What Ranch Adventure Will You Have This Summer?

Vee Bar Guest Ranch

A Funny Thing Happened On My Way to Getting Old By Laurie Hartman, Wrangler Hello from one of those folks usually a day late and a dollar short, a jack of many trades and master of few, a perpetual student of the School of Hard Knocks, a late bloomer. But better late than never, right? I’ve had lots of ideas over the years, some good and some bad, and half my life was over before I got the idea to apply to be a guest ranch wrangler. I can’t recall how or when or why the idea came to me, but once it got in my head it would not go away. I questioned my sanity. I was 53 years old, thirty pounds overweight and well, frumpy. Age will do that to you. At least that’s what I’d been telling myself, like when I bought bigger sweatpants and when I stopped fussing over grey roots. My chin was sagging and other body parts were on the road to saggville as well. One of my eyes got lazy. I got lazy. I quit mapping my barrel racing plans on the calendar, I quit hauling every weekend, I quit riding when I got home from work. I was one step away from granny panties and blue hair. Then another thought came to mind. It was one of my characteristic play-it-safe what if’s, but this one had a twist. What if I didn’t apply? What if I didn’t get hired? The alternative didn’t look good.

Vee Bar Guest Ranch

So I worked up a resume, spent hours searching the internet for ranches I wanted to apply, filled out applications and investigated how ranches tick. I’d never been to a guest ranch…I’d never really been anywhere unless it involved a barrel race. I started working out and taking care of myself and I stopped worrying about what Grandfather Time was doing to me. I couldn’t do anything about my age or being hired but I could give it my best shot, another characteristic I’m known for. The bottom line is I stuck with it. And not only did I did get hired, but before it was over I knew it was one of the best things I’d ever done. I traded an office chair for a saddle and the great outdoors. My new seat offered breathtaking views, the scent of sage, the experience of not only seeing from a new perspective but through the eyes of others as well. I traded air conditioning for Mother Nature. The majority of days were made to order. It rained several times but there’s something magical about the sound of rain on your slicker and cowboy hat.

Vee Bar Guest Ranch

I traded fine-tuned barrel horses for dude ranch mounts that surpassed my expectations. The horses on the ranch weren’t nose-to-tail plugs like I expected, but they had been around the block a time or two and were very wise. They adapted to their new riders each week by reading them well and reading them quickly. It was interesting to see the horses change depending on the skill level of their rider, and humorous seeing them come to life when a wrangler rode them. A few old reliables gained my respect and gratitude for simply doing their job without taking advantage of the novice on their back. I traded moody clients for enthusiastic people appreciative of me and what I did for them, driving in traffic every morning for rides at sunrise bringing the herd in from pasture, coworkers I never related to for staff members whose joy to be there was contagious. A good guest ranch offers big country, great horses, awesome food and wonderful people. You really can’t ask for better job conditions than that, and in my case it changed the course of the rest of my life.  I’ve heard it said if you enjoy what you’re doing it’s not work. That’s so true. I’ve noticed people who aren’t happy don’t bring that up. They don’t know what they’re missing. I didn’t know what I was missing.

Looking for seasonal work this summer?

Check out the employment ads for the following ranches. Click on their links for more information. Kitchen Work  - Hideout Ranch, AZ & Laramie River Ranch, CO Wrangler - Red Rock Ranch, WY & 4UR Ranch, CO


The Cowboy Way or So They Say

By Tatyanna Zaleski, Wrangler You found a job posting for a wrangler and you thought, “Sure, why not?” So you took a leap of faith and found the one thing that makes you love life just a little extra. You found the dream job; you just wish it wasn’t so seasonal.  You applied, got hired and now, you’re here. Your suitcase is unpacked and you’ve hung up what little reminders of home you’ve brought with. You’ve met the boss and tomorrow you’ll start the greatest adventure of a lifetime. This is what it was like my first summer at a Dude Ranch. I’m on my third summer and I don’t know if I can give it up just yet. Being a wrangler, working in such breathtaking places and with incredible animals, it’s an addiction.

Paradise Guest Ranch

They tell you it will be the worst best summer of your life. After those words, most people would turn around and run, because this job isn’t for most people. It’s for people who love horses more than any other mammal, who love to meet people, who love the outdoors, who love hard work, and who love to wake up early. This job is for people who want to learn about themselves, make friendship that will last a lifetime, and become staycationers in the most beautiful places on Earth. So if you checked yes too all the above, then you are ready to experience life on the ranch. Here is the reason why I think this is the best job ever, in addition to the above mentioned items:

1. I ride horses all day long

2. I get to listen to my own voice for equally as long

3. I get to wake up every morning to the views you see on postcards Can anyone else tell me a job where you get to do all that and eat gourmet food and pick your family? At the ranch, the food was great, alright, it was better than great. So, my thoughts were there goes my figure.  Why worry about your figure and just go for those homemade peanut butter chocolate bacon cookies. Where’s the fun in life if you can’t eat more sweets than actual meals? Plus, where else are you going to get such delicious food for free and served to you? As far as the picking your family part, it might be the best part of the whole summer. You all come here looking for something. A summer adventure, a reason to get away, a change in scenery, experience, but none of us come here knowing how close we all become. We all came from somewhere else. We all have gypsy souls. So we bond, we complain about work, we share our love for this place, we swap stories about our past, we get closer… we become a family. It was fun. It was amazing. It was the greatest summer of my life. It was the greatest time of my life. You pour your heart and soul into something, this place, this job, the horses, the RIDE. You love the horses like their your own and you praise them like they are your children. Sometimes people question if you love the horses more than people. You rarely deny it.

