Pass the #TravelSauce While Vacation Planning During the Holidays

Take the time this holiday season – when bellies are full, spirits are high and good will is in abundance – to sit with family and pass the #travelsauce, by planning next year’s perfect family vacation to a dude ranch. This Thanksgiving and through Christmas is the designated time every year for family's to come together and share not only a meal, but also experiences from the past year and hopes for the year to come. Take this opportunity and seize the moment to plan your family's next Western adventure vacation at a dude ranch. Here's the perfect way to "pitch" a week at a ranch to the family:

  • There's plenty of room

Whether your are traveling with your nuclear family of kids and parents or as an extended family reunion a dude ranch is set up to accommodate families of upwards of 200 people. Reservation specialists can help you book the right number and locations of cabins. And with professional chefs on staff the dining will be prepared with excellence to satisfy the tastes of even the most selective family members.

In Montana Horses N Courage has a unique, glamping style set-up for an intimate family of 10 while Averil's Flathead Lake Lodge can host up to 130.

  • There's plenty to do for everyone

This vacation is for more people in your family than your 8 year old cousin who went horse crazy two years ago. There will be mountain biking, wilderness hikes and white water rafting for the 20 somethings, adequate spa time and fishing for the parents who need some quiet time and plenty of nightly entertainment for everyone.

Cherokee-Park-Cabin

In Colorado, Cherokee Park Ranch offers these activities plus offers archery, golfing and National Park trips.

 

  • There's easy planning at every step

The best part about an all-inclusive ranch stay is the ease of planning once you have arrived.  Everyone in the family can scatter to their activity of choice. There are daily sign up sheets for horseback riding and the other engaging activities on the ranch. This presents a limitless combination of activities your family can be involved in. On top of all the activity planning your host ranch will take care of preparing all the meals and the cleaning up.

If you are wondering what you should bring take a look here while planning next year's family vacation. So please, pass the #TravelSauce this holiday. You can always contact the Dude Ranchers' Association for more information.


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Family Bonding – Dude Ranch Style

There is much to be said about children getting too much screen time in today’s tech-saturated world. But look around most playgrounds and you will see that parents are just as guilty. Too often, we’re reaching for our phones rather than focusing on what’s truly important – strengthening family bonds and making memories that will carry us well into the future.

As the original all-inclusive destination for families, a ranch vacation guarantees plenty of time to bond and spend time as a family sans technology, creating memories that will last a lifetime. Try a warm family getaway that breaks the spring break cliché of crowds and beaches or, a special trip designed to include the extended family. Dude ranches can accommodate and entertain family members of all ages. This vacation promising a one-of-a-kind vacation with opportunities for the young and young at heart, and everyone in between. Families can challenge and revive their bodies, minds and spirits in the most breathtaking areas in the US. You'll experience outdoor adventures such as; rock climbing, cattle roping, horseback riding, zip lines, ATV riding and whitewater rafting.

Take a gander at just some of these dude ranch options from the Dude Ranchers’ Association. They’re sure to leave the kids clamoring to tell you all they’ve done for the day over dinner, served family-style, of course.

 

Family Wagon Ride at Rainbow Trout Ranch Colorado

Imagine horseback riding with your family through meadows dotted with wildflowers, while the Rocky Mountains tower around you. If you and your family are in need of reconnecting, to each other and to the land, then you’ve found the right place. Rainbow Trout Ranch is rustic with all the modern amenities you’ll ever need. It caters to children of all ages. Located near several historic Spanish land grants in Antonito, Colo., Rainbow Trout is surrounded by the spectacular San Juan Mountains. Ride horses, catch some trout, hike to an overlook with your kids, and relax. Let the land and each other remind you of the important things in life. Kids ages six and older – “Cowpokes” – are given their own horse for the week. “Buckaroos” – children ages three to five – are led on short rides by ranch counselors.

A Bar A Kids Ride at a Family Dude Ranch in Wyoming

On horseback, on foot, or in vehicles – expedition guests at A Bar A Guest Ranch experience a privately guided, customized, small-group adventure. Located along the banks of the North Platte River in the heart of southern Wyoming’s Medicine Bow Mountains, A Bar A Guest Ranch is one of the oldest and largest ranches in the country.  Located on nearly 100,000 acres surrounded by National Forest and Wilderness Area for guests to explore. The ranch is a paradise for children, with riding, fishing, soccer, arts and crafts, music and drama, swimming, tennis, and educational games such as cork boat and sack races. Teenagers enjoy inner tubing down the river before joining their parents for dinner cooked outside over an open fire.

Drowsy Water Family Dude Ranch

Drowsy Water Ranch, situated 90 miles west of Denver, Colo., has programs for children, from infants to teenagers, with plenty of activities for parents and grandparents alike. Capture the fun and your children’s hearts when you help them lasso a steerhead. Ditch your tablets for outdoor group activities, such as; obstacle courses, zip lining, swimming, hiking, archery and rafting. Afterward, head to the main lodge to enjoy playing cards, browsing in the library or just visiting with new friends while drinking lemonade.  

Colorado Trails Family Dude Ranch Vacation

Who needs a video game when you can focus on capturing the real thing in person! Colorado Trails Ranch provides an all-inclusive family vacation adventure in the San Juan Mountains. Families will enjoy a one-of-a-kind fishing vacation with access to some of the finest trout fishing around. You’ll find more choice spots than you can fish in a week, with specialists trained at introducing beginners to the sport. Whether you’re a fishing fan or not, no one in your family will be bored on this vacation. Here, kids and adults can enjoy their own level of adventure. Counselors see to the kids’ needs. The parents can go off exploring by foot or horseback. From whitewater rafting to swimming in the heated pool – there’s enough tech-free adventure to suite everyone’s tastes.

The Dude Ranchers' Association - Search for family bonding

With more than 100 accredited ranches, the Dude Ranchers’ Association can help you find the perfect ranch for your family bonding vacation. Several accredited ranches offer customized packages tailored to families in search of a hassle-free family getaway. No matter which ranch you choose, a dude ranch vacation guarantees plenty of time to kick-back, spend time with friends and family and create memories that will last a lifetime.

 

As the original all-inclusive destination for families, a ranch vacation guarantees plenty of time to bond and spend time as a family sans technology, creating memories that will last a lifetime. Try a warm family getaway that breaks the spring break cliché of crowds and beaches or, a special trip designed to include the extended family. Dude ranches can accommodate and entertain family members of all ages.

Romance & Horses, Your Dude Ranch Vacation


'A feeling of excitement and mystery associated with love.' - definition of romance Riding horses with your partner is, surely, full of excitement and mystery. Consider a ranch stay to put some extra special romance into your relationship. It is as easy as picking out your geographic setting(mountain range of choice) and paring your personalities with a ranch. Then, hop on a plane and arrive at your secluded cabin for an 'all-inclusive' destination experience. Don't worry, there are plenty of activities to inspire other than saddling up and riding into the sunset at a dude ranch; morning fishing trips, spa afternoons, hot tub evenings and nights full of fine dining pared with excellent wine. Valentine's day is a great motivator to book you and your partner a vacation full of romance and connection - away from the monotonous crowd of chocolates and teddy bears. Experiences turn into memories, and those memories turn into a lifetime of togetherness.

