Arizona Cowboy College is the equivalent of sleep away camp for adults who want to play in the desert. No, this isn’t Burning Man. Instead, city slickers hoping to escape their corporate cubicles or experienced equestrians wanting to learn new riding skills will find their happy place beyond a gravel road in Scottsdale.
“I’ve been doing this for 20 years,” smiles Cowboy College head instructor Rocco Wachman. “It has nothing to do with horses or cows,” he says as he gives his Palomino horse an affectionate pat. “It’s really a personal journey.”
As the West’s most Western Town, Scottsdale goes with Arizona Cowboy College like spring flowers blooming on a cactus. It take a little while to appreciate the stark beauty of the Sonoran desert and like those desert blooms, it take a few days for riding students to open up, reveal their true colors and shine with their horses.
Cowboy College boot camp
This isn’t a luxury dude ranch by any stretch of the imagination. The rooms are bunk house casual or sleep under the Sonoran desert stars. But what this place lacks in high thread count, they more than make up for with personality, passion and horse sense.
Elaine Pawlowski is ranch manager and jigger boss – in other words, she oversees the health and safety of all animals on this 10 acre working cattle ranch. From the pot belly pig to 50 head of horses, Pawlowski knows every animal’s name and their personality profile.
“We’re not breed prejudice here,” notes Pawlowski when asked how she matches horse to rider. “We use any horse that has the heart and the ability to get the job done. For the people, personality does matter. I give a student a horse that compliments the rider. We want you to be safe while riding.”
Cowgirl for a day
As an experienced equestrian with many years of horse ownership under my belt in my youth, it has been a dream of mine to learn how to ride a reining horse. With my busy travel schedule, I no longer own horses or the
tack riding gear that goes along with this hobby. Arizona Cowboy College was my chance to hop on a horse that could show me the ropes so to speak.
After grooming and saddling Lucky, my Quarter Horse for the morning, we headed into the riding arena and I was schooled on the nuances and techniques of how to make a horse spin. After several false starts, I was successfully clucking and kicking my way through a manuever resulting in a grin on my face the size of Texas! Mission accomplished.
No matter what your riding level, there is a horse for you. Students choose in advance from a variety of equestrian class offerings such as arena work, trail rides, cart driving, roping, dutch oven cooking or cattle work.
“We are not a dude ranch,” emphasizes Arizona Cowboy College Owner Lori Bridwell. “We are an authentic working cattle ranch. We didn’t move cattle today because of a student’s request. We did it because we had a fire hazard in one of the pastures and we needed the cattle moved there to eat the grass down.”
Arizona Cowboy College offers one and three day sessions, as well as week long sessions. Check the website for current pricing.
Insider Tip: Looking for a little luxury after your Cowboy College Experience? Four Seasons Scottsdale at Troon North offers an Extraordinary Experiences Cowboy for a Day package. The cost is $450 in addition to add ons such as a boot and cowboy hat package ($250 and up depending on your selection.) Four Seasons Scottsdale room rate not included in this pricing. Check website for details.
If You Go:
Arizona Cowboy College (480) 471-3151
Lorill Equestrian Center
30208 N 152nd Street
Scottsdale, Arizona 85262
Article, photos and video by Equine Writer Nancy D. Brown. I was a guest of Arizona Cowboy College. All opinions are my own.