Nestled amongst the desert off a brief dirt road in the very northern area of Scottsdale on the border of Rio Verde, where the houses give way to dirt roads and desert, sits one of the Valley's hidden gems—one which draws visitors from all over the world. It’s been featured on shows such as The Today Show, 60 Minutes, and Good Morning America; was the destination for the first season of the American reality television series Cowboy U that aired on CMT; and was the destination for the opening coverage of the Super Bowl in 2008,
Here, you'll want to don your jeans and boots, and get ready to get ready learn what it takes to be a real cowboy.
Arizona Cowboy College was a dream of the late Lloyd Bridwell, a fourth-generation cowboy, and he built it along with his wife, Lori, opening it in January 2000.
Today, owner Lori runs the destination along with the legendary Rocco Wachman, president, who had worked alongside Lloyd to create the school’s curriculum while it was still just a vision.
A variety of horses, including Arabians, Quarter Horses, minis, and Mustangs, call the ranch—which Lori describes as “a boarding and training facility with an emphasis on the ranching side—home, as well as numerous cows and a pig. There’s also the house where Lori lives, and the bunkhouse, where those who come for the one- to five-day Cowboy College experience stay.
The bunkhouse can sleep six, and is equipped with bunk beds and one bathroom. Yes, one. It was built that way on purpose.
“That makes [the guests] think as a team,” Lori explains. “They have to work out who uses it when, and how they all get ready for the day. Everyone has to start working together as a team.”
What is taught in Cowboy College ranges depending on the participants and what they want to learn, as well as the time of year it is, and what the ranch needs. Everyone from complete novices to experienced riders attends, so the curriculum is also tailored to each participant’s level. There are typically lessons in rider and equine safety, equitation, roping, penning, sorting, and more. As it’s a working ranch, the participants also help with tasks needed at the time—whether that’s doing fence checks, cattle drives, counting cattle, horse shoeing, and more. If a participant has something specific they want to learn, that happens, as well.
For meals, Lori cooks all of those herself.
Participants typically not only learn “cowboyin’,” but also come away with a new sense of adventure and self-accomplishment.
“It’s really about the horses or you—it’s about the person,” Lori explains. “As they say, the outside of a horse is good for the inside of a person.”
“You get self-accomplishment and self-assurance,” agrees Debbie Brown, who first came to Cowboy University as a participant years ago, and now joins the ranch to help out for several months at a time. “People realize that if they can do this, they can do anything.”
Arizona Cowboy College offers private and group lessons for kids to adults, as well as its unique cowboy school program.
For more information, visit CowboyCollege.com.