Ranches for Romance

The ranches below are just a few options for your choosing. If you don't find one that you connect with, give the Dude Ranchers' Association a call. We can help. 307.587.2339.  


The Heart of the Rockies, Colorado

Elk Mountain Couple Hill Side Romance

Elk Mountain Ranch Fall is for adults only - Enjoy the mountains during the peak of the fall colors in the Colorado Rockies. The already spectacular scenery at the Ranch unveils more glory in the Autumn. Aspens crown the mountainside in golden grandeur. Fall is exclusively for adults at this Colorado dude ranch. The tranquility and stillness are uninterrupted, whether you’re riding through the aspen forests…or curling up with a favorite book by an crackling fireplace.


The Ruby River, Montana

Upper Canyon Fishing Couple Romance

Upper Canyon Outfitters One of the best uncrowned waters in Montana - "My wife and I ventured to Upper Canyon this summer to enjoy the ranch, fishing, horseback riding and hiking and preview where I had booked an elk and mule deer hunt this fall. After returning from the fall hunt all that I can do is reinforce the previous comments complimenting the complete operation of Upper Canyon Outfitters, from the facilities to the staff. It seems like they are all extended family." - Roland


7,000 Acres in the Big Horn Mountains, Wyoming

Eatons Gather Sunset Romance

Eaton's Ranch Freedom to ride into the sunset - Eatons’ offers our guests the unique opportunity to ride one of our 220 horses unescorted with the permission of the Ranch. This allows guests the remarkable freedom to fully explore this beautiful 7,000 acres of country. Guests can ride out from this Wyoming Dude Ranch twice a day Monday through Friday, choosing among morning, afternoon and evening rides. Also, there all-day rides into the Bighorn National Forest as well as breakfast and dinner rides.


Yellowstone Country, Montana

Mountain Sky Romance

Mountain Sky Guest Ranch A rare treat - After a day filled with ranch activities, dinner is always a highly anticipated event. Kick things off with hors d'oeuvres and drinks in the saloon, where friends share stories of the day's adventure next to a crackling fire. What follows is an unforgettable three- to five-course dinner featuring carefully crafted and regionally-inspired dishes prepared by Chef Brian Bielen and his talented team. Complement your dinner with a bottle of wine from a fine selection, and do try to leave room for that slice of chocolate decadence or Basque cake.


     

Plan Your Dude Ranch Family Reunion

When asking yourself how to plan your dude ranch family reunion it may be helpful to follow this question guide. The ranches listed here are great examples of places to take your family for your next family reunion. They are all accredited members of the Dude Ranchers' Association. As such they are held to the highest industry standards and are kept accountable to provide unforgettable destination vacations. Find your ranch today. Let us help.

Sylvan Dale Reunion

A Sylvan Dale Ranch Reunion

When would you like to go?

Planning ahead is essential. We recommend that the larger size the group the farther in advance you should book your stay. Ranches fill up quick during their peak season. Are you planning a vacation during the spring time? Then you should probably start looking the summer before and asking about availability.  You can do this for multiple ranch at once using our Favorites Feature.

 

Where would you like to be geographically?

Maybe somewhere near a National Park or National Monument? How about a climate specific location? Or elevation? Oh, and what about Grandpa's siblings who live out West somewhere?  For example, if Yellowstone National Park is at the top of your list, please look at these ranches for your next reunion: Rimrock Ranch, Elkhorn Ranch and R Lazy S Ranch.

 

How many people will be there?

No matter how big or small your reunion will be there are ranches who can accommodate. If the whole family would like to be in one large cabin that can hold up to 10 -20 people that can be arranged. Or maybe the older adults would like to be in a more secluded, quiet part of the ranch while the younger generations can have a cabin right in the middle of all of the action. Rich Ranch, Paradise Guest Ranch and the Red Reflet Ranch are great locations with many different housing options for your next reunion.

Elkhorn Family Reunion

Elkhorn Ranch Trail Ride

What would you like to do?

Would you prefer to take only the adults on your vacation and ride in the saddle all day working cattle with cowboys who center your reunion around their cattle operation? Use the Search by Amenity Page to discover these ranches.  Or maybe turn loose the whole family on a variety of activities during the day? For starters that would include horseback riding, white water rafting, hiking fishing, mountain biking, or zip lining.  What about your less active relatives? For them they can relax by the pool, enjoy the spa services or swap stories in the saloon.  Have no concern for the youngest, they will be included as well.  At the Red Horse Mountain they are famous for their extensive kids program starting at age 3. Babysitting serves are generally offered at an additional cost or ranches may offer a steep discount for a nanny.

 

How long would you like to stay?

In hearty dude ranch tradition some ranches require a full week stay in order to really experience life on the ranch. However, we realize you may not be able to spend 6 nights and 7 days at the ranch. Please consider Medicine Bow Lodge, Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch, Majestic and Covered Wagon Ranch for your shorter stay requirements.

 

Ranch Pictures

The Cabins at Paradise Guest Ranch

 

If you would like more personal assistance planning your vacation please contact us (Leah and Colleen) at the Dude Ranchers' Association. We are able to provide a more concise and tailored list of ranches to choose from. We understand that navigating through all 104 ranches in our Association is a little overwhelming. Sketch out the details of your trip and let us help with the rest. You can call 307.587.2339 from 8 - 4:30 MST or email info@duderanch.org anytime you like. We look forward to hearing from you.  Happy trails!


     

What About Dude Ranch Horses?

Elkhorn Ranch Horses

Horses are the magnificent, noble center piece of which dude ranching is built around. Horses have been carrying riders for centuries and provide the most in depth way to experience and explore the historical American West. Members of the Dude Ranchers' Association offer the best and most reliable horses you and your family could want. Please take a look at the following ways to enjoy different horseback riding programs. There are many ways to find your perfect horses: From the way the horses are raised, riders experience levels and to the locations or types of riding you want to do. Be specific and select the ranch that matches you and your family's dude ranch vacation dreams. There is perfectly fitting ranch for everyone.

Ranch Raised Horses

Western Pleasure Guest Ranch in Standpoint, Idaho is very proud of their four-legged working partners. They maintain a herd of about 40 registered Quarterhorses, Appaloosas, and Paints for their saddle horses. Two teams of Belgian, two teams of Percherons and one team of Shire-cross are used for their sleigh and wagon rides. Most of the horses are either born and raised on the ranch or born on one of the owners' brothers’ ranches. The horses are worked with and handled at an early age to begin adapting them to their future uses. As two-year olds, their official training begins, getting them used to the saddle and working them in the round pen. They then graduate to the arena. And then to some short trail rides. A training system called the “Basic Handle,” founded by Monte Forman and Pat Wyse is used. This system creates a safe, responsive, and sensible horse. As three- and four-year-olds, these horses are used as mounts for the trail guides. Then, as five-year-olds, they begin their career as mounts for our guests. They use both mares and geldings and rotate mares in and out as they produce more offspring for our future string. Click here for more information about Western Pleasure's individual horses.

