I had a day to myself in Scottsdale and decided to go horseback riding if I could find a place that didn't do nose-to-tail trudging on dispirited, bored old nags. I called Windwalker and she asked me a million questions about riding ability and experience (I am an intermediate to advanced rider) and said she had a 2.5 hour ride that day with another customer at my level who wanted a buddy to keep the cost down.
It worked out great. I drove up to the meeting place and met the guide, Susie, who had her horse trailer with the three horses. The other rider, a yoga instructor for an MLB team, joined us and we drove to the Tonto National Forest, about 20 minutes away. The horses (Rocca was mine, a Morgan-Arab cross, and Anita, an Arab-Thoroughbred) were beautiful, well-kept and lively. The tack was clean and well-maintained. I ride Western, but the other horse, Anita, was saddled with an endurance saddle I would have liked to try.
The desert was absolutely gorgeous. It had been raining a lot and the wildflowers were bursting out, the cacti were blooming, the hills were actually green! We rode down into a wash, crossed through the river a few times, and up the riverbed to a waterfall. Susie, although a recent transplant to Arizona from back East, was very knowledgeable about all the various flora and the few fauna we saw - I was impressed with her aptitude to learn this new landscape and pass it along to us. She also recommended the Desert Botanical Garden, and when I took my husband there a couple of days later I was pleased to be able to tell him a little about the different plants. (That's another "don't miss" venue.)
In several places we were able to let the horses go and canter up a riverbed and over hills. It was so much fun. I have been riding in an arena all winter and am so sick of it, and the other rider, although experienced at arenas, had never been on a trail ride before. She did great. The three of us talked a lot and got along well. The horses were very athletic, alert and sure-footed, all mares so a little competitive, but I'd rather have a spirited horse than one that just wants to get home to the barn.
The ride was 2 1/2 hours from mount to dismount. Since we had been able to buddy up it was discounted to $185 per person, plus the lovely Arizona service tax, so $202, plus a tip for Susie. I gave her $35. No, not cheap. Yes, a lot more fun than sitting by the pool all day drinking or shopping in one of Scottsdale's ubiquitous malls.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.