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Cowboy Skills 101: The Best USA Guest Ranches to Earn Your Spurs This Year

If you're looking to step into the boots of a real cowboy on your riding holiday look no further than Ranch Rider, as the tour operator is run by keen equestrians and horse owners, their passion to help you get more out of your time in the saddle.

Tony Daly, managing director of Ranch Rider, comments, “Even though branding, roping and cattle work are available activities at most working ranches, there are always subtle key differences in the guest experience from one ranch to another. From the benefits of combining yoga with horse riding to learning to rope with rodeo legends, we’ve prepared a selection of ranch holidays where you can get to grips with being in the saddle in a way that feels tailor-made for you.”

Yoga isn’t just a health and wellness booster, as it can also help to improve your experience in the saddle - the physical alignment we strive to achieve when riding horses the same as the alignment we practice in the art of yoga. At Wyoming’s Bitterroot Working Guest Ranch they offer several classes each week in the yoga yurt, with guests working on the muscles that are engaged when riding horses.


More intensive yoga weeks are available over the summer months, focusing on Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga (departing 14-21 July) and Hatha Yoga (departing 25 August to 01 September). Visit the ranch on the week beginning 23 June and you will SAVE £351pp: Seven nights from only £1,989pp (two sharing) including accommodation, meals, ranch activities (including riding), use of ranch facilities, taxes and gratuities. Excludes car hire from £340 and return flight from £895pp. Expect an authentic working ranch experience with plenty of opportunity to herd the cattle, the property surrounded by the Shoshone National Forest, where the ranch’s 450 head of Black Angus and Scottish Highland cattle graze (the ranch has a special permit to ride and operate in what is the first federally protected national forest in the United States). English and Western tack is available along with an exciting cross-country course. 

With instructors who are members of the PRCA (Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association) and the NCHA (National Cutting Horse Association), you