More and more people are seeking to use their vacation time to explore new, unique hobbies and sports that can’t be found in their own backyards. A guest ranch is the perfect destination for visitors to discover new pastimes like horseback riding, a popular activity among guests at the more than 100 dude ranches that make up the Dude Ranchers’ Association (DRA). Saddling up can be intimidating to first-time riders. Just like shoes, it’s important for guests to find the horse and riding style that is their “perfect fit.” The DRA is an expert when it comes to matching dude ranch guests with the right ranch that fits their riding goals. Upon arrival to individual ranches, experienced wranglers match each guest with a horse based on rider experience level, horse personality and size, and more. The result is an incredible riding experience – for both guest and horse! Regardless of one’s desired terrain type or excursion plan, horseback riding allows visitors to explore their surroundings from a different vantage point with the opportunity to get up close and personal with wildlife and the natural elements.
- Located in Shell, Wyo., The Hideout Lodge & Guest Ranch is the ideal spot for guests of all riding abilities who want to enjoy a vast array of scenic views. Boasting 650,000 acres to roam from the back of your four-legged companion, this dude ranch is known for its wide variety of terrain and picturesque outlooks. Intrepid equestrians can jolt through the rapid turns of the mesmerizing Mollycropsy canyon, while rookies can enjoy sauntering among the charming alpine meadows of the Big Horn National Forest.
- Zapata Ranch in Mosca, Colo., is for the wild at heart. Take advantage of a rustic overnight pack trip where you can journey on horseback through the nearby Sangre de Cristo Mountains and set up camp under the clear, open skies. Explore Sand Dunes National Park or gallop through the bison herds, all the while improving your horsemanship and riding skills.
- Life slows down for guests at G Bar M Ranch, a working ranch in Clyde Park, Mont. Guests will reach deep levels of communication and trust with their horse through “traditional ranch horsemanship.” For those experienced riders looking to practice traditional open range techniques, the Stockmanship Clinic teaches trailing, sorting and holding the herd rodeo style.
G Bar M Ranch
- McGinnis Meadows Cattle & Guest Ranch in Libby, Mont., teaches the specialized form of horsemanship known as the Buck Brannaman style. Once paired with a horse that is best suited to the rider’s skill level, guests embark on the unique experience of cattle driving. Something unique about this ranch is that wranglers incorporate and instruct proper land management techniques. Experienced riders are encouraged at McGinnis.
- Rocking Z Guest Ranch in Wolf Creek, Mont., focuses on working with guests from the ground up. After “learning the language” through observation, riders form a partnership with their horse. While it is true that they highlight the basics at this dude ranch, there is no lack of challenge here. After understanding the fundamentals, guests can implement their skills through barrel racing, riding bareback, Western-style moves and working with a cattle herd.
- One of the oldest cattle ranches in the northwest, Seven Devils Lodge Guest Ranch and Guide Service in Council, Idaho, digs deep into its cowboy roots with its Western riding program. At Seven Devils, each guest starts from the ground up, getting to know the horse and how to communicate with the animal before they ever start riding. Wranglers work with the guests to find their bearings before they embark on their ultimate, western riding adventure.