Riding for All Levels - Experienced Riders to Can't-a-lopes

With relaxed instruction from our capable wranglers, you will soon feel safe and comfortable on horseback at Elkhorn Ranch in Montana. As the terrain permits, more experienced riders will lope their horses from time to time.  Wranglers are always happy to instruct any guest who needs a little extra help sharpening their riding skills. Grown-ups, fossils or can’t-a-lopes as they are affectionately known, will be offered a variety of horseback trips each day designed to suit their interest and ability. They will get them into the high country as the week and their confidence progress.  Rides are small, normally with less than eight guests in a group. Our youngest, the Peanuts, ride, play and eat together.  On the trail, they go for carefully supervised rides.  may include a river swim, a visit to an old cowboy fort or a trip to the Bear Caves.  Teenagers also band together, and invariably have spirited rides full of adventures that always seem to grow in the retelling.  Whether you choose short and relaxing or long and challenging, sharing a mountain trail seems to build friendships for guests of every age.  As you brush your horse down before heading back to your cabin, you will  smile at the prospect of returning to the barn tomorrow – well-fed, well-rested, and ready to enjoy another spectacular summer day on a high country trail in the Montana Rockies.

Mountain Trails and Arena Events

Paradise Ranch Horses

Paradise Guest Ranch's riding program is very flexible, and features a number of choices. They offer two hour rides as well as both half-day and full-day rides. Some day rides include lunches packed on mules & cooked along the trail. Horsemanship classes are available.  Hook up with one of our seasoned wranglers and spend a morning riding through the wildflower strewn mountain meadows in the surrounding Bighorn National Forest. You’ll ride trails through mountain scenery that will take your breath away. Or spend an afternoon in our private rodeo arena practicing team penning or barrels and poles. These are timed events and competitive with fun for all. Special team penning classes are available. And the week ends with a special kids' rodeo featuring the ranch's most kid friendly horses. Unescorted Explorations Eatons' Ranch offers our guests the unique opportunity to ride one of our 220 horses unescorted with the permission of the Ranch. This allows guests the remarkable freedom to fully explore this beautiful 7,000 acres of country. Guests can ride out from our Wyoming Dude Ranch twice a day Monday through Friday, choosing among morning, afternoon and evening rides. We also have all-day rides into the Bighorn National Forest as well as breakfast and dinner rides. Riding is a bit more limited on weekends; there are only morning and afternoon rides on Saturday, and on Sunday there is only a morning ride as the rest of the day is our horse holiday. Wranglers are always available to guide rides and offer instruction. Watch this video about Eatons' Ranch and their riding program.

Rowses 1 + 1 Cattle Drive Horses`

Work Cattle in True Cowboy Style When you stay at Rowse’s 1+1 Ranch, you’ll live a real ranching life, and experience the simple pleasures of our western American heritage. It’s a land where neighbors have lent a helping hand for generations. A place where the front door is always open and fresh coffee’s waiting.  Spring, Summer or Fall…Each season is different and special at the 1+1 Ranch. No matter the season you’ll get plenty of time in the saddle on the best of our ranch horses. Spring brings the excitement of calves and foals being born, working cattle, cattle drives, and brandings. Summer brings long pasture rides checking cattle, cattle drives, working cattle, cowboy socials, team roping, and team penning. October is fall Round-Up, which involves long cattle drives on horseback, team roping, and penning.


 

Snow Free Spring Break Dude Ranch Vacation

The spring break push for vacation venues is here, but Mother Nature shipped most all of the West Coast snow to Boston! What to do if the family doesn’t want to spend Easter holiday skiing on rocks at Tahoe or boarding over mud at Mammoth? Consider swapping your snow boots for cowboy boots and visit one of the Dude Ranch Association ranches that are open during Spring break.

Try looking at an Arizona ranch or any lower elevation mountain dude ranch – Like Rancho de Los Caballeros, Flying E Ranch or California's Marble Mountain Ranch! Spring in Arizona offers some spectacular desert trail riding. The cooler spring climate makes time on the Arizona trails comfortable. Most visitors to the sunshine state consider the Spring season to be one of the most beautiful while the cactus and wildflowers are in full bloom. At Rancho de Los Caballeros you could spend your afternoons exploring the desert on a Jeep or ATV tour or riding horseback through the colorful high Sonoran Desert. While the kids are swimming or on scavenger hikes, Mom and Dad can relax at the spa or play a round of golf at the Los Caballeros Golf Course, which was named one of Golfweek's "Best Courses to Play."

Rancho de Los Caballeros

At the Flying E, a dude and working cattle ranch, the casual and relaxed atmosphere is as natural as our gorgeous sunsets. The calendar may say winter, but that has a whole new meaning in Arizona. Winters are warm and dry, averaging temperatures in the mid-70s. The nights are cool and refreshing, illuminated by a canopy of brilliant stars. Clean air, warm sun, good horses, breathtaking scenery and genuine cowboys as your guides will fill your hearts with memories to treasure for the rest of your life.

Flying E

Marble Mountain's low elevation mountain trails are open for spectacular horseback trail riding and their covered arena is running full swing with barrel racing and other thrilling riding challenges. The spring river flows on California’s Klamath River are ideal for rafting and kayaking and the covered shooting stations at the shotgun trap course are ready for action. The “saddle and paddle” vacation is in Northern California, and is another viable alternative to a vacation venue that has been diminished by disappointing snow levels.

Marble Mountain Rafting

So, if you can wrap your mind around an Arizona riding adventure, or a California raft-n-ride vacation, pack away the snow boots for the season. Visit an Arizona dude ranch or come explore a piece of Northern California that most people don’t even know exists. When the fog burns off the forest floor with the morning sun, you will discover a lush and verdant Klamath National Forest, abundant wildlife, and legend hospitality from your hosts in either California or the Sunshine state.

Lucky

By Samantha Cook To spend a summer in the pristine mountain wilderness of Southern Colorado is a beautiful gift denied to most. I, however, was given that privilege. There are no words that will be able to adequately describe the adventures I had, the landscapes I saw, or the relationships I formed—but what are words for if not to make a feeble attempt at such a thing?

Rainbow Trout Ranch Lucky Blog 2

About 30 of us showed up at Rainbow Trout Ranch in the middle of May, ready for a brag-worthy summer job. I was one of two that was lucky enough to receive college credit for my time, though for  me that meant stumbling my way through an office position that my brain was unfit for (despite being a fresh college grad with a business degree). Friendships were formed instantly, through pre-season raking, hilarious games of Apples to Apples, and full-staff nighttime outings.

It wasn’t long before we were weeks into the season, meeting dozens of new guests every week and doing our best to make each day special. Despite early mornings and working close to 50 hours a week, the summer was nothing short of unforgettable. Granted, I spent more time waiting for e-mails to load and copies to print than I did enjoying my affinity for the outdoors, but my job taught me a lot and my days off made for the most incredible adventures. Over the course of eighteen weeks, I did everything I wanted to do and more. I climbed waterfalls. I jumped in the river during a rainstorm. I danced, a lot. I took a 36 hour road trip to Utah, in which I car-camped, visited two national parks in 105 degree heat, and had the time of my life in a beautiful hidden swimming hole in Moab. I rode dozens of horses up and down mountains and through vast meadows and rivers. I was caught in a torrential storm with lightning strikes that were far too close for comfort. I learned to fly-fish, and took nearly every opportunity to do so—most notably packing out a number of miles on horseback to fish Elk Creek all afternoon in complete serenity. I climbed (though, failed to summit) Mount Blanca, Colorado’s fourth tallest mountain. I learned the sport of team roping under the instruction of some incredibly talented people and horses. I took hammock naps beneath cool mountain pines. I caught my first four trout and was giddy with the excitement of a kid at Christmas. I shot assault rifles. I attended rodeos. I made the most unlikely of friends and shared endless hours of laughter with them. I traveled through the state of Colorado with good company, savoring summer with the windows down and accepting wherever the road took us. 