Paradise Guest Ranch

Each horse is so different, with different pasts and personalities, but they all do the same job and they do it with such grace and precision. They’re our silent partners. They’re the stars. They’re what everyone comes here to see. And yet, they ask they only ask for our unconditional love and admiration. And sometimes you find that horse, the ONE that makes every day better and every ride very special. You use up your photo storage on your phone taking photos of them, you spend every day off  hanging out with them, every moment of down time feeding them extra grain just to spend more time being their friend. You come for the horses, but you soon realize, it’s the people you meet who you stay for. The guests and your work companions make you think, they make you want, and mostly they help you realize how much you have to offer. I came out here to wait out a summer after graduation from college with no life plans and no clear direction. Then I met these amazing guests and colleagues with these successful lives and they gave me hope, they helped me out. They gave me their time, connections and insights then all of a sudden I’m less hopeless and lost, I’m suddenly full of plans after these three short months.  Plus I’ve made an unexpected friend and ally in this crazy world we live in.

Paradise Guest Ranch

There are so many moments that keep you going each and every day and not get bored or tired of working long hours, they are… a group day off on the back of a speed boat taking infinite pictures of everyone falling off the tube; making dinner for ten in the “dank kitchen” that should only fit three people max; it’s fishing and being able to share it with the friends you made; cooking it; it’s a 25 person family dinner at your favorite restaurant in town where everyone who works there knows your name;  it’s jumping off a 30 foot cliff into freezing cold water just to say you did it and waiting 20 minutes in the water while the rest of your friends teeter on the edge; it’s going back to these places after the summer is over and feeling all those same feelings over again and missing all those people even more. It’s an adventure to another state to see the “Daddy of them All” – the state of Wyoming.

So you came for the horses, you stay for the people, and miss the views. There is no place like this! {I almost said home, but that was taking it a little too far} How they find this isolated place with views rarely seen by humans is amazing. The first time you climb to the top of the mountain and the trail really opens up, your breath will leave your chest. There are mountains that are so tall they look like they touch the sky, they are hidden in the cloud and always covered in snow. These giant rocks cover the entire landscape and surround every part of this place. The skies are so blue and clear they make you wonder if it’s real. The air is so fresh and thin that it makes you wonder if it’s the beauty of it all or the altitude that makes it hard to breathe. And that is what makes every day so epic. A Wrangler’s job is hard, but at the end of every day you wash the dirt, or what we hope is dirt, off your hands, it feels like you live in paradise and no place can beat paradise. We end every day feeling like we taught someone something new, we learned more about ourselves, and we got do what we all love. Ride.



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.


Life on a Jackson Hole Dude Ranch

By Adriene Henderson Photo Credits - Tom Rafalovich Three years ago I made the decision to pack up my life and move to a Jackson Hole Dude Ranch. It was the best decision I have ever made! I knew I would have fun, make new friends, and try new things during a summer adventure. However, what I didn’t know was that I would have the most amazing summer of my life, make lifelong best friends, learn countless new skills, and my summer adventure would quickly become a permanent lifestyle change.

Gros Ventre Dude Ranch

After three summers—and one winter!—working on the ranch, I am sure of one thing, each summer will begin with a group of young people from all over the country who will quickly transition from strangers, into friends, and finally into a perfectly dysfunctional and incredibly loving family. Words can’t describe the types of relationships that I have developed on the ranch, and have sustained throughout the years. Each summer I have spent working on the ranch has been different, yet perfect in its own unique way. Sure, there have been similarities between the three, wonderful returning guests, our same beautiful herd of horses, and four months of hectic life full of fun, hard work and laughter. However, I have learned to embrace each season as its own, not comparing one to another. As I work on the ranch through this winter, and we begin to prepare for what will be my fourth summer, I am constantly reminded of the joy that this lifestyle has brought me.

Gros Ventre Adriene Henderson

It is difficult to describe my appreciation for the experiences that I have had living on the ranch. This is a life changing adventure that I would suggest every college student or post-grad consider. It is a wonderful way to learn about the western culture, meet people from all over the country and the world, make lasting friendships, and learn so much about yourself during the process. I can’t imagine my life without my Jackson Hole Dude Ranch!

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