Where to go…Pack Trips, Vaqueros, Crossing the Andes and more…
No two ranches are the same – there are so many different experiences that we can’t fit them all into one feature. Here’s a snapshot.
1. Go on a pack trip. Learn how to pack and lead a mule and head into the wilderness to combine staying in luxury accommodation with camping under the stars.
Where to go: Zapata Ranch is based in Colorado, USA, and offers the opportunity to ride to the summit of six 14,000 foot peaks in its some 50,000 acres of varied terrain. Patagonia’s Estancia Ranquilco, on the other hand, will take you into the mountains passing beautiful waterfalls, varied terrain and amazing vistas.
2. Have a go at roping. Roping, which was originally developed to allow cowboys to restrain an animal that was too large for one person to handle alone, is now a popular sport in the USA and it is the only rodeo event where men and women compete on equal terms.
Where to go: Working ranch Chico Basin, which is based in Colorado, offers the chance to truly immerse yourself into the cowboy way of life and get involved in all aspects of their day-to-day activities.
3. Ride across the Andes. Travel by horseback through parts of the world’s longest continental mountain range and experience the most stunning scenery you’ll ever see. The Andes mountain range is home to some of the highest volcanoes in the world, including Ojos del Salados on the Chile/Argentina border, which rises to 6,893m!
Where to go: Argentina’s Estancia Huechahue has been described by many riders as pure heaven. Offering plenty of stunning scenery along the way, guests will also be overwhelmed by the outstanding horses (try the smooth gaited Paso Peruano), wildlife and local culture. An experience not to be missed.
4. Start a colt. Breaking in a young horse requires a tremendous amount of patience and skill, and it can be a great learning experience and make you a better all-round horse person. Carried out fairly, most young horses quickly come on side and are happy to accept a rider.
Where to go: McGinnis Meadows, situated in Montana, USA, is a friendly working ranch that encourages guests to get involved in the working activities and can tailor-make a holiday to suit individual preferences. The horses are trained using methods endorsed by horse trainer Buck Brannaman, who believes in using gentle and fair training that results in a tremendous kinship between horse and rider. Watch and participate in the ranch’s methods of starting a young horse’s training and go home armed with new inspiring methods that will help your own horse to progress.
5. Learn about different cultures. Ride with Gauchos (Southern American cowboys) in Argentina or Vaqueros (horse mounted livestock herders of Spanish tradition) in Mexico and learn more about their culture and way of life as you join them on a cattle drive.
Where to go: Mexico’s Rancho Las Cascadas or Rancho Los Banos, which both offer plenty of exhilarating riding across unspoilt scenery and action-packed adventure. Or, head to Estancia Los Potreros where you’ll enjoy riding with the authentic gauchos and embracing their culture.
6. Ride a cutting horse. You won’t ride a horse more agile than a cutting horse. Their job being to separate and keep a cow away from the rest of the herd, cutting horses can turn on a sixpence and accelerate and decelerate in a split second. Mostly Quarter horses, these finely-tuned animals will truly amaze you.
Where to go: Brush Creek in Wyoming. The true spirit of the west, Brush Creek promises luxury accommodation, outstanding food and adventures you’ll never forget.
7. Compete in a rodeo. While you may wish to draw the line at trying to stay on a bucking bronco, local rodeos hold fun competitions such as barrel racing. In barrel racing, the aim is to attempt to complete a clover-leaf pattern around barrels in the shortest time possible.
Where to go: Lazy L&B Ranch, Wyoming, which offers bespoke holidays to suit guests who want to take it easy or those who prefer more adventure and action where you can take part in their local town’s rodeo, and Averill’s Flathead Lake Lodge, Montana, which allows guests to combine horse and water activities, try roping and rodeo competitions in the ranch’s outdoor arena – Doug, a former rodeo cowboy will personally show you the ropes. Or try Lone Mountain Guest Ranch, Montana, where they hold rodeos for children each week, and parents can watch or even get involved if they wish – getting the young excited about this culture.
8. Ride with the Brumbies. Often referred to as the feral horse of Australia, the Brumby lives in free roaming herds mainly found in the Australian Alps. While some horses are captured and used as working horses, most live in the wild, and you can see the herds for yourself via horseback if you opt for an Australian ranching experience.
Where to go: Australia’s Snowy River Horseback Adventures, where the riding is second to none, taking you across bush trails, old stock routes, forests and snowy mountains.
9. Take part in a cattle round-up. Feel your adrenaline rise as you experience the real cowboy way of life. Not for the fainthearted, you can expect plenty of speed and long hours in the saddle before ending the day with a hearty meal back at the ranch.
Where to go: Bonanza Creek Country Guest Ranch in Montana, which runs 1,500 head of cattle on 25,000 acres, Lazy El, (also in Montana), which describes its holidays as the ultimate cattle drive experience as you take in the breath-taking scenery of the Beartooth Mountains, Colorado’s Chico Basin, a whopping 87,000-acre ranch with unobstructed views of the Rocky Mountains, and Burnt Well Guest Ranch in New Mexico, where you can ride the open landscape of Billy the Kid country.
10. Ride on the USA/Canadian border. Experience mountains, open prairies, clear water rivers and streams and plenty of fresh air as you ride along parts of the world’s longest international boundary.
Where to go: Bar W Guest Ranch in Montana. With all-year-round experiences, this ranch offers winter sports and sleigh rides during the colder months, special spring time packages such as cattle drives and Cowgirl Up week, and horseback riding to take in the varied and stunning scenery in summer.