All riders must be an honest 6 or older. With this in mind, there is no charge for kids 5 and under. Occasionally people ask whether their young person may ride with them on the adult’s horse, and the answer is no — we don’t consider this a safe practice.
We find that often families enjoy a ride or two together at the beginning of the week and then enjoy separating to do different things. Safety and supervision wise, it is critical that kids pay attention to and respect the guide and sometimes kids learn better when they can focus primarily on the guide. Also, kids rides are different than adult rides — kids love to trot (a bouncier gate often not favored by adults), kids like to get off their horses and play and loping rides for kids are often at a different pace than adult rides.
Key concerns while riding are sun protection, warmth, protection from desert prickers and chafing. Blue jeans are best for riding. As one young rider said with impressive dignity upon attempting to mount his horse, “Perhaps skinny jeans were not the best choice.” While baggy pants can cause chafing, tight pants can be even more problematic. Most people wear their pants outside their boots, though some do tuck pants in — that’s your choice. Cotton shirts are great for sun protection. For warmth, layers are key. Extra coats are available for borrowing, though the supply of kids’ sizes is limited. Adult size riding slickers are available for borrowing, and some kids — again the supply of small sizes is limited. No rain ponchos allowed on horseback — they flap around and create a safety hazard.
Western style cowboy boots are critical for safety while riding. All Elkhorn Ranch riders wear smooth sole boots with a heel and no laces. Exceptions are granted only for medical reasons, and with advance notice. Many boots are available for borrowing at the office lending closet up to size 14.
In the event of a fall, it is possible for the rider’s foot to go through the saddle stirrup (the part of the saddle where you place your feet) and get caught, which can result in the rider being dragged by the horse instead of separating from the horse – thus compounding an already bad safety situation. Having the rider’s foot slip out of the boot is a critical safety feature (hence no laces). The boot’s heel prevents the foot from slipping through the stirrup and the smooth sole further reduces the chance of the boot getting stuck in the stirrup. The height of a cowboy boot and its tendency to protect your ankle and lower leg from chafing is a good comfort feature, but not an essential safety feature.
If the boot slips on, has a heel and moth sole and no laces it may work. English riding boots that are form fitted do not pull off, so think about that issue as you assess your foot ware with Elkhorn in mind. We encourage you to talk with us about your boots ahead of time and then show them to us upon arrival. We are very firm about assuring that boots meet our definition of safe, and if we are not comfortable with your boots we will ask you to borrow cowboy boots no matter how new or special they are to you.
Wearing a cowboy hat is a fun and practical part of Elkhorn life, and there are many character filled hats in the loaning closet. All hats must be connected to you, as a flying hat is a safety hazard! If you bring your own, we will ask you to add a string. For ball caps, we sell some hat lanyards emblazoned with Elkhorn Ranch that have clips on either end.
We do not allow our guests to wear spurs. While we realize that you may be an experienced rider who knows how to use them properly, many other guests do not and we feel it is important to be consistent.
Two compartment “pommel bags” slip over the horn of your saddle providing a handy spot to put your lunch on an all day ride or odds and ends. A water bottle and small camera fit easily plus other small odds and ends. An extra coat or rain coat may be tied on the back of your saddle — your guide will help you tie it on the saddle correctly.
You are welcome to take pictures while riding, but you also must maintain control of your horse. The easiest way to take good pictures safely is to ask your guide to stop the ride for a moment. You’ll find that everyone else will pull out their camera too!
The best method for carrying a big camera horseback is through use of an over the shoulder strap or chest harness that keeps the camera still and secure against your chest or belly where you can reach it. We do not recommend use of a backpack, as it throws off your balance while riding and you cannot access the backpack while riding.
Most people do not leave the ranch much during their Elkhorn visit. If you want to do a bit of local sight-seeing, Thursday is a good day as we don’t ride Thursday afternoon after January 1 or Sundays, the horses’ day off. The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is by far the Miller family’s number 1 recommendation – it is beautiful, fun and highly educational for all ages. Feel free to talk about your interests with us, and we’ll help you navigate the choices around Tucson and the region. People often ask about Tombstone – it is a very long day trip, and we recommend doing it before or after your Elkhorn trip.
