How to find a ranch:
A really good place to look for ranch addresses is the brochure of the Dude Ranchers' Association. There you can find information about the ranches; where you can find the ranch you want to visit, what you can do there, how many guests they have per week, some rates...
You have to pay for a week at a ranch between $900
and $2,400 ("american plan") ... and even more...
At first you should know what you want to do:
- cattle drive
- vacation at a working cattle ranch
- trailriding at a dude ranch
- a lot of other activities and some riding at a ranch resort.
At the working Cattle & Horse Ranches
(most of them $750 - 950, but there are some with $1,000 and more, too) you live in a cabin or bunk house. Sometimes the cabins are with private bathroom. Usually, there are only a few guests at the ranch. You even can find ranches, which take just 4 - 6 guests per week. Most of the time it's something between 15 and 25 guests. You spend your week together with the ranch family and their cowboys/cowgirls, share their daily work, which means A LOT OF RIDING. Trailing cattle to another pasture, checking fences, bring in' in a herd for branding, there are always a lot of things to do.
Some of the ranches even offer cattle drive
in Spring and Fall. Usually, this is more expensive than the ranch weeks. It's about $1,200 to 1,500 per week.
If you don't want to trail cattle, you can go to adude ranch, which offers trail rides. Usually you live in cabins, most of them with private bathroom, they might have a swimming pool, organize pack trips, hunting... But horseback rides are the main activity.
The ranch resorts
offer great comfort...swimming pool, tennis court, organized programme for children,...and also horseback rides. The rates start at more than $1,000 per week… "open end". At some of the "cheap" places you have to pay extra for the riding.
I contacted about 60 of the ranches I liked. Most of all cattle and horse ranches. And dude ranches with less than 25 guests per week. After checking ranch brochures for weeks I decided to go for a cattle drive to the
Dryhead Ranch (MT & WY).We brought 600 cows and calves from the Winter pastures in Wyoming to the Summer ranches in Montana. Then I visited the Two Bars Seven Ranch, a cattle ranch south of Laramie/WY, I took off my pages by now. Later I spent a week at the
Covered Wagon Ranch, where I was on great trailrides just north of the Yellowstone National Park and some rides were even in the park. "Plan A" was to go to Louisiana, but then I "got lost" in Texas... at the Silver Spur Ranch.
Some general information about ranch vacation:
The weeks at cattle/horse and dude ranches are ok even if you are not an experienced rider. Most of all at the dude ranches they organize trailrides for these "beginners".
If you want to go to a cattle drive make sure you are able to ride 5 - 10 (!!!) hours per day. It won't be fast, but the long hours can make it hard to enjoy the vacation...You also should know how to brush, saddle, bridle a horse.
During the cattle drive you might stay at cow camps and sleep in tipis / tents, your "bathroom" might be the creek nearby...If you want to have a relaxed evening in the ranch house, you better go to a vacation at the ranch.
And if you are not a very good rider, don't even THINK about a
horse drive... When they TELL you it will be FAST, then you better believe them!!!
Most of the time June and the first weeks of September are booked out pretty early. It's always good to book really early, if you want to go to a ranch.
Sometimes the ranches give discounts for the first weeks in May.
Most of the ranches change guests every Sunday. Some change on the Saturdays. Just ask. Some of the ranches you also can book for just a few days. But, believe me, even a week is too short to be there at a ranch...
Sometimes you can book trailrides at the dude ranches, even when you don't stay there for a ranch week. But, please, CALL them and make an appointment. Don't just GO there and ask for trailrides...
If you want to spend your vacation with the horses, if you want to brush, saddle bridle 'em, ask if they allow that. At some of the ranches they give you the saddled horse and after the ride you give the horse back to the people of the stable and they look after your horse. It's an insurance problem... Some of you might like that, but I WOULDN'T. So, just ask...
What to bring for the ranch vacation:
- You SHOULD HAVE a cowboy hat. If you think a basecap will do... after your ears and neck got burned you know why you should bring it. And think about a long heavy rain...
- you should bring a slicker. You can get it at western outfitters or (cheaper) at army stores. Rain jackets won't help much. And most of the ranches don't allow ponchos, because a poncho might spook your horse.
- Chaps protect your legs... brushes, rain, even when it's too hot...
- Don't forget a bandana...
- Your jeans shouldn't be new... you should have been on several rides with it to make sure it won't give you trouble...
- Bring a water bottle!!!
- You might need gloves...
- Don't forget your sun glasses...
- They don't like it when the guests bring saddle bags. Because it is dangerous if you just want to get something out and don't go off the horse.Pommel bags are better and they have space enough for all you need during the ride.
Many ranches have a small ranch store. If you need something special you should call before you go over to check if they have it. The army store might have the same things for 1/3 less...
If you want to take pictures, bring whatever you want. But remember, the expensive camera might not like it to be in a pommel bag for a week. And it might take too much time to get it ready to work for a snapshot. So you should also bring one of the "small and cheap ones"...
If you have more questions, just contact me
and ask. I hope I can help you to find the ranch for a vacation you won't forget!!!
HAPPY TRAILS TO YOU...