Explore Palm Springs: Horseback Riding Through the Desert

Actors Jackie Cooper, Robert Taylor and Charles Farrell join local group

Los Vaqueros del Desierto's inaugural trek in 1938 included riders (from left) John Cooper, Neut House, Jackie Cooper, Cliff Meade, Frank Bogert, Bob Mount, Bob Ransom, and Harvey Ellis.

Photo Courtesy of Palm Springs Historical Society


One of the first recreational activities enjoyed by visitors to the Palm Springs area was a jaunt through the open desert by way of equine transport.

In 1938, a riding group was unofficially formed when a few like-minded individuals planned a five-day trek into the desert expanse. Invitations were sent to “congenial friends of the saddle in all parts of the country.”

Many invitees expressed their interest in participating; a good number of men subsequently joined Los Vaqueros del Desierto, the name immediately adopted by the group. In addition, the group coined a slogan, “no guns – no ladies, and no hell-raisin’.”

The group was comprised of riders of varying skill levels and diverse backgrounds. There were doctors, lawyers, industrials, innkeepers, and even movie stars. One novice rode the whole 85-mile journey.

The members included many locals such as Palm Springs’ first mayor Phil Boyd, Tony Burke, Frank Bogert, pioneers Carl Lykken, Raymond Cree, Earl Coffman, George Roberson, and local resident movie stars Robert Taylor, Jackie Cooper, and Charles Farrell.

Though the men on the ride often did not bathe for the entire duration of the five-day trip and spent their nights on primitive cots, they ate like kings; every evening the riders were preceded in arrival at their nightly campsite by catering that included lobster, trout, new potatoes, and wild turkey.

The ride turned out to be such a success that it has been held annually ever since, marking the 73rd anniversary in 2011.

Women eventually became part of the equation as well. They formed their own riding club dubbed, Vaqueras y Rancheritas.

Members included locals such as Jane Manchester, Janice Bibo (later Bogert), Helen Ransom, Zaddie Bunker, and even Thelma Wertheimer, wife of gambling proprietor Al Wertheimer.

There is a multitude of ways to learn more about Palm Springs, which turned 75 in 2013. One of the more intriguing methods is by exploring the city’s history.

The Palm Springs Historical Society will share a weekly story whose time and place corresponds with today.

The Palm Springs Historical is located at 221 S. Palm Canyon Drive. For more information, visit www.pshistoricalsociety.org

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