During our brief stay in Phoenix we decided to try a different mode of transport through some of the area's outstanding scenery.
I've not ridden a horse in twenty years, and I very much doubt a couple of hours of pony trekking counts as horse riding, so going out for a two-hour tour with Windwalker was, essentially, a whole new world to me.
We were met by our guide, Barry, at a local shopping centre bang on time. He turned up in a massive truck towing an even more massive trailer in which he was transporting the three horses he needed.
Barry is immediately likeable. If you picture a cowboy in your mind you'll be pretty close to imagining Barry. Sharp boots, denims and a good ol' cowboy hat. He's personable, friendly, funny, and pretty good-looking, too, so my better half tells me. He's also an ex-professional rodeo rider, which is pretty cool.
We followed Barry to our start point - a lay-by well in to the Tonto National Forest, which is a stunning place to start such a tour. After the paperwork was completed, we were introduced to our horses. I figured I'get the the smallest of the three, being a complete beginner, but was, instead, given Durango. Durango is a handsome beast, but he's also huge. This could end badly.
Once on my trusty steed I was given a brief introduction to the accelerator, brake and steering mechanisms that were installed. It all seemed pretty straight-forward, so off we set.
What can I say? This was, by far, the highlight of our two-week tour of the California, Utah, Arizona and Nevada - by a long-shot. Neither of us wanted to stop. Although I was a beginner Barry's feedback and encouragement gave me the confidence to keep up on the trotting parts of the tour, and to let Durango do his thing on complicated or tricky parts of the trail. He's charmingly passionate about his work and the area, and warmly dispenses his knowledge of the flora & fauna and stories of his life and family as he rides.
You won't get a nose-to-tail ride with Windwalker. This is proper horseback riding, and is for people who want to do more than plod along for a couple of hours.
It wasn't a cheap excursion, but horses of this calibre are, I expect, expensive resources. The two-hour ride, though, was most certainly worth the US$75 per hour. Note that the hourly fee only applies to the time you're riding, so although you may not get on the horse until 30 minutes after you meet your Windwalker guide you won't be paying for it, which is the way it should be.
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