Sunday, April 30, 2017

Riding in Arizona: Blue Sky Ranches

Riding in Arizona: Blue Sky Ranches
by GinaMcKnight
Archived Article from the April 2017 issue of Florida Equine Athlete
Miles Buckley has been a horseman for many years. Better known as ‘Bucky’, he is the proprietor of Blue Sky Ranches in Arizona. The first time I scheduled a meeting with Bucky, he was in a pickle and had to round up some horses that roamed too far from the ranch. We rescheduled the interview and talked about horses, riding, and the beauty of America’s west. Bucky, a true horseman, is anxious to talk about horses - “Someone asked me how many horses I’ve ridden and I’ve ridden a thousand or more!”

Blue Sky Ranches offers hourly trail rides in Arizona locations and ranch vacations throughout the historical west, including Mount Rushmore National Park. They promote the promise to ‘cater to the young and young at heart’ and want you to know they have the perfect horse waiting for you…

GM: Nice to meet you, Bucky. Thanks for connecting. Tell us about your horse history…
MB: My dad bought me a pony when I was three years old. His name was Frisky. I probably wasn’t a very good rider when I was three or four years old, but I put a lot of miles on that guy. I would ride him everywhere. He was a great little pony. When I was 11 years old, I saw a horse, a full grown horse, and I remember telling my dad that I wanted a horse. So, my dad bought me a horse. I kept Frisky, too, he was close to 30 years old when he died. I am 64 years old now. I’ve been riding for 61 years.

GM: Of all the horses that you’ve owned and ridden, do you have a favorite?
MB: Actually I have had two favorite horses. One was named Lucky. I really liked that horse. He was a Quarter Horse. If he was a little bit smaller, he could have driven my truck. Anything I wanted that horse to do, he would do it. He was gentle as can be. All I had to do was whistle and he would come running. 

Quichie was my next favorite. He was almost as good as Lucky. He was a Quarter Horse, too. But, you know, a friend of mine from St. Louis sent me a Tennessee Walker. My body has become beaten up over the years; Quarter Horses are a little rougher than a Tennessee Walker. When I got on the Tennessee Walker, I really enjoyed the ride. I have eight of them now. They are very easy on the body and a sharp mind, too. Once they learn something, they remember. I wouldn’t trade the world for my Tennessee Walker. When you get older and your body doesn’t heal up as quickly as it is supposed to, a Tennessee Walker is the way to go.

GM: Do you have a favorite horse story to share?
MB: Well, I have many, but this story is one of my favorites. This happened up in Colorado at a place called Stone Mountain. There was myself, my wife, and an older gentlemen named Jerry. We were up there hunting cattle. We were up on top of Stone Mountain, it was a little cool out, and we came to this rocky ridge. The cattle were down at the bottom, in the canyon. It was about a mile ride back to the canyon entrance from where we were on the ridge.  I was on a mare named Chewa. She was a great horse; she was the tops. I remember telling my wife and Jerry to go ahead of me to the canyon and wait for me because I was going down over right here. My wife said, ‘You can’t go down into the canyon here!’ I didn’t want to take the time to ride around. Chewa and I started over the side of the cliff, almost straight down. Chewa went down, I went down; I thought I broke a leg, but we were okay. Chewa and I made it to the canyon, we actually beat my wife and Jerry. That’s probably one of my favorite stories because of the horse. Chewa was a tough horse. Anybody who rides horses and rides down a 16-foot solid rock cliff will understand. I was younger then, too. I have a thousand horse stories.

GM: Tell me about Blue Sky Ranches…
MB: We have hourly and day rides. Our big thing is our horseback riding vacations. We go all over; Colorado Rockies, mountains in Wyoming, South Dakota, Valley of the Gods in Utah, and New Mexico. Our most popular ride is in South Dakota. There just aren’t a lot of people who have been in a herd of 2,500 buffalo. We take people right up to the buffalo herd. We go up to Mt. Rushmore, too. All on horseback. It’s a five hour ride to Mt. Rushmore. We end up on top of the President’s heads and you can get your picture taken there. Then we come down to the lodge that was built back in the 1930’s. It’s a really neat place with a lot of history. There’s a lot of game there; goats, sheep, and more.

