by Blake Herzog
Photos Nancy Webb
Pinal County’s entertainment options for kids of all ages have become especially limited since the pandemic started, which Nancy Webb says is part of the reason why The Pony Ranch featuring Tinytown has been busy since it opened in November.
“There’s just not a lot available for parents to do with young kids and with everything with the coronavirus, and we offer enough space where people can social distance and you’re outside, and we are in Pinal County.
“There is no mask mandate; that is just recommended. So because we can social distance and you’re outside and families are together, it’s just someplace where they can go and have some fun.”
She and her husband Gary spent more than three years building the 3-acre attraction at their 8-acre home between Casa Grande and Arizona City. Many of their 13 ponies have been with them since 2010 when the couple began offering rides on a “pony wheel” on Sundays at the Phoenix Park ‘n Swap, 3801 E. Washington St.
“We want to offer something kind of showing the Western lifestyle; that there’s more to do than video games and watching TV,” Nancy Webb says. “So you can get out and see like a Western lifestyle and ride the ponies and interact with country animals and be out the country.”
Now their Pony Ranch is open every Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. They still spend Sundays at the park and swap where they have a permanent booth.
At The Pony Ranch at 18536 W. Houser Road, children who are at least 1 and weigh up to 85 pounds can go for pony rides on a squiggly half-mile trail, led by one adult. Bike helmets or similar head protection are required for all children and are available at the ranch if families are unable to bring one.
Most children up to 7 or 8 are under the maximum weight limit, plus a few more up to age 9 or 10, Webb says.
“It really makes them feel like they accomplished something by riding a pony, you know, especially the little girls, you know, they’ll get off the pony and they’ll go, ‘Mommy, I did it!’ you know, and they give the pony a hug.”
If children outnumber adults in a group, other adults and “ranch hands” like their 11-year-old granddaughter and her 10-year-old friend, both experienced with horses, are available to help out for tips. A carousel is also available if adults don’t want to walk with the pony.
The ponies’ corral sits next to a tiny Western town, built from an old shipping container surfaced with reclaimed wood from hundred-year-old barns in Wyoming. A water tank and a bridge over “Dead Man’s Gulch” complete the setting.
There is also a cabana with three picnic tables available to guests becoming popular for birthday parties for up to nine or 10 people.
The Pony Ranch featuring Tinytown also has a petting zoo where kids of all ages can feed and pet goats, mini-donkeys and mules, older ponies like Coco’s Mom (23), calves, chickens, potbellied pigs, and a turkey, along with a horse to feed and a heifer on display.
Webb says many of her animals have put on some weight since November as more and more visitors flock to the ranch. More than 100 families have come to the ranch on some Saturdays, mainly parents or grandparents with kids.
Most visitors come from Pinal County communities, but others have come from Tucson and Phoenix, including a grandma-granddaughter duo who are regulars of theirs from the park and swap.
The attraction draws a sizeable contingent of child-free seniors as well.
“Senior citizens show up here just to hang out, you know, just to come and they go and they buy feed. They go for the animals, we have a porch on our Western building with chairs so they can sit and watch children ride the ponies and just have fun also,” Webb says.
The Pony Ranch featuring Tinytown
- 18536 W. Houser Road, Casa Grande (off Chiuchu Road 3 miles south of Interstate 8)
- Admission: $8 per person, children younger than 1 free. Includes unlimited pony rides for children weighing up to 85 pounds
- Hours: Open Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- Contact: www.facebook.com/theponyranchfeaturingtinytown or call 480-236-4500