by Lisa Kasanicky
I’ve got two words for you: sore saddle. Outside of the awkward strut that I developed from straddling the barrel of a horse for two days, the Giddy-Up Gals weekend retreat at Ranchos de los Caballeros served up everything you could ask for in a getaway: Good company, great food, cushy accommodations, and a blue ribbon in team penning (I’ll get to that in a moment).
Located just outside of the dusty cowboy town of Wickenburg, about an hour northwest of Phoenix, this way-out West destination is perched on 20,000 acres of Sonoran desert. The resort is footed by a golf course that winds along a drive dotted with giant agave and towering saguaro cacti set against a backdrop of craggy desert peaks in the distance. While the family-owned ranch took on its masculine name when it opened in 1948 as a nod to the Spanish caballeros (or “gentlemen on horseback”) who tamed the area, the cowgirl spirit is very much alive at this sprawling property.
The all-women getaway kicked off at the stables where we saddled up for a lazy trail ride. Each gal was paired up with a horse best suited for her riding experience and my sidekick for the weekend was Santana, a dark chocolate behemoth who greeted me with a snort of what I hoped was approval. With a female wrangler as our guide, we took off on a sandy trail that rambled through mesquite trees, prickly pear cactus, and desert scrub. The easy pace allowed us to exchange details of our lives. The cast consisted of three thirty-something moms who were friends since high school, two bubbly women in their fifties, and four friends on the cusp of sixties who had been close chums for decades. One trail ride, one hearty three-course meal and a couple prickly pear margaritas later, we were all fellow cowgirls.
The next day brought a vigorous trail ride sandwiched between lavish breakfast and lunch buffet spreads. The highlight of the afternoon was a penning competition where we were split into two teams and charged with driving steer into a framed pen. A couple of goes at it, and our newly won horse sense and litany of whoops and hollers led our team to victory. The day culminated with a hayride to a starlit desert cookout complete with a cowboy balladeer and raging bonfire.
On the final day, I hung up my reigns for a more relaxed pursuit and headed to the on-site spa. A restored 1940s ranch house, the spa captured the “cowboy-Zen” atmosphere down to a horseshoe – a blend of the rough and tough (think rawhide, leather, and distressed pine accents) with the soft and mellow (sage hues, feathery soft chamois throws). Authentic period pieces like antique Singer sewing machines used as manicure tables punctuated the Old West vibe. I indulged in the hour-long Desert Oasis Massage, where the young yet intuitive massage therapist worked out the kinks of my cowgirl adventures.
And off I went, back to the big city of Phoenix, with my blue ribbon tied to my rear-view mirror, a new swagger in my step, and a renewed appreciation for healing power of the open range.
For more information call (800) 684-5030 or visit www.sunc.com.