Many travel advisors and consumers have misconceptions about what a dude ranch experience will be like, and some may be either skeptical or worried about whether it would be fulfilling for them.
In this episode, podcaster Aaron Schlein breaks down those potential barriers by speaking with Leah Bright and Bryce Street from the Dude Ranchers Association (DRA), which represents more than 100 of the top ranches west of the Mississippi River and in Canada.
Bright and Street point out how families can try everything from the deep immersive one-week vacation, to a just a few days, from rustic to ultra-luxury, including Cordon Bleu chefs and farm-to-table dining.
Both also urge parents not to be overly concerned with safety. Most dude ranches are certified in horse and guest safety, and children as young as five-years-old regularly ride at DRA ranches after a brief series of lessions.
“You don’t need lots of experience to go there,” Bright told Schlein. “The staff are trained to teach children, parents, how to safely ride a horse.”
One of the greatest benefits of a dude ranch vacation is the variety of activities and flexibility families have to shape their experience to their personal taste. The larger, more luxurious ranches have everything from spas, to tennis courts, game rooms and theaters, as well as the traditional menu of outdoor recreation, like fly fishing, hiking and horse riding.
In the second part of the podcast, Russell True, owner of the White Stallion Ranch, talks about how many of his guests are surprised to see that his ranch has everything from pools to hot tubs, and even one of the largest rock-wall climbing facilities in the United States.
“There’s something for everybody. But horseback riding is still the core of the experience,” he tells Schlein.
“They come in sort of skeptical almost. Will it be rough? Rustic? Will the bed be lumpy?” True says. “And yet their kids are doing things they would never do at home. I think they find it amazing.”
And the great thing, said Bright, is that you can do as much as you want on any given day, and different members of the family can partake in only the activities they want.
True tells Schlein how it gives him great joy to see first-time families, and the transformation families go through as children find themselves growing into greater independence from an experience like learning how to control a 1,000-pound horse.
“The sense of accomplishment the kids have, and the pride the parents have,” True says, is a sight to behold.
But Street and Bright warn families and travel advisors not to plan too late, as many ranches are booked 9-12 months out, and have little opening for short-term decisions.
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