Does your dream holiday involve big skies, raw natural beauty, and plenty of outdoor activities? Feel your riding skills could do with a boost – or a kick start – but can’t be bothered to take lessons?
What you need to look into is a dude-ranch holiday.
See Big-Sky Country the Right Way
Now, take a deep breath and put Billy Crystal and Jack Palance in City Slickers out of your mind for a minute. Drunken cowboys and terrifying trail bosses aren’t part of the package. But choose the right insurance – in this case you’ll probably need to get a specific Allianz single-trip travel insurance to cover you for the unexpected– and you’ll be ready and set to saddle up.
If you’re not safari-mad, but you still want your dose of sunshine, then America is just the place to get your riding kicks. Of course, you’ll need to make sure your policy covers you in the US, but for scenery and professionalism it’s hard to beat CowBoy Country ranches. And they come in all styles – from family-friendly guest ranches to toughen-you-up working ranches.
Luckily for lovers of the great outdoors, you’ve got all the Western-movie beauty you could ask for right where most dude ranches sit. Think high desert and canyons in Arizona and Texas, to snow-capped mountains and prairie in Idaho and Montana. And horseback riding gives you the chance to see it like few people do.
Do the Real Cowboy Thing on a Working Ranch
For intermediate and advanced riders, a stay on a working ranch is definitely worthwhile. Get the urbanite out of your system with fast-paced, overnight horse and cattle drives, where it’s all about round-ups, long rides, and campfire meals by clear lakes.
Most ranch stays are 7 nights, including a couple of days to get used to your horse and then wind down after the drive. So you’ll have a good four days out ‘working’. Then you can tell everyone back home that you’ve herded hundreds of Longhorn cattle or frisky colts.
Soak Up the Scenery on a Guest Ranch
Or go for the gentler guest-ranch experience where you can take daily rides along mountain trails and through the desert, depending on your skills. Beginners who don’t fancy 8 hours in the saddle can still get intensive lessons, but in an amazing setting rather than the pony ring
Guest ranches will also have activities for non-riders or those who just want a day out of the saddle. If you’re thinking more about relaxing, check if there’s a heated pool or games room. Some ranches also offer extra sports activities like hiking and white-water rafting.
All that activity helps you make the most of a very important part of any US visit – the food.
One of the things I love most about dude-ranch holidays is the food. Whether you’re waking at sunrise to coffee and bacon strips cooked over an open fire, or settling down to a melting-soft steak, homegrown veg, and freshly-dug potatoes after a trail ride, the cowboy diet is the crown on the whole ranch experience.