When you have one day off a week, you don’t waste it by sleeping in. Amidst the excursions, I enjoyed the company daily of the fine folks that traveled from around the world to spend their vacation with us. This was without a doubt the most fascinating aspect of my job, because mealtimes meant hearing the life stories of men and women whose lives were vastly different from my own. Families came from England, Italy, New Zealand, and Japan. I met pastors, gym teachers, stay-at-home moms, and car mechanics. I also met film directors, finance executives, brain surgeons, and a member of the LAPD. At the ranch, however, work uniforms and three piece suits are exchanged for wranglers and cowboy hats, and suddenly that big-wig lawyer that makes more money than I can even comprehend just becomes a dad and a husband that may be a little apprehensive about loping his horse for the first time. The “real world” is simply left behind, and worries and stresses from home are temporarily forgotten while the west takes over.

Rainbow Trout Dude Ranch

While I wish I could go into detail on everything, there is one day from my summer that stands out among the others. It was a Thursday that I had off, and I chose to do the back-country ride with about six other guests. The back-country is an advanced all-day ride that traverses out of the valley and up to what feels like the top of the world. My boss, Jane, put me on a horse named Chugwater, named for Chugwater, Wyoming. I hadn’t ridden him before, but I fell in love immediately. He wasn’t the prettiest thing—small, with funny conformation and a Mohawk for a mane—but he was fun to ride and one heck of a mountain horse. Trying to describe the scenery is futile. We could see for miles over expansive meadows and forests, with mountain ranges serving as the perfect backdrop. Rolling golden hills stretched out before us as if the entire world was ours for the taking. Soon we came to a turn in the meadow where Jane just let us go. “If you want to ride slow, ride slow. I’ll be back here. But if you want to run…run.” These are the words I’d been itching to hear all summer. I had competed in some speed events in high school—barrel racing, pole bending, keyhole. But an arena is limited; there is a definitive end. Not the case here. Chugwater was chomping at the bit. All I had to do was move my hands forward and drive my heels down and he took off, racing by all the other horses as we galloped through that beautiful country. To say that I felt like I was flying may be a little cliche, but few other terms can describe the phenomenon of 1,000 pounds of muscle surging underneath you at such fast speeds. Time stopped for a minute and all I could hear was my horse’s breathing and the thunder of his hooves until he came to an exhausted halt. We had a blast together, and it wasn’t even lunchtime yet. Isn’t this the dream for every horse lover?

Rainbow Trout Dude Ranch

The rest of the ride was similarly stunning. We loped along a canyon’s edge, and I knew I had seen identical scenes in some of my favorite horse movies from my childhood (“Flicka,” anyone?). We walked spread out, talking and laughing and enjoying each other’s company. Dark grey clouds gathered and it started to rain at one point, but nothing could dampen my spirits. A while later we split into two groups for another lope, and soon I found myself racing alongside Cameron, the only other summer staff member on the ride that day. Our horses ran through the hills and we laughed at the rain as we got soaked through to our skin. We stopped at the top of a meadow and turned our horses around to watch the rest of the riders hoot and holler as they loped up after us. The ground was shaking and the skies were opened. Cameron simply turned to me in that moment and said, as more of statement than a question, “How lucky do you feel right now?” In the hours after that, we maneuvered our horses through rain and hail to see views of endless aspen forests and foggy cliff faces, each panoramic being more breathtaking than the last. We all shared jokes and stories from our far-away lives in big cities, and when it finally came time to ride back down into the valley, we sat exhausted in our saddles, allowing our horses to do all the work of picking their way through the rocky mountains. My clothes may have been drenched and my knees sore, but my heart was full. That was, without a doubt, the best ride of my life. I still feel so lucky. This past summer was one that I’ll share about for the rest of my life, though my dude ranch adventures are far from being over. Today, I move to Wyoming to begin a new season on another ranch, and I know if the friends, stories, and memories I create there are even just half of what I experienced in Colorado, I’ll be happy. I am living the life that I dreamed of as a little girl, one with horses, mountains, and wide open spaces. “Lucky” doesn’t even begin to cover it.


   

4 Reasons to Host Your Next Corporate Meeting at a Dude Ranch

With the participants sequestered in remote locations, wrapped in spectacular scenery, and free from distractions, Western dude ranches are becoming an increasingly attractive venue for corporate meetings and conferences. Not just any ranch, but a member of The Dude Ranchers’ Association. For anyone assigned the task of finding a place to hold a company event, be assured a DRA membership guarantees the ranch is a superior ranch, maintaining the highest standards of quality in the industry. There are more than 100 DRA Ranches in the Western US and Canada. They are only granted membership after a rigorous inspection and trial period. In business since 1926, the DRA keeps the bar held high for the entire industry. Horses, hats and hospitality are our hallmarks. 

Bar W Guest Ranch Corporate Meeting Space

The Bar W in Montana has plenty of space for your group. 

 

Why You Should Host Your Next Corporate Meeting at a Dude Ranch

 

Facilities

Many DRA ranches have conference facilities comparable to or better than those found at local hotels.Wouldn't you enjoy this view (pictured below) at the  Red Reflet Ranch in Tensleep, WY? What one won’t contend with at a ranch are numerous add-on charges for equipment, tacked on service fees, exorbitant taxes and a harried staff. Although most DRA ranches are best suited for a corporate meeting of 50 people or less, chances are good it will be the only meeting “in-house.” We do however have some ranches that can accommodate up to 200 people.

Red Reflet Corporate Meeting

Meeting Space at the Red Reflet Guest Ranch in Wyoming.

Technology

Ranches come with high-tech boardrooms, wi-fi, and high-speed Internet connection. Microphones, podiums, multi-media equipment are available for use. Some DRA ranches have meeting planners on staff. Others facilitate award-winning programs designed to teach managers and CEO’s new skills. Add to this gourmet food, luxury accommodations, fitness facilities and in most cases exclusive use of the property and it’s difficult to find a more appealing site for corporate retreats, training seminars, incentive trips, and strategy sessions.

 

All-inclusive Rate

Package at an all-inclusive rate making meeting the budget a breeze. And, the “exclusive use” policy guarantees every corporate meeting held at the ranch receives the full attention of the conference service staff. And don't forget the important time for making yourself at home in your room. You definitely would feel cozy at the Tanque Verde Ranch in a room like the one at their ranch in the picture below.

 

Tanque Verde Corporate Meeting Room Accommodations

Room accomodations at the Tanque Verde Guest Ranch in Arizona.

