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Ranch Holiday Styles Explained

Author: Lauren Curd

Dreaming of your ideal ranch holidays is one thing but finding the perfect option for you can be a little trickier. First of all, you need to consider the riding abilities of all passengers travelling, how much horse riding you are keen to do during your holiday, and what other activities you want to partake in. Do you want to get involved with the working operations of a ranch; helping the wranglers out with rounding up cattle on horseback? Or would you prefer to enjoy a leisurely horse ride for a couple of hours or so each morning and then chill out by the swimming pool for the rest of the day whilst you soak up the sun? Generally speaking, ranches in the USA and Canada are divided into four categories – working, guest, dude and resort.

Working Ranch Holidays

Working ranch holidays are based on what we would call farms. Rearing cattle and horses is how the ranch owners make their money, and taking in guests to help out is a sideline. There isn’t an equivalent here in the UK, as few farmers ride over their properties to check stock. The majority of working ranches tend to be in the north west of the USA, although there are a few in Arizona, New Mexico and California also. The annual schedule of each ranch is very similar – calves are born in March and April, branded in May and then moved to the grazing areas in June where they are left to feed during July and August. September is a very popular time to visit a working ranch as this is when the cattle are gathered up and brought back to the ranch where they remain for the winter. Working ranches offer only basic amenities although guests are fed well and provided with a suitable horse to work on. Those considering a working ranch experience should be prepared for long hard days in the saddle - sometimes up to 8 hours when there is lots to get done! Therefore working ranches are best suited to experienced riders, since inexperienced riders may hold back the rest of the workers and slow the job down!

Guest Ranch Holidays

Guest ranch holidays are suitable for both novice and experienced riders – very few offer stock moving activity although some ranches do offer dedicated cattle weeks in the summer when a ‘round up’ experience is available. Accommodation at a guest ranch is more sophisticated than a working ranch and alternative activities such as fishing and shooting are offered. Horse riding can be enjoyed amongst stunning countryside or in the mountains, with two rides a day or one all-day ride with a packed lunch usually offered. Most guest ranches can be found in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho. There tend not to be many children staying at guest ranches and as such, childcare is not normally available whilst parents are off riding.

Dude Ranch Holidays

Dude and resort ranches offer an extremely wide range of adventures both on and off horseback for all ages, plus kids clubs and babysitting services so parents can completely relax. All levels of rider can be accommodated at dude and resort ranches, so whether you’ve never sat on a horse or are an experienced rider keen to partake in challenging fast rides, you won’t be bored. Accommodation on dude ranch holidays tends to be larger and plusher than that offered at guest ranches, and other activities and facilities such as swimming pools, hot tubs, tennis courts, shooting, fishing, hiking, biking and rafting are usually available.

Resort Ranch Holidays

Resort ranch holidays offer the same sort of activities and riding experiences as dude ranches, but with more luxurious cabins plus an alcohol licence. Many resort ranches throughout the USA and Canada put a strong emphasis on offering guests great food and wine.


**This blog post was previously published on Medway Leisure Travel, now trading as Pettitts Travel**

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