Though the calendar maintains that it's still the 21st century, the experienced cowfolk at MD Ranch take visitors back to the Wild West with horsemanship and equestrian knowledge that's been perfected across the centuries. Joining them is a herd of well-trained horses, who itch to take riders on vigorous romps across the Sonoran Desert landscapes of San Tan Mountain Regional Park. The only outfitters in the mountains, the ranch's seasoned guides lead experienced or first-time riders along desert trails, trotting past stately cacti on all-day and sunset excursions or galloping in search of far-off coyote choruses during intense ranch rides. The herd contains a wide range of horse personalities–from horses that are safe for even the most inexperienced riders to those with enough go for seasoned cowboys. On-site trainers work with steeds and riders alike, teaching students of all ages the techniques of English and Western riding as well as basic horsemanship and equine care skills.
The Festival of Horses parades rare breeds alongside hitch-pulling draft steeds to celebrate equine diversity, entertainment, and labor. The graceful gaits of breeds such as frisians, spanish barb mustangs, and arizona appaloosas glide across the stallion showcase’s arena, the walls of which are made from wooden remnants of the Trojan Horse tied together with Mister Ed film reels. Rows of commercial booths promote and sell their wares on the trade-show floor, where horse-lovers haggle over trailers, tack, and feed. Trot from ring to ring, absorbing the sights and sounds of horse-human demonstrations from groups such as the Golden West Cowgirls and horse soccer, a contest of skill that has confused jersey manufacturers everywhere.
AZ Grip-N-Rip Batting Cages provides a space for aspiring athletes to hone all the basics of their game. In fully-enclosed batting cages, hitters train both eyes and muscles to deal with consistent-speed pitches as the machines at the other end of the cage spit out either baseballs or softballs. Meanwhile, at soft toss stations or regulation-sized clay mounds, pitchers practice the subtle handholds that produce spin or the full body power behind a fastball. Nine coaches?many with Major League experience playing for teams like the Atlanta Braves, the Chicago White Sox, and the New York Mets?provide pointers and training regimens that really help students improve their game, running one-on-one lessons, group classes, and even baseball camps, where students learn important skills, like how to build a fire by rubbing two bats together.
The roughly 5-kilometer Survivor Mud Run challenges athletes from around the country with 20 mud-soaked obstacles, including monkey bars, tire courses, giant slip 'n' slides, and net climbs. A team of licensed contractors builds all the obstacles, ensuring stability throughout. The dirt-drenched course allows participants to put their stamina, physical fitness, and mental determination to the test in a much more fun and safer way than challenging a Central African chimpanzee to a staring contest. Adrenaline and sheer force of will boost runners over walls and beneath low-slung wires in the mud-filled trenches, leading them to the finish line where a post-competition party awaits with beer, music, and food. After each race, announcers honor the top three male and female participants in each age division.
Golf visionary Nancy Collins wanted to help women learn golf fundamentals and find a network of like-minded players. To these ends, she founded the all-female league Sassy Golf. After establishing a presence in Denver, Sassy Golf has expanded to include the golf-friendly clime of the Phoenix and Scottsdale area, and participating courses include Troon North and TPC Scottsdale. Throughout the week, members convene on different courses to participate in relaxed outings. The flexible scheduling allows busy members to register for the outings, clinics, and demonstrations that do not conflict with their personal schedules or mysterious inability to be in the same place as a popular superhero. In addition to ladies-only adventures, Sassy Golf coordinates monthly 18-hole coed outings.
For the Banzai Physical Challenge, young warriors must face a dastardly foe: mud. Throughout a two-mile course, kids must brave the mess as they scale a hay mountain, take on a technically engineered ¼ pipe, rope swing, and mud crawl. Youngsters ages 7–17 can opt to tackle the muddy obstacle course on their own, with an adult, or with an altruistic pig that can carry them to the end.
After rinsing off at the cleanup area, participants can explore Banzai's other kid-friendly attractions, including tug-of-war, inflatable obstacle courses, and bounce houses. Warriors can unwind with chair massages, adorn their arms with glitter tattoos, groove to tunes spun by live DJs, or replenish themselves with food and drink. There's even a beer garden for the adults.