Team Building Activities

Dude Ranches offer groups the best in team-building activities that are quintessential parts of the ranch experience. Groups work together to learn the ins and outs of being a cowboy, such as how to throw a lariat and how to herd and move cattle. Other team-building activities include horsemanship classes, scavenger hunts, tee-pee building competitions, rope course and much more. Throw your self into trust building at the C Lazy U Ranch (pictured below).

    C Lazy U Activities Swinging Corporate Meeting Team Building

The ropes course at the C Lazy U Ranch in Colorado.

Corporate Meeting at a Dude Ranch

With the participants sequestered in remote locations, wrapped in spectacular scenery, and free from distractions, Western dude ranches are becoming an increasingly attractive venue for corporate meetings and conferences. Not just any ranch, but a member of The Dude Ranchers’ Association.

5 Ways a Dude Ranch Vacation Can Heal You

The U.S. Travel Association reports a strong correlation between leisure and a person’s overall well-being and even attributes annual vacations to improved health. With that in mind, it makes sense that a trip solely planned around healing would yield powerful restorative results. While the term ‘dude ranch’ usually brings to mind images of cowboys and cattle drives, dude ranches are surprisingly perfect destinations for reviving your mind, body and spirit. Below, please find an overview to help you discover the healing power of dude ranches on your next vacation. In keeping with the belief that wellness starts from within, many DRA-accredited ranches offer a variety of rejuvenating activities and programs specifically designed to heal what ails you.

Yogi in the Rockies: Now in its ninth season, the “Experience Yoga and Horses Retreat” at The Home Ranch, led by two fabled Cowgirl Yoginis, is the ultimate girlfriend getaway. The retreat invites adventuresome cowgirls of all ages to a legendary all-inclusive week of restorative horseback riding, soothing yoga, fine dining, wine pairing and relaxation. With a million acres of Rocky Mountain Wilderness at your doorstep, you’re sure to have the most memorable experiences of your life.

Change you’re Pace: C Lazy U Ranch, a premier luxury guest ranch getaway located on 8,500 acres in Grand County, Colo. and easily accessible from Denver, recently launched its Outlaw Fitness and Wellness program. Guests can enjoy 60-minute yoga classes, personal training sessions and fitness activities that incorporate the ranch’s natural surroundings, as well as area activities such as hiking and mountain biking. The wellness sessions are designed to rejuvenate mind, body and spirit as guests retreat from everyday life, and complement the traditional ranch stay through stretching and guided fitness regimens.

Step into Zen: Smith Fork Ranch is the perfect destination for not only fun and adventure, but also relaxation and wellness. After an arduous hike or an exhilarating mountain bike or horseback ride, indulge in various selections at The Spa at Smith Fork Ranch, including healing massages, renewing facials or soothing foot treatments. Enjoy massages in one of their tranquil rooms or creek-side at the ranch’s Massage Outpost, situated among the serene beauty of the Rocky Mountains. Trained and attentive staff melt your pains away and take care of all the details, so all you have to do is relax.

Practice Your Balance: If there was one phrase to capture Echo Valley Ranch & Spa’s wellness philosophy, it would be “Sabai Sabai,” a Thai term used to describe balanced harmony of mental, physical and spiritual health and wellbeing. Everything at this destination wellness resort and luxury spa in British Columbia sets the stage for the perfect wellness retreat. The water you drink is even taken from one of the five natural springs located on the ranch! Echo Valley also offers two types of spa experiences: a Thai-style spa offering a range of authentic Thai therapies and a Western-style spa offering contemporary aesthetic services.

Harmonize with Horses: Tanque Verde Ranch is one of America's old time cattle and guest ranches. Nestled amongst the Rincon Mountains and adjacent to Saguaro National Park and Coronado National Forest in Tucson, Az., Tanque Verde Ranch offers a unique opportunity to enhance your ranch vacation. Harmony with Horses will provide you with extensive horsemanship skills, improved riding ability, better self-understanding, and one of the most unique vacation experiences amidst 60,000 acres of Tucson's most breathtaking desert landscapes.

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Never Too Late To Be a Cowgirl

Goosewing-Ranch-Sittin-in-the-LodgeBy Jay Wright

I have spent my adult years raising children and working a full-time rewarding office job. The kids were very active and participated in rodeo events; everything from barrel racing to bull riding. Life was full of driving across the state, spending time with my kids, feeding horses and of course those occasional trips to the emergency room. Such a bonding experience to spend time together getting stitches or a cast!

My tribe grew up, went off to college and became very responsible adults. My job was still good but I was just tired of the same ol’ thing. Fortunately, I had reached the age to retire and had been with the company long enough to be eligible to do so. But after being so busy for many years, what would be rewarding and fun enough to fill my time. I KNOW! Ever since I was a child, I wanted to work at a dude ranch. Now I have reached the point in my life that nothing was going to stop me. Well, except for my age and aching muscles. Who would hire someone my age? Turns out, I actually had a couple of offers. I made a decision and it was definitely the right one. Did I mention most of my friends felt I was in the early stages of dementia.

Goosewing Ranch in Jackson Hole seemed to be the right fit. Two years later, I haven’t regretted the decision to finally be a cowgirl. So I loaded my horse and traveled half way across the United States. It was the beginning of an amazing journey. The road to the ranch provided the most incredible views. Scenery that had only been observed in pictures was now surrounding me. The road was rough so I had to drive slowly, but why would I want to go fast, I might miss something.

Arriving at the ranch, I was greeted by outgoing managers and a friendly group of staff members. I was shown to my room (home away from home) and given the opportunity to settle in to my new surroundings. Every few days more employees would arrive. Such an interesting mix of young people; with a variety of reasons and stories for wanting to work on a ranch in Wyoming. It was like having my kids and family around again. They even picked up on what friends of my children called me, Mama Jay. The employees were from all over the world. Language seemed to be the only barrier between them, which was quickly worked out or overlooked. Communication became easier each day. We all worked together for several weeks to open the ranch and prepare for guest. What would that be like? You form such bonds, with your ranch family, how would it be when strangers arrive! Well, it was great.

Guests were as excited as we were to be in this majestic area. Like the employees, the guests were from all over the world. It was our own United Nations. We shared with them what we had learned about the area, they shared their hopes and expectations from their mountain adventure. Employees brought different skills and were hired for their unique areas of expertise. It was an amazing experience for all of us.

However, let me say my horse Sassy was not quite as enthusiastic about the whole experience as the rest of us. Sassy has never been in a pasture of more than about 10 head of horses. Now she was one of sixty. She was not a happy girl. She was born and raised in the flatlands of the Midwest, climbing some of these mountains was just not as gratifying to her as it was for me. There would be times she would just stop and turn her head as if to say, “are you kidding, you expect me to climb that, WHY”. In her defense, she would do whatever I asked.

In the evenings you could see the excitement in the faces of the guest, as they told you about their day of adventure. The wildlife they had seen, water crossings, climbs to scenic ridges overlooking the Gros Ventre valley. That time was also filled with the eager anticipation of tomorrow. Going on rides, I learned so much from the wranglers. The area is full of history and amazing stories of mountain men, trappers and homesteaders. How their courage and toughness settled this wilderness. For me, as I have gotten older, there is an enthusiasm to learn about this beautiful country and the strong people who forged the trail for me. Meeting new people and listening to their stories, enriches our own lives. This has been an amazing experience, one I’m glad I pushed myself to try. There are no regrets for following my dreams or perhaps marking off items on my bucket list. What an amazing experience, what wonderful forever friends. And when I’m sitting around the old folk’s home, in my jeans and cowboy boots, swapping stories, who will be able to top this one.

