A Weekend Riding Retreat in the Stunning Chama Valley-A Review

Susie Morgan - July 2, 2015

Weekend Retreat on Horseback

“We pleaded for mercy and asked Chef to cut back the volume of food lest we forego some of the spectacular riding and scenery we had come to experience.”

For those of us living in the arid Santa Fe area, riding in Chama is a vastly different experience. The elevation is higher; and just a few miles from the Colorado border, Chama gets twice the annual rainfall as Santa Fe. With Rio Chama and the Brazos rivers nearby, the terrain, vegetation and wildlife all reflect those differences. It is gorgeous country.

It is possible to haul up for a day - probably 2 ½ to 3 hours each way. That haul, on top of riding, makes for a very long day for you and for your horse. One alternative is staying longer at the wonderfully accommodative Quinlan Ranch Lodge. The lodge is located on Highway 64/84 just a few miles outside the town of Chama.

The ranch consists of over 17 thousand acres (including the contiguous Garcia Ranch owned by the same family), so there are several days of riding trails throughout the property. The property features many ponds and streams that have water year-round. The riding terrain varies with mountainous areas and vast grassy meadows. Wildflowers abound at this time of year, especially Wild Iris, creating ribbons of purple along the streams paths.

The Lodge can accommodate at least four of your horses in pipe corrals with shed cover, and more in pipe pens. There is also a large wood pole fenced corral that can hold 9 or so horses accustomed to being together. If you own your own horse, but your spouse does not, there are also a few horses available at the Lodge that can be rented each day.

A full time wrangler is on hand to guide your rides based on your preferences for a low, medium or high intensity ride. We opted for the high intensity ride the first afternoon and got more than we bargained for with many steep hills and multiple stream crossings. Most of us ached that evening and were stiff the next morning. During this ride, I spotted an elk antler shed in a meadow and was allowed to keep it. Each morning, as we drove from the lodge to the corrals to feed the horses, we saw Elk cows feeding in the meadows including one baby that was probably only one week old. During our stay, we saw plenty of wild elk, but only two mule deer.

For foodies, this is heaven on earth. Lodge Manager Chef Austin, prepares three meals a day at the Lodge, or will deliver your lunch to you out on the trail. The picnic lunch area includes a large covered patio that holds 3 or 4 large picnic tables, a stock tank with water for the horses, and the fanciest rural bathroom I have ever seen with a shower with hot and cold running water. For lunch we had homemade chili, warm flour tortillas, ham sandwiches, fruit, wine and sodas – the works.

Dinner included duck meatballs over polenta, filet mignon with amazing mashed potatoes, and for breakfast - eggs, sausage and pancakes or homemade quiche. We pleaded for mercy and asked Chef to cut back the volume of food lest we forego some of the spectacular riding and scenery we had come to experience.

All meals are included in the room rate. The Lodge consists of 9 rooms each with its own bath and very comfy beds, so there is plenty of room for a group to set up and ride. Free WIFI is on hand and the living room has DIRECTV for evening’s entertainment. That is, if you decide against the evening rides at full moon. Most of us that declined the evening ride regretted that decision once we heard about that magnificent ride.

The best time of year for riding begins late May and June with the following monsoon season possibly making riding muddier in July and August. Reservations required - Quinlan Ranch -  575-209-1618 

Website here.

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