Horsemanship 101 - Preparing for your Equestrian Vacation - Part One

by Carol Moore Part One: On top of Ole what? You’ve finally committed yourself to that wonderful vacation the whole family has clamored for . . . a trip to a dude ranch! And now you’re starting to get the jitters just thinking about climbing on board that horse for the first time. Well, calm down. We’re going to give you a little “horsemanship 101”, just enough to help you arrive at your destination with a feeling of confidence and desire. Picking the ranch that's right for you If this is your first riding experience, select your ranch carefully. Make sure they cater to the beginner and have some nice easy rides that you can enjoy. Most of these properties will offer a variety of rides, and as your knowledge increases so can the complexity of the trail ride. Most importantly, when you arrive at the ranch of your choice, do not let pride interfere with a correct assessment of your riding skills. If you are a beginner, or have some skills but are a timid rider, let your wrangler know before the horse selection begins.

Children riding at White Stallion Ranch Enjoying a leisurely ride at the White Stallion Ranch in Tucson, Arizona. Photo by Billy Jones.

A few on-the-ground points Riding is an unlimited field of learning and there are many excellent sources of information that can get you to the same end result. For the purpose of this lesson, we’ll assume that you will be riding western style and we’ll limit ourselves to just one way for each step. Once you feel comfortable with the basics you can expand upon this information. Your horse’s head gear is called a bridle. The mouth piece is a bit and attached to the bit are the reins. By pulling on the reins you create tension between the bit and the curb chain (the little strap that goes under the chin and behind the bit) which controls the speed of your horse. The saddle is what you will be sitting on and the stirrups are what you put your feet into. The cinch is what holds the saddle in place and it should remain rather snug while you are riding. If you have an opportunity to hold or lead your horse, do so from the left side. Do not hold onto the bit, instead give your horse some room and hold the reins a good 18 inches from the bit. Horses consider themselves prey animals and can be claustrophobic especially around the head. They prefer to be petted on the neck or have their back scratched rather than to have their head fussed with.  (read more)

84th Annual DRA Convention in Billings, Montana...

CODY, Wyo.—Travel guides define Montana as having a “significant equestrian presence.” That presence increases dramatically next month when a couple hundred or so horsemen and women come ridin’ in for the 84th annual meeting of the Dude Ranchers’ Association, or DRA. Member ranchers, associate members, vendors, and media convene Feb 2nd – 6th for the signature event of the year at The Crowne Plaza Hotel in Billings, Montana.
DRA Brown Tag
For the first time this year, the Dude Ranchers’ Association has teamed up with Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch for a Casino night Fundraiser. The event will be held Feb 3rd. There will be a live band, auction, costume party, raffles and lots of good old fashioned fun.

The Dude Ranchers’ Educational Trust founded in 1988 has awarded over one hundred thirty thousand dollars in scholarships to students who in some way through their careers will help to perpetuate the Western Lifestyle of Dude Ranching. There is a wide range of careers that would qualify such as Culinary, Marketing, Farrier, Land Management, Herd Management, Hospitality, Accounting etc.

Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch Located on the edge of Billings, Montana, their 400-acre main campus includes nine residential lodges, two of which are intensive-care units, two therapeutic community homes, and an accredited school. They are an integral member of the Billings medical community. As a private, not-for-profit multi-service agency, they provide intensive residential treatment and extensive Community Based Services (CBS) for youth and families.

The first official meeting of the Dude Ranchers’ Association was held on September 27 and 28, 1926 in Bozeman, Montana. Ranchers, railroad officials and National Park officials attended the two-day event to discuss the five objectives set forth:1) Establish cooperation among ranchers and railroad officials 2) Discuss the transportation and proper care of guests 3) Create advertising and publicity for the association 4) Standardize practices 5) Create an efficient sales organization. Having agreed to all five objectives, the ranchers added a sixth - the Organized Protection of fish and game.

For more information about this event please, contact The Dude Ranchers’ Association at 866-399-2339 or

The DRA Wrangler Certification Update

The Wrangler Certification course has been established to train wranglers/guides in the skills needed to meet the Minimum Horse Safety Standards accepted by the DRA certified ranches. This course provides the skills and knowledge needed to prevent potential accidents, and how to anticipate dangerous situations on the trail. Participants in this program must already have a good working knowledge of horsemanship skills. This is both a hands on and classroom experience. The course follows the material presented in the DRA Horse Safety Manual. The Wrangler Certification program has been very successful again this year: • 6 Ranches have hosted the wrangler training • 16 Ranches sent wranglers to be certified • 58 wranglers have been certified this year making a total of 247 wranglers currently certified. The Certified Wrangler Instructor Training course has been established to train instructors for the Wrangler Certification program. This covers presenting the material in the classroom and in a hands-on experience at the barn or on the trail. There are currently 58 Certified Wrangler Instructors.

DRA Horse Safety Program

Horse Safety RoundIn 2004 the DRA introduced its first Association defined Horse Safety program. The program has seen a significant level of participation from membership. It is designed to assist ranches in managing risk and establish reasonable standards for the Industry. The Horse Safety Program consists of the DRA Horse Safety and Adaptive First Aid for the Trail Certifications, Certified Wrangler Instructor, and Certified Wrangler and is an endorsed insurance program.

The DRA Horse Safety and Adaptive First Aid for the Trail program reflects the minimum guidelines for member ranches and other trail riding programs related to Horse Safety and Adaptive First Aid for the Trail. This program provides an educational opportunity through a seminar approach. Our goal is to promote continual evaluation of safety procedures and skills to improve the quality of our programs. Currently there are a total of 107 DRA Ranches, Associate Member Ranches and Outfitters Horse Safety Certified.

The Dude Ranchers’ Association Horse Safety Program is the standard for anyone involved in Western Riding Programs. It's been developed by those with more experience and more guest hours in the saddle than any other organization in the world. Summer camps, trail ride operators and Western riding instructors would all greatly benefit by becoming a part of the Dude Ranchers’ Association and taking advantage of the expertise available there. Safe practices not only help provide a better experience for guests and more return riders, operating under policies established by the recognized leader in the field provide insurance companies with a greater comfort level which can lead to lower rates. DRA has an insurance program available to members. Call them and ask for more information.
Allen A. McBride, Camp Mac