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--The Dude Ranchers Association represents over 100 ranches with anywhere from 15 to over 100 of mostly seasonal employees. When a guest stays a full week at a ranch they are able to get to know the crew. This is an insider view of the personalities and experiences they have. There's more where this came from! Stay tuned.--


 

Find Your Frontier

Find you frontier at this classic Wyoming Dude Ranch, the T Cross Ranch, with a timeless magic. The T Cross Dude Ranch lies inside the Shoshone National Forest at an elevation of 7,800 feet. Surrounded by an untouched country of pine forests and open meadows, trout-rich streams and small lakes, with endless vistas rising well over 11,000 feet - it is scenically magical. Through the T Cross gate you will discover a pristine wilderness. In the backyard, the Washakie Wilderness Area of Wyoming covers 704,274 acres, adjoining the southeastern boundary of Yellowstone National Park and the Teton Wilderness in one huge chunk of very wild country. From atop well-trained horses, guests discover rugged mountain trails revealing a myriad of wildlife seen only in the greater Yellowstone area. Most guests, however, remember the T Cross for its familiar atmosphere that blends the color of the West and the relaxing comforts of home.


  Looking for the perfect riding ranch? While Three Bars Guest Ranch offers a variety of activities; their horseback riding program is in a class of its own. Nowhere else will you find this combination of such great horses, beautiful riding terrain, and world-class horsemen with generations of experience. Three Bars Guest Ranch is home to over 110 head of horses. The horse-to-guest ratio is over 2-to-1, allowing for horses suited to each rider's individual ability and experience level. Horses range from "bomb proof" kids' horses all the way through to young horses suitable for experienced riders. So, whether you're an old hand or someone who needs a helping hand, you can be sure to enjoy your time in the saddle. Your horse will be just that - YOUR horse for the week. He will be ready and waiting for you every morning of your stay, along with the saddle that suits you most.


  The opportunity to work with the cattle at Sweet Grass Dude Ranch is what brings many guests back year after year. Since the cattle graze on Sweet Grass Ranch lands for most of the summer, guests have the opportunity to learn first-hand about the challenges and joys of caring for a herd of grass-fed range cattle, monitoring their health and moving them to new grazing grounds as water and grass vitality dictates. You may do some cattle work on any given week, and are often checking fences, grass conditions, and putting out salt and minerals. On these working rides guests are always invited to get a true taste of the cowboy life. For those looking for that working ranch experience of a cattle drive, there are certain weeks to move cattle. Here’s a chance to drive cattle from one ranch to another or over to different grazing lands. These dates may change slightly from year-to-year, so it’s best to check with the ranch when planning your trip.  


  With many of our ranches located on private pristine waters fly fishing is one of the activities that is sure to make any angler happy. Spotted Horse Ranch in Jackson Wyoming is no exception. There is a one acre spring-fed pond holding Snake River Cutthroats - a unique strain of cutthroat and the only native trout to Jackson Hole. A resident since the last ice age, this gem of a fish sports a golden bronze body speckled with black spots, accented by a scarlet slash under each gill plate. In the spirit of preservation please be gentle with these fish, should you be fortunate enough to make their acquaintance. Land them quickly and send them on their way.  Spotted Horse Ranch has some of the best streams and rivers for spawning and growing trout. Vigorous and hungry, Snake River Fine-Spotted Cutthroat, Rainbow, and Brown Trout thrive in the cool waters in their backyard. The ranch offers virtually every level of fly caster a satisfying experience. Free casting lessons are offered on Monday afternoons. Put on your boots and cowboy hat and travel to a classic DRA ranch. Where time passes slowly and life remains consistent. Find your frontier amongst ranchers and crew who have made the West a historical way of life.


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Dude Ranches Come With Multi-Sport Family Adventures So You Don’t Have to Create Your Own!

There’s a new term popping up for the action-packed modern family vacation. It’s known as the “multi-sport adventure,” and it calls for multi planning as well. Long before anyone lifts a paddle or laces-up hiking boots they must first create an itinerary calling for frequent stops, hiring a local outfitter, and arranging for suitable food and shelter along the adventure. Linking together the components of the multi-sports adventure can get complicated. But it doesn’t have to be. There’s one vacation category where sports loving families can simply park the car, unpack their bags and settle in for a week of jam-packed action. It’s the Western dude ranch, a place where folks don’t have to think about what comes next. All the details are in place to let the good times roll! Sure, horses and riding are paramount to any Western dude ranch experience, but in addition to riding (or sometimes in place of) they ride the rapids, paddle a canoe, play golf or tennis, hike in the wilderness, cycle the back roads and mountain trails, go caving, hot air ballooning or rock climbing. Many ranches have recently added ropes courses, zip lines, climbing walls and 3 dimensional archery. 

"Another beauty of multi-sporting at a dude ranch is when parents want to take time for themselves, Dad can play a round of golf and Mom can relax with spa treatments.” That’s an apt description for Averill's Flathead Lake Lodge, a 2,000 acre, family operated Montana dude ranch, nestled on a bay on the east shore of Flathead Lake just south of Glacier National Park. Here, guests are just steps away from the largest freshwater lake West of the Mississippi. A waterfront staff leads activities at the main dock daily, including sailing, water skiing, and wake boarding. Instruction for beginners and private lessons are available. The ranch volleyball, tennis, and basketball courts see a lot of action each day as do the horses. Riding can get competitive here as well. There are team penning and barrel racing events all week ending with a family rodeo. And yes, there’s a top-rated Jack Nicklaus Jr. golf-course just minutes away as well as an on-site professional masseuses skilled in therapeutic massages from hot stone to rejuvenating deep tissue.

  Arkansas’s Horseshoe Canyon Ranch is another paradise for families on multi-sport adventures. Tucked into the Buffalo River Wilderness of Northern Arkansas, sporting adventures include “Frisbee” golf, skeet shooting, the state’s longest zip line course, and of course, rock climbing. One of the finest climbing courses in the state was developed on ranch property. The zip-line carries many a thrill seeker moving at breakneck speed above a deep gulch. For some, paddling the Buffalo River, trout fishing, or exploring old Indian caves provides enough action.       

"Glamorous Camping" has come of age at the Bar W Ranch. You get the best of both worlds - being and feeling a part of nature while staying in an elegant setting at the same time. The Bar W offers two luxurious canvas tents decorated Bar W style - simple elegance blended with western informality. Each tent is decked out with a queen size bed, full sized futon, private porch, kitchenette and chic Western décor. Both tents have a private bath located just a couple of feet away. Your glamping experience is nestled in a pasture with wild flowers, a string of horses and all sorts of wildlife right outside. You'll never think of camping the same way again.   As you can see there really is something for everyone at a Multi-Sport Dude Ranch, so what are you waiting for??

