What is a dude ranch?

summer dude ranch

By Steph

Say you’re from a big city, and have never been to a dude ranch or don’t even really grasp what it means to take a dude ranch vacation?  Every once in a while, I find myself trying to explain to someone what it means to visit a dude ranch.  Typically, they are surprised by what they hear.

You think it’s just about riding horses and living like a cowboy in the American West for a week?  Oh boy, you have no idea.

A dude ranch vacation is about horses, soaking up a piece of the American West, and enjoying outdoor adventures in a beautiful setting.  But, it’s really about a lot more than that.

It’s about people becoming better people.  You read that right.  Because people learn a lot about themselves through their experiences on horses.  They see their patterns, their habits, their “stories”, their insecurities, and their strengths all come out in the interactions with these kind-hearted four-legged creatures.  Through horses, people learn more about themselves, find confidence they didn’t know was there and resolve to make changes that are a long time coming.  They often face what they don’t want to face, and come out on the other side better people.  Doesn’t sound fun?  Just talk to someone who has had a life-changing experience because of one afternoon in a horsemanship clinic.  It’s pretty darn good.  ( Warning: The same thing can happen on skis, on a bike, or in the river with a fishing pole in hand)

It’s about people connecting.  Sure, vacations are a great chance to relax.  But, dude ranch vacations do much more than that.  You do relax.  You also connect.  You connect with your family or traveling partners.  You connect with the staff.  You connect with the other guests.  Often times, guests find themselves finding a renewed sense of faith in the human experience.  They are reminded that a deep conversation can do wonders for the heart.  They are reminded that laughter is truly the best medicine.  They are reminded that there are amazing 20-something people out there in the world who are going to be our future leaders.  They are reminded that you can treat people well just because you care, and for no other ulterior motive.  They are reminded that relationships matter.

It’s about getting dirty.  I’ve blogged about this before, but I’m always amazed by how many guests ask why we’re all so happy here.  There are lots of reasons, but I firmly believe that getting dirty, getting out in the woods, and getting a little sweaty while you’re at it promotes happiness.  It doesn’t hurt to be surrounded by amazing people who share a similar passion and care about their community.  But, it has a lot to do with dirt.  So, a dude ranch vacation is about getting dirty, sweaty, into the woods, and in touch with the earth.  We need to do that more as humans.  Kids need to do it more.  And here, you get to do just that.  ALL.DAY.LONG.

It’s about values.  The cowboy code of ethics is as follows:

1. Live each day with courage

2. Take pride in your work

3. Always finish what you start

4. Do what has to be done

5. Be tough, but fair

6. When you make a promise, keep it

7. Ride for the brand

8. Talk less and say more

9. Remember that some things aren’t for sale

10. Know where to draw the line.

When people go to a dude ranch, they see this played out right in front of them.  That doesn’t happen out there in the real world all the time, so it’s a great reminder of living an honest life, and doing the right thing.  No religion needed for this, just ethics.

But, you know what?  It’s also about amazing adventures, loads of fun, being pampered lavishly (ok, maybe not at all ranches), eating fresh and amazing food, and being authentically cared for by others so you can let go of your stress, your worries, and your busy life at home.  Doesn’t sound good to you?  Maybe it’s not the right kind of vacation for you then.  That’s ok, we know it’s not for everyone.  But, you might just surprise yourself, and find out it’s what you’re really looking for with your time away from home.

Happy trails, until we meet at check-in.