What is the Dude Ranch Foundation?

The mission of the Dude Ranch Foundation is: To protect and preserve the history of dude ranching by maintaining a museum (heritage center) and archives for educating the public on the historical nature of the dude ranching industry. Additionally, our mission is to financially assist in the educations of persons wishing to pursue employment or careers in the dude ranch industry and supporting industries.

The Foundation began in 1988 by Mark Grubbs. Mark and his wife, Amy, were co-executive directors and former dude ranch owners. Mark’s dream was to establish a fund to give scholarships to young people who wanted to be in the dude ranch industry. Funding was to be obtained from an annual auction held during the Dude Ranchers' Association Convention. His vision was to retain a fund large enough that the interest would be used for scholarships. The scholarship fund has been administered by our Executive Director (s) and the Foundation Board of Directors from its inception to the present. Two years ago we expanded our mission and goals to encompass more than scholarships in hopes to help protect this western way of life. Dude Ranch Foundation Logo With Name

We are keeping the real west alive with the programs below:

• Scholarships – The Foundation provides a broad and flexible set of scholarships each year to students with the overall goal of supporting the future of the dude ranch industry. Over $300.000 awarded to students since inception.

• Education – Through public relations, articles, speaker’s bureau and teaming up with authors and organizations the Foundation conducts outreach to educate the public about the rich history and vacation opportunities at dude ranches.

• Protecting and Preserving Land - The Foundation facilitates preservation efforts through connecting funders, ranchers, experts and organizations to initiate conservation easements and /or selling of development rights.

• Horse Safety Program – In an effort to assist ranches in becoming safer the Foundation developed a horse safety program that has been wildly successful and has verified results. The foundation dispatches certified approved instructors to train ranch staff.

• Dude Ranch Museum – Your support helps fund and outfit a Museum located in Cody, Wyoming to present and display the rich history of the dude ranch industry. It is free to the public all year long.

• Connecting Children and Families to the Outdoors – The Foundation sponsors families who might not otherwise have the ability to experience the outdoors via a dude ranch vacation.

There were 14 scholarships given out for the 2018/2019 for a total of $28,000. They were all given to very worthy applicants who all held more than a 3.0 GPA. Most are hoping to continue in the dude ranch industry in some manner whether that be as a vet, a marketing person, a welder, an accountant or just as an ambassador for the industry.  All applicants have spent time either at the Dude Ranchers' Association office or working on a Dude Ranchers' Association member ranch. 

The Foundation not only wants to educate the general public about the dude ranch industry through our free dude ranch museum, but also wants to help our members stay on top of the latest travel trends, public land use issues, ADA compliant issues and any other issues that pertain to the travel/hospitality businesses. We will help connect ranchers to experts concerning conservation easements.


Dude Ranch Foundation Horse Safety Program

One of the programs we are most proud of is the Horse Safety Program.  This program was created 15 years ago to help our ranchers adapt the minimum guidelines for not only DRA member ranches but other equine programs related to Horse Safety and Adaptive First Aid for the Trail. This program provides an educational opportunity for all equine participants through a seminar approach. The goal is to promote continual evaluation of safety procedures and skills to improve the safety and knowledge of equine participant’s including the rider and the horse. DRA dude ranchers put over 75 thousand guests a year on horseback with much less than half of 1 percent or 0.18% reported an injuries.

Key Elements

• Horse Safety

• Accident Management

• Site Safety

• Continuing Education

• Equipment and Tack Safety

• Guest Orientation

• Certification

The program relies upon the integrity of its members to review their program with consideration to the suggested Horse Safety and Risk Management Practices discussed in the program. In order to stay current with the program each ranch must attend a course at least once every three years.  The owner, operator or manager must attend a “Horse Safety and Adaptive First Aid Seminar” to remain in current standing.  Wranglers are encouraged to attend a “Wrangler Training Class” as offered at the beginning of each summer. The classes offered to the wranglers remain current for five years.

Horseback riding and other dude ranch activities, conducted oftentimes in outdoor wilderness, and/or mountainous terrain, include inherent and other risks that can cause injury, damage, death or other loss.  As a result, it is recognized that ranches cannot assure the safety of their guests, and that participants share in the responsibility for their own well-being and the well-being of others on any trip.

The Dude Ranch Foundation Horse Safety Program is an endeavor to assist ranches in managing risks and considering safety in their ongoing effort to provide their guests with a positive experience.

The Foundation administered a safety survey to all of its members in 2017.  There were a total of 475,059 hours in the saddle for the 63 ranches who answered the survey, and a total of 48,489 guests. The rate of injury was 0.18%. Since we have been conducting this survey and since the horse safety program has been in place that number continues to improve. 

The Foundation would like everyone to have the opportunity to experience this wonderful way of life so they will sponsor families who would not normally have the financial ability to take their kids to a dude ranch. As you can see the Foundation is very dedicated to preservation, education and conservation.


For more information on the Foundation call Colleen at 307-587-2339 or e-mail at colleen@duderanch.orgwww.duderanchfoundation.org


Horsemanship 101 - Preparing for your Equestrian Vacation - Part One

by Carol Moore Part One: On top of Ole Smokey....now 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 info@duderanch.org www.duderanch.org

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.