The ranch store provides snacks and basics, field guides, stamps and postcards and gifts and gear — kids books, horsey socks, t-shirts, caps fleece vests, mugs and other surprises. Locally grown organic honey produced in the Altar Valley is available for sale too! Tubac is a fun day trip where you can park and walk to shop. Tucson has many options – let us know your interests and we’ll help you find your way.
A well stocked lending library is one of Elkhorn’s great pleasures. You’ll find current fiction, classics and interesting books about the west — children’s picture books and novels too. Numerous copies of bird, plant and other field guides are available to borrow for the week. All cabins have good reading lights by chairs and beds.
Tennis court and basketball net, shuffleboard, ping pong and horseshoes are available outside the dining room. The game cupboard has cards, cribbage board, poker chips, dominos, scrabble, chess, many board games and lots of jigsaw puzzles. Various balls and tennis rackets are available for loan in the office. (Serious tennis players will want to bring their own racquets!)
The nearest golf course is about one hour away on southwestern edge of Tucson, with a wide range of outstanding courses within the 1.5 hour driving range. Tom Miller is an avid golfer and is happy to provide advice. The kitchen is happy to pack a sack lunch.
The ranch piano is played much more beautifully by many ranch guests than by the Miller family. We love singalongs and wish we had the musical ability to lead them – but we don’t! We do have a growing note book of lyrics and welcome your additions to it!
Soap and hand lotion are supplied in cabin bathrooms. Shampoo, conditioner and other toiletry items are available for sale in the ranch store. Hair dryers are available to borrow from the office lending supply. Coffee service is not provided in the cabins, but is available all day in the dining room — afternoon cookies too!
Cabin linens involve weekly sheet changes and two towel changes per week, a practice encouraged by our guests during recent years to conserve water and electricity. More frequent service or additional supplies are happily accommodated upon request.
All cabins have electric wall heaters. All beds are equipped with electric blankets as well as thermal and wool throw blankets. Some cabins have fireplaces or wood stoves and the dining room fireplace is available to everyone any time.
Laundry service is provided for a minimal charge by the ranch crew. Items dropped off in the morning before riding are done by the end of the day, and otherwise ready by the next day. Dry cleaning may be added to the ranch town runs and requires several days of turnaround time. All cabins have clothes lines for hand washing or swim suits.
A phone and computer for internet access are available for your use at the ranch office, as well as a small wireless zone where you may use your own computer. Cell phone reception improves every year, but don’t count on it.
The Elkhorn kitchen is happy to accommodate allergies or other special needs with advance notice. There are few things that stump us, however we are not equipped to prepare food according to strict kosher standards.
There is no bar on the ranch but you will find beer, wine and various soft drinks available for purchase in the office. Most cocktail partying takes place in guests’ cabins before dinner. All cabins are supplied with bar glasses, ice bucket, bar rag, corkscrew and snack bowls. Wine glasses are available in the dining room if you would like to bring wine to dinner and we recommend that you share your bottle with your table. Everyone gathers at ranch hosted cocktail time gatherings a couple nights a week, generally on Sunday upon arrival and then Thursday for margaritas and steaks!
Yes! But you will need to provide your own childcare. Usually family members trade off riding and childcare and some families bring a nanny along. The 5 and under set have a ball playing around the ranch buildings and their parents have plenty of support to make things feel like home away from home. Feel free to ask all your questions – we know that traveling with youngsters is a project and we hope to make it as easy as possible for you!
Tucson International Airport is an easy hour away, and Elkhorn provides airport pick up service. Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport is about 3 hours drive from the ranch. We recommend theGroome Transportation company for transport from Tucson to Phoenix or vice versa, and we’re happy to transport you to or from the airport shuttle stop — we suggest the Ina Road shuttle stop.
Many Elkhorn guests stay at the ranch throughout their stay and do not need a vehicle. If you want to do any sightseeing, however, we recommend renting a car. Feel free to call to discuss your plans, and we’ll help you sort through the best option for you or your group.
How can we help you today? Interested in a reservation? Please tell us the number of people in your group, the number of cabins needed, age of kids and dates you desire. We look forward to hearing from you! Thanks,
The Miller Family
27000 W. Elkhorn Ranch Rd.
Tucson, AZ 85736