If you're a horseback rider who enjoys spending hours in the saddle and getting your hands dirty, a vacation at a working ranch or helping during a cattle drive could be the trip of a lifetime. What you do, whether it's moving cattle between pastures or helping with daily chores, depends upon what the ranchers needs. One thing's for sure: you'll be tired and hungry when you reach the dinner table(or chow wagon) after a day of riding on a working cattle ranch or during a cattle drive.
Vista Verde Guest Ranch
With more than a thousand head of cattle that need to be herded to winter pastures, the Vista Verde Guest Ranch is running four cattle-drives weeks through early October. Early in the week guests join intensive clinics to get geared up and on the same page, the everyone heads up the ranch's allotment to gather the cows.
At the Hunewill Ranch, a working cattle ranch just east of Yosemite National Park, guests can learn to help cowboys gather and sort some of the 1,200 cattle that must be herded into corrals for vaccinating or branding. Riders with advanced horsemanship skills may learn to rope and help with more advanced maneuvers. The traditional fall cattle drive to winter quarters in Nevada covers 60 miles.
For total immersion join a Cowboy Adventure week at the Colorado Adventure Company. Mornings at this working cattle ranch, youll join the ranchers handling daily chores, such as helping collect cattle, brand calves, check the fences, water and salt, and whatever else must be done the week you are there. Afternoons, you can learn team penning, cutting roping and other activities just for fun.
Be as involved as you want with driving cattle to new pastures, checking fences, shearing sheep and weaning calves and lambs for market at the Burnt Well Guest Ranch, a working cattle ranch where there's only room for 10 guests. Old-fashioned cattle drives are held a few times each year. Contact the ranch for dates and more information.
This special 87,000 acre working cattle ranch, located 35 minutes south of Colorado Springs, offers a variety of packages, including a Working Ranch Experience, an Advanced Ranch Experience (where a higher level of horsemanship is required while helping herd and brand cattle), and the BoxT Cowboy Camps where you live on the land to work with the cattle.
At Latigo Ranch, the round-up week is reserved for a limited number of skilled riders willing to spend long hours in the saddle. During the working vacation, ranch guests help gather up the cattle that have been grazing on U.S. Forest Service land and herd them back to their home ranches.
Blue Sky Ranch, near Park City, Utah, has a "Cowboy for the Day" adventure. You'll spend the day (or longer if you wish) learning the basics of working with horses. You'll have a chance to work the basics of calming a small herd, as well as cutting and sorting. Finally, you'll help move a small herd through fields and streams to Antelope Valley.