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Horses in the desert? What??

The Coachella Valley already offers a ton of activities – from hiking to the infamous Coachella music fest to epic pool parties to camping locales like Joshua Tree. Growing up in SoCal I thought that I pretty much knew what the valley had to offer. Wrong.

It’s been another torturous 72-degree winter day here in Palm Desert, and I’m winding down for the night. “Hey Dom, what do you think about riding some horses tomorrow morning?” a friend asks.

I almost fell off a horse the last time I tried riding (some 20 years ago). But hey, I’ve promised myself to try new things. Or in this case try old things that still scare the shit out of me. Excuse the language.

Palm Springs' Smoke Tree Stables.

Palm Springs' Smoke Tree Stables.

Surviving the ride

It’s 9:30am and we’re at the Smoke Tree Stables in Palm Springs ready to jump on some mammals (I'm still acting as mellow as possible). “Check this box if you don’t have insurance…Check here if you are going to ride without a helmet.” The form is not calming my nerves.

We choose the two-hour vs. one-hour tour because this will take us to an “oasis” in the valley. I’m a bit dubious, but ok.


Horse riding in Palm Springs

We’re now a group of ten people/horses, being led by a guide on the front horse. I’ve already talked friendly chatter to my white horse (Ricky), but he sees right through me. He’s the boss, and I am along for the ride. So I start calling him Gringo in hopes to make a deeper connection. It’s not working.

The ride is along a trail heading straight towards a group of palm trees in the middle of desert. OK, so there’s the oasis – I get it. It’s going to be a relaxed stroll to some greenness.

But this relaxation is short-lived, because we’re now headed towards a mountainside. “Lean forward when going up the mountain; Lean back when going down.” That’s it. That’s all the instruction we get. What happened to going to the greenness?

But going up it’s all working out. These horses know the trails like their hooves (does that work?). They don’t need much direction at all. I’m now enamored at the fact I'm riding a horse up a mountain.

We climb, then descend down to the backside of the oasis. The horses amble along a running creek with palm trees sprouting from seemingly nowhere. I feel a bit like Indiana Jones in the desert oasis searching for the golden monkey head. (Or whatever it was. I forget.) But then again I have a vivid imagination.

The pool. The palm trees. The mountains. Classic Palm Springs.

The pool. The palm trees. The mountains. Classic Palm Springs.

Past the finish line

It’s a bit after 12 p.m. now. I’ve survived the ride and now I am at one of the fellow rider’s rented houses in Palm Springs. Actually, this seven-bedroom estate used to be a famous actor’s house. From the pool, I gaze up at the palm trees and mountains jutting up behind the home’s façade. Such a Palm Springs moment.

Thank you again Coachella Valley for showing me an unforgettable time. I’ll be back for more soon…

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