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Cody, Wyoming Dude Ranches

Crossed-Sabres-with-Logo-600x387Yesterday I had the pleasure of getting out of the office to visit Crossed Sabres, a Cody, Wyoming Dude Ranch. We took a drive down the North Fork Highway that leads right to the East Entrance of Yellowstone National Park. We passed the famous Buffalo Bill Damn and the Buffalo Bill Reservoir. There are some good pictures to be taken at these scenic outlooks! At just 10 miles from the East gate we pulled into the Cross Sabres Ranch. This ranch has been there for many, many years, but recently ranch ownership has changed hands. The cabins and facilities enjoyed a fresh coat of paint and care from the new owner Kenny Long. He purchased the ranch a couple of years ago and has done an amazing job restoring much of the ranch. We heartily give him a welcome into the Dude Ranchers Association and wish him and his family the best of luck. Kenny gave us the grand tour of the lodge, cabins and riding facilities, but not before feeding us a home cooked lunch of soup and sandwiches.  I have to say it was delightful and the oatmeal raisin cookies were one of the best ranch cookies I have had. Their lodge is centrally located within the ranch. There is a beautiful great room with a high ceiling and an intimate feel next to the fire place. This room leads up to a game room upstairs. There is a large dining hall and a Western style saloon that opens to the front porch. You can imagine yourself having a drink and watching the kids play off of the porch, learning to rope a calf dummy. You might also sneak away to stroll though the cabins strategically placed around Libby Creek, which meanders through the ranch. Picking out a secluded spot to read a book and letting the sounds of the creek fill your soul would be one the moments guest ranching is famous for. While horseback riding is the main focus for all DRA member dude ranches they do have a fishing guide that is happy to get you all suited up with their on- property Orvis gear and take you out to find that perfect fishing hole.  There is a small archery and BB gun shooting area.  Hiking is endless in the Shoshone National Forest so, as you can see there is something for everyone. On our visit we had the pleasure of hanging out with this guy. He was lying just outside one of the cabins, relaxing in the sunshine.  He is just an example of the diversity of wildlife you can see on your adventures in Yellowstone. After saying good bye to the buffalo and our friends at Cross Sabres we headed back towards town.  On our way we stopped at The Historic UXU Dude Ranch.  The ranch welcomed new managers Ally and Jim and we wanted to introduce ourselves.  They certainly added their personal touches and everything looked great. They are excited to welcome their first guests of the season. The cabins are decorated with beautiful western furniture done in the Moles Worth Style. The wranglers were cutting trails and getting the horses and tack ready for the season. This made for breath taking scenery with cowboys, green pasture and the warm Wyoming sun reflecting off of the North Fork of the Shoshone River. Heading back to town I was filled with thoughts of adventure not only for what these 2 ranches have to offer, but also the trails and sights along the way in the foothills of the Absaroka Mountain Range. I can’t wait to explore the other DRA dude ranches around Cody, Wyoming. Check out the list of the nearby ranches below and imagine the memories to be made at these vacation destinations.  

7D Ranch The 7D Ranch is Cody, Wyoming's premier family guest ranch since 1958. Extensive trail riding in a pristine mountain setting. Fly-fishing with instruction. Supervised children's program. Western cuisine. Hiking from the ranch as well as in the Beartooth Mountains. Weekly trips into Yellowstone NP.       

Hideout Lodge & Guest Ranch The Hideout Lodge & Guest Ranch in Shell, Wyoming, is 300,000-acre working cattle, riding & fly-fishing ranch. This upscale all-inclusive quality ranch is located 60 miles East of Cody, Wyoming & Yellowstone National Park. Limited to around 25 guests per week. Quarter, Paints, Gaited & Mustang horses. 4 languages.       

Rimrock Ranch Rimrock Ranch is nestled on the banks of Canyon Creek, halfway between Cody, Wyoming and the East Entrance of Yellowstone National Park. This dude ranch is family owned and operated since 1955. The week is filled with riding, rafting, rodeo, and an all day tour of Yellowstone. Heated pool, hot tub and fishing pond.    

   

Beat the Winter Blues with a Getaway to a Southwestern Dude Ranch

Dreaming of warmth, sunshine and adventure? Leave the cold and dreary weather at home and embark on the original all-inclusive vacation at a   Southwestern dude ranch located in Arizona or New Mexico  There is a broad spectrum of DRA-accredited guest ranches across North America, ranging from rustic, no-frills working ranches to luxury resort-style ranches. From valleys complete with untouched Rocky Mountain backdrops to desert sunsets across the Southwest, you can find DRA-accredited ranches throughout the Western U.S., as well as in California, Arkansas and Canada. Flying E Barn Gather

If you’re dreaming of a warm vacation destination this season, the DRA can help plan the perfect winter escape to a Southwestern dude ranch where activities include horseback riding, swimming, fishing, nature walks, whitewater rafting and much more. If you’re looking for a luxury dude ranch experience, Arizona’s dude ranches might be the perfect fit. The breathtaking backdrop of extraordinary landscapes like the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley and The Painted Desert is just the start to a memorable vacation.

Tanque Verde Ranch, located just east of Tucson, is one of the premier all-inclusive dude ranch resorts in the country. You will find the perfect blend of Western adventure, solitude and luxury amenities to make your vacation unforgettable. Or escape to the warm heart of the Southwest at Rancho de los Caballeros.  This resort has the soul of a bed and breakfast offering full resort amenities and privacy, yet with the charm and intimacy of yesteryear. Additional ranches in Arizona that offer a wide range of activities and amenities include Circle Z Ranch, Elkhorn Ranch,  Ranch, Flying E Dude Ranch and White Stallion Ranch     

To experience the true cowboy life, select one of New Mexico’s dude ranches where evidence of the American Old West is visible at every turn. Explore the outlaw trails of Billy the Kid, Butch Cassidy, and the Sundance Kid on horseback or head into the canyons that sheltered the great Apache warrior Geronimo in the 1800s. Geronimo Trail Guest Ranch is perfect for an “Old West” family adventure. This ranch is located in the untouched Gila National Forest of Southwestern New Mexico and offers a relaxed and personal atmosphere. New Mexico is also home to Burnt Well Ranch, a small family owned cattle and sheep ranch located in Southeastern New Mexico. Burnt Well Ranch is another great ranch to visit in the winter due to its mild winter temperatures ranging in the 60’s. As you can see there are plenty of options so let us help you find the perfect ranch for your winter getawy.  

The Horse We Shared at the Colorado Dude Ranch

Posted on May 7, 2012 via rainbowtroutranch.com

A TRIBUTE TO CD,

The Horse We Shared

By Andrea Hansell

     Our family first came to Rainbow Trout Ranch in July of 1997.   Before we arrived, I spent a good deal of time discussing horse choices with Jane on the phone.  I had enough riding experience to want a horse with some spunk, but being afraid of heights, I also wanted a horse that I could absolutely rely on to be cautious and sure-footed on steep trails.   Jane decided that the best horse for me was CD, short for Coupe DeVille.   On my first ride out, I immediately fell in love with this handsome dark brown horse with the white socks and forehead  blaze.
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Andrea with CD in 1997

When I was feeling comfortable in the flat meadows and on the logging road, CD let me be totally in charge, and responded to my slightest nudge of the reins.  But when I got nervous on a trail high above the Conejos, CD would look back at me as if to say, “Do you think I’d let us both fall off that cliff?  Trust me, lady, I’ve got this!”  and he would carefully pick his way among the rocks, keeping well away from the steep drop.  

