Here we are again in Apache Junction, Arizona for our eighth winter trail riding season. We left home the last day of October after an early fall soybean harvest with my trusty old Arab mare GiGi in tow for her 8th AZ trip as well and with a young 3 yr. old Arab/Foxtrotter cross gelding that my wife wants to convert into a brand new trail horse. We got a good start with the colt during November, then spent December down on the beach in Mazatlan at our time share, then returned to MN for 9 days at Christmas and New Years, then returning to AZ for the rest of the winter until mid April or so.
This year two of the retiring MTRA BOD members, Kathy and Dave Boron, have joined all of us down here in AZ. Kathy handed the reins of the MTRA Roundup Committee to Wanda Hanson, and Dave handed the reins of the MTRA Expo Committee to Carolle St Jean. Everything is in good hands so they can now spend ALL of their time trail riding. And believe me they have been doing just that. Nearly every day! I asked Kathy to take a break long enough to tell you about their experiences so far now that they have six weeks of winter in AZ under their belt. So here is Kathy's story:
Boron's First Winter in Arizona
Howdy to all our friends back in frigid Minnesota. We are currently enjoying a balmy 68 degrees (above zero) in Apache Junction, AZ along with the wonderful company of the Wrights, other retired MTRA members, and many other horsemen (and women) who are spending the winter out here.
Our trip out was a bit harried. Though we left Anoka on a warm sunny December morning, that afternoon we were in the middle of Kansas City rush hour in a rain storm, and by evening it had started to freeze. We spent the first night, an hour short of our intended destination, under the awning of a Phillips 66 Station in Ottawa, Kansas. After walking figure eights around the gas pumps and drinking buckets of water our four horses spent their first night ever in their horse trailer while we parked our motor home along side a semi truck and hunkered down for the night. The second day we drove through many areas devastated by the freezing rain storm of the previous 24 hours. Rows of power lines were down beside the highway and hundreds of trees were devoid of branches in numerous communities. Though we drove all morning in the rain, we felt lucky and were able to make up for lost time the day before. Our horses were delighted to roll and stretch their legs in the roomy corrals of Jim and Marlene Haller's boarding stable in Tucumcari, New Mexico that evening. Day three was sunny but the wind tested the stability of our rigs, Dave driving our new 29 foot motor home and me pulling the 4-horse trailer with our Dodge pickup through the Rocky Mountains of New Mexico. The box stalls of the Navaho County fairgrounds at Holbrook, Arizona kept our boys warm and cozy that night despite the inch of ice that formed on their water buckets over night. Our last day of travel was a beautiful trip through high desert, white with six inches of new snow, followed by slow assents and cautious descents through the Mazatzal Mountains of Arizona.
Blue Sky Ranch has facilities for boarding over 30 horses but only one RV site, which we feel fortunate to have rented for the winter. It didn't take us long to discover all our necessities are located within two and a half miles of our location: credit union, grocery stores, laundromat, feed store, post office, hardware store, and many restaurants.
Within a week or two we had met and ridden with most of the other boarders here, all of which live year round in AZ. Our first rides were two to three hour jaunts into the nearby Goldfield Mountains, riding through washes (dry river and creek beds), down ATV trails, and single file horse trails around saguaro, prickly pear, and cholla cactus. We love riding to Goldfield Ghost Town where we can tie up our horses, get a bite to eat, and wonder through the many buildings made to look like the old town of Goldfield that once stood on that site. For a fee one can tour the old gold mine nearby, take a ride around the area on an old time train, or even rent a horse for a trip into the mountains. Though some of them have historical artifacts, most of the town's buildings are shops filled with souvenirs.
Thanks to Russ and Darlene we have also met many of the other horsemen and women spending their retirement here with their mounts, most of which are from the Midwestern states. We recently joined the Superstition Horsemen's Association (SHA) which is an advocacy group dealing with horse issues in the area. In addition to organizing membership trail rides into the Superstition Mountains and other local areas they sponsor an elementary and high school reading program called "Black Stallion Literacy Program" which provides free books and horse-related activities to children in local schools.
Having been here over a month now, we have fallen into a routine, riding 3 to 4 days in a row, taking a day off to shop, do laundry, and other necessities, then riding several days again. Monday evenings Arizona Lecture Series presenters giving information about history of the area. Tuesday is hamburger night at the VFW. Thursday evenings the local school district has scheduled various musical performers. Friday is fish fry at several local restaurants, and Sunday night is pot luck at the O.K. Corral. It's a good thing we brought four horses or our mounts would be getting pretty worn out already with us riding over 60 miles per week. Wednesday mornings the retired contingent of SHA meets along the highway and drives out into the Superstition Mountains for a 4 to 5 hour ride into some of the most breathtakingly beautiful scenery on earth. The Elephant Butte ride passed an immense rock weathered into the shape of an elephant. Apache Tears Trail included a ride past ruins of cave dwellings where Apache Indians once lived, a stop to look for "Apache Tears", small black rocks which light passes through when held up to the sun, and lunch along a cold, rocky creek bed lined with trees that almost reminded me of home. On the Coffee Flats ride we stopped for lunch beside an old rustic windmill. All these trails were rough and rocky but afforded gorgeous views of the colorful, craggy mountains and spectacular vegetation of the Arizona desert. I'm anxious to see what wonders await us on tomorrow's ride to First Water and all the other great rides that lay ahead of us before we head back to MN in April! We'll see you at the MN Horse Expo.
Kathy and Dave Boron
See our Arizona page for the listing of AZ Stables down here if you are interested in winter riding. All of them are busy, but have some space left if you are thinking about coming. Boarding rates have started to go up around here because hay is up to about $13 per bale for the 3 string 80 pound bales. Most of the rates start at about $175 to $200 per horse per month.
See you on the trails - Russ Wright
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