Meet Colleen Hodson, Executive Director of the Dude Ranchers' Association (DRA), located in Cody, Wyoming. It is her job to ensure that the more than 100 ranch members of the association provide the most complete and memorable experience possible to guests. From Arkansas to California and all the way through British Columbia, Colleen has traveled to evaluate each ranch, ensuring that guests receive the type of experience they seek.
Equitrekking: You have visited a lot of ranches in your career with the Dude Ranchers’ Association. What’s been your favorite part of the experience and has it made you a better rider?
Colleen Hodson: I have visited over 110 ranches and being able to see the amazing places these ranches’ are located in is probably the best thing about my job. That being said, the ranchers, ranch managers and the entire staff at every DRA dude ranch goes way above and beyond to make sure your stay is exactly what you want it to be. Having horses of my own and riding on regular basis for the past 30 years I thought I would find the riding a little regimented and more geared to just the beginner rider. Well was I wrong! They truly can accommodate any riding level from the most inexperienced to the most experienced. The wranglers at dude ranches are some of the most well rounded, diverse people I have ever been around. You may get a kid who grew up on a cattle ranch working cows since he was 4, or a kid that just graduated from Cornell and was on the polo team, and everything in between. The one thing they all have in common is their love of horses and people. Their ability to take a novice rider on day one of their stay and turn them into a good, if not great, rider by day three is amazing to watch. So to answer your question, yes - I have learned more about riding and the horse in general in these past 10 years than I ever thought I would and that has made me a much better rider.
Equitrekking: The Dude Ranchers’ Association has been around for a long time, since 1926, what is the mission of your historic organization?
Colleen Hodson: The association was started to help promote, protect and preserve not only the western way of life a dude ranch offers, but also to protect and preserve the places and the land that these ranches operate in and around. Our mission has not changed much over the years, we still want to help the ranches stay viable so that people who might not otherwise get the chance to experience the wonders of the west can still do so. The ranches truly do consider themselves stewards of the land. (read more)