150 years. Each arm produces a blossom, which is the state flower of Arizona. The flower is a nocturnal bloom, appearing only April-May and requires a pollenizer--in other words forced pollenization. What nocturnal creatures fly around at night? You guessed it--BATS! They feed on the nectar from the night-blooming flowers, which often remain open in the morning.

As I absorb the story of 150-year-old species and bats, in the middle of the desert, an eerie sensation chills my spine and I suddenly ask Kelly--"Will we stumble upon any rattle snakes?" (I really am heart-attack frightened of snakes) "It's possible", she replies calmly. It's only October 3, not the 31st. Too early for Halloween spooks. Suddenly I see a white cottontail rabbit RUN across some rocks. This is better--cute, cottony rabbits. I'm less paranoid now.

Kelly then continues to point out nature's rock formations and those inscribed by the Hohokam Indians, a prehistoric archaeological culture dating back to the beginning of the era to about the middle of the 15th century. Not to spoil the surprise, I'll leave the details of the rest of the tour for your future trip and horse ride at Ponderosa Stables.

Upon our return to the corral, I asked Kelly about the two horses I noticed parked out front. One in particular, a stunning copper horse, looked especially emaciated to my unexpert eye. Kelly shared with me that the two horses (pictured below) were recently rescued. "No kidding!" I exclaimed. "That is wonderful news and the MAIN REASON for my visit!" I shared with Kelly my blog sister's posting on the growing epidemic of abandoned horses (if you have not read the posting by my Blog Sister, Alicia, please take a moment to read it now).

Taking advantage of my private tour, I then asked Kelly how long she has worked at the stables. "Going on four years". Not only does she work there, she lives there. A requirement for caring for horses. How much does she like her job? She loves it! At the end of the tour, I tipped her $10.

Not only did I enjoy my horseback (and by luck "private") tour ride, but I had done a good deed by supporting a horse stable that truly cares about its mission. Later I learned that Ponderosa Stables offers more than one hour guided horse rides. There are 2 hour, 3 hour and 4 hour hide-from-the law rides. Then there's the T-Bone Steak House Ride where the group rides to a restaurant for a juicy T-bone steak. The most popular is the Hay Wagon Rides and Cookout of traditional favorites like hamburgers, hot dogs, steak and chicken.

In total, Arizona has the most acreage of county, state and federal parks combined--over 70 million acres of publicly owned land. Amazing!

I highly recommend visiting Arizona in October. The heat has subsided to a comfortable body temperature, hotel rates are more affordable than peak season (winter), and I will go so far as to suggest taking kids out of school for one or two days for this cultural and educational experience. Arizona State Parks does an excellent job of offering plenty of family activities--their calendar of events is more packed than your female teenager's social calendar. Check it out!

I definitely plan on returning and discovering more of the archaeological culture and desert beauty of Arizona and visiting my new friend, Mississippi.

My horse: Mississippi

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  1. Hi, Christine! It's Kathy, manager of Ponderosa... Just wanted to thank you for your kind comments. And, especially to let you know that the "stunning copper colored horse," is my rescue horse, Hunter. You should see him now! He is back up to his correct weight, and absolutely beautiful, definitely worth all the effort. Again, thanks and hope to see you again when you get out to Arizona.