We get some incredible riders who take part in our riding vacations. If you come, you will think you have died and gone to heaven. We ride where history was made. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of a guy by the name of Johnny Ringo, or not, but he was with Wyatt Earp and the rest at Tombstone. I live about five miles away from Johnny Ringo’s grave, about 40 minutes from Tombstone. I live about 10 minutes from where all the Indian wars were started; Geronimo, Cochise. We take people on tours through the old stage coach lines. It should be illegal having as much fun as I have.

We are different than most riding vacations. We let people ride the way they want. It’s not just a line of horses going down the trail. You can ride behind another horse, if you want to, but, there’s no fun in that. That is what distinguishes me between other riding vacations.

GM: What do you do when a horse bucks
MB: Plant your butt to the back of the saddle, try to stay upright in the center of the saddle and keep yourself centered with the horse. Then you follow the horse. When he’s coming down, lean back a little bit; when he’s coming up, lean forward a little bit. This all happens in a matter of seconds. If you take the time to think about it, you’re already on the ground. Instinct kicks in and it’s an automatic response by the rider to stay seated. Bronc riders will tell you, it’s an automatic response. A lot of people make the mistake of going to the saddle horn. When you go to the saddle horn and grab it, you’re pulling yourself forward. When you’re pulling yourself forward, your legs go behind you and you’ve lost your balance, coming off the horse. If you go for the saddle horn, push against it to steady yourself back into the seat.

GM: What should I pack for a riding vacation?
MB: We usually tell people to bring a slicker, because if you bring a slicker it won’t rain. That’s just the way it is. We don’t go during the rainy season. It’s never cold during the seasons that we ride, but I always tell people to dress in layers, just in case. You can always take a layer off if you’re too hot. That’s about it.

GM: Will I get to choose my own horse, or will you choose a horse for me?
MB: It depends upon what kind of rider you are. If you ride all the time, I’ll let you pick your horse. A lot of people who don’t ride much, I will pick the horse that I think fits them the best.  

GM: How many people do you take on one trail ride?
MB: I like to keep my groups small – 6 to 8 people. That’s plenty. That way we all get to have a good time. We don’t think we’ve ever ate in the ranch house, even though we have a large dining room. Our place looks over 10 acres of green grass with a creek running through it, and that’s where my horses are. Everybody goes outside to eat to watch the horses. We never eat inside the ranch house.

GM: Do you have advice for novice riders and those looking to purchase their first horse?
MB: I get a lot of phone calls from people wanting me to teach them how to ride. I am not a good instructor. I am a rider. It’s hard for me to explain to people how to ride. My wife is very good at it. It’s best to go to a riding instructor who you connect with. If people think they are uncomfortable riding, they think everyone is uncomfortable riding, and you don’t have to be.  I ride so much; I don’t think about it. I just ride.

GM: What does horsemanship mean to you?
MB: There are horsemen who are riders, then there are people who sit on a horse. I am a horseman. I ride. You have to understand the horse; helping the horse when you’re riding. Most novice riders set on their horse. There’s a big difference between sitting on a horse and riding a horse. I take pride in the fact that I ride my horse.

Visit Bucky at Blue Sky and book your riding vacation today!

Gina McKnight is an author and freelance writer from Ohio USA.


edwards said...

Bucky Passed away from Cancer this May 31, 2017.
Blue Sky Ranches is now permanently Closed

Gina said...

Our sincere and deepest condolences. We enjoyed connecting with Bucky and hearing about his adventures on horseback. He was one-of-a-kind and a true cowboy. We are happy to preserve his memory here and wish you peace and blessings as you go forward.