Andrea on CD, 1997

By the end of our first week at RTR, I was so enthralled with CD that my husband Jim joked that he had never imagined having a horse as a rival for his wife’s affection.  When we returned home to Michigan, he bought me my own little stuffed CD, which has sat on a table in my office for the last fifteen years.  

Mini-CD, a gift from Jim to Andrea

When we returned for our second summer at RTR, I eagerly requested to ride CD again.  But to my disappointment (I remember I almost cried!) a long-time guest had requested CD, and he was the one who got to ride him that week.  Jane chose Roman for me that summer, and he was a wonderful horse, but when I brought an apple down to the barn for Roman, I always brought another one for CD. During our first two summers at the ranch, Jim, recovering from shoulder surgery, had mostly hiked and fished while the children and I rode.  On our third trip, however, he decided that he wanted to master horseback riding and go on the overnight ride.  He wanted a really dependable horse for the week.  When Jane asked me if I’d rather ride Roman or CD, I realized that CD would actually be a perfect horse for Jim, so I chose Roman and offered Jim the gift of CD.   Since Jim and I always rode together, I got to spend a wonderful week with my husband and both of my favorite equine buddies.  From then on, when we returned to the ranch, I would ride Roman and Jim would ride CD.

Jim and CD in the rodeo, 2003

It was with sadness that Jim and I read in the recent RTR News of CD’s passing.  We both loved that sweet horse, and hope that somewhere in Horse Heaven he is happily loping across a grassy meadow with his buddies (including Roman) who have also passed.  He has most definitely become part of our family’s history.

The Hansell Family in 2001, Jim on CD

For more information about Rainbow Trout Ranch please visit www.rainbowtroutranch.com or call 800-633-3397

To Stand or Not to Stand?

The Home Ranch Family VacationBy John Fisher of The Home Ranch, Granby, CO Let’s not beat around the bush.  Why do you stand up in the saddle when your horse is urinating?  Although this question may sound humorous, what is probably more humorous is that I have developed an obsession with this question I operate a guest ranch in Colorado, so already my sanity comes into question. It all started about 10 years ago.  We had a new wrangler in from Virginia.  This woman had an incredible resume with numerous credentials in the horse industry.  She was giving instruction to a group when one of the horses started urinating.  “Stand up! Stand up!” she cried.  The befuddled guest remained motionless.  “Stand up in the stirrups when your horse is urinating!” she demanded.  The poor guest hadn’t noticed that the horse had changed positions and was now urinating.  Myself, having never heard of such a thing stood helpless in amazement.  This was something big!  Shame on me.  I had been riding horses for years and I never once stood up while a horse was urinating.  Think of all the pain I personally inflicted on all of those horses!  I discussed this new concept with this wrangler later that day.  She explained to me in very technical terms about why it made sense to get off the horse’s kidneys and many other anatomical functions that went along with it.  Those credentials of hers were impressive, and gosh I had learned everything I know from country hicks. My mind is always seeking answers, and apparently those credentials never quite impressed me to the point that they fully convinced me.  Recently, while attending a horsemanship clinic with a horseman that I like and respect, a horse started urinating, the woman stood up in the saddle, and he pointed out that standing in the stirrups was a good habit to develop.  “That’s what riding a horse is all about - developing good habits.” Why do you stand in the stirrups?  The question burned inside of me.  I couldn’t ask the question in front of all these people.  They paid good money to ride in this clinic, I couldn’t waste their time and money with my silly question.  Ten minutes went by, my stomach was churning, we were going over the importance of impulsion when my hand went up. “Marty, I’m really sorry but this has been bugging me and I can’t stand it anymore.  I’ve got a question.” “Go ahead John.” “Well you see, everything that you have said today makes sense to me.  Pay attention to the horse - he tells you a lot, etc… Why do you stand in the stirrups when a horse urinates?”  (Some laughter from the crowd)  “No, I’m serious.  Has a horse said ‘man that feels good’ or has anyone done any research that proves that we should do this?” Marty’s reply - It just makes sense, you get off the horse’s kidneys. Now for the kicker.  Well, I had to admit that I’ve done some experiments on myself with tightening my belt and placing it over my kidneys and other unmentionable things.  Frankly, I found no difference.  I still did not have an explanation that was satisfactory for me. Well, it is now two months later, and I’ve done considerable research trying to find an answer to my question.  I’m not convinced.  All of the horse gurus have done a wonderful job improving the lives of horses and riders the world over and have been able to explain to me all sorts of mysteries regarding the mind of the horse, but I still don’t have a good answer to my question. I would like to offer another theory on horses urinating.  I think that they would prefer us to sit right where we are during urination.  If you’ve ever noticed, a horse almost goes through a ritual to get ready for urination -  this is true whether we’re on his back or not.  Male or female, they get prepared and get balanced before the moment.  I’m not suggesting that folks go to the lengths that I do, but imagine yourself, male or female, without the aid of a toilet, wearing a 20-pound backpack getting prepared to urinate.  Then the backpack makes a major move on your back.  It would be rather uncomfortable to now proceed, but you must. The act of urination has nothing to do with the kidneys.  The kidneys are involved in the process of making urine, but it is the bladder that is relieved during urination. This may seem rather trivial, but so much of the horsemanship that I learned was because so and so said this, or does this.  With the progression of good horsemanship, I would like proof that we should stand in the stirrups.  I’m waiting.

Summary of Dude Ranching’s Core Principles

Dude ranches are the original Western vacation.  Our first ranchers introduced the unique beauty of the American West to “dudes” from all over.  All this happened in the best way possible: from the back of a horse.  This horseback adventure was surrounded by honest and real Western hospitality that these dude ranch pioneers considered a part of the code of the west. The Dude Ranchers’ Association was founded to preserve, protect, and promote their unique vacation experience and its identity.  Though guest expectations have changed and ranchers have had to change with them, the core principles of dude ranching remain the same. The following six words beginning with H represent the ideas that summarize those principles.  The notes clarify how these principles apply to any ranch that is a member or seeks to become a member of the DRA.DRA White Large

Horses

  • Horses are central to any dude ranch experience.
  • There must be adequate stock, tack, facilities, and trails for the riding program.  All will be well cared for.
  • Attention will be paid to horse and rider safety.

Hats

  • Hats symbolize the special emphasis on Western atmosphere and appearance.

Hospitality

  • A genuine friendly Western welcome with staff, food, accommodations, facilities, and activities to authenticate it.

Heritage

  • Dude ranch vacations began as long stays where relationships developed and guests had an exclusive and complete ranch experience.
  • Dude ranch guests will be on an American plan.
  • Even amidst today’s pressures for quick visits and short vacations, ranches should encourage week-long stays (6 or 7 nights.)
  • Regular multi-day dude ranch guests should not be significantly or adversely affected by any non-dude ranch business.

Honesty

  • You are at least a good as you advertise, if not better.
  • You operate your business with integrity.

Heart

  • You have a heart for developing friendships with your guests and demonstrate it in your actions.

Meet Your Host - Colleen Hodson of the Dude Ranchers’ Association

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?colleenhodson_e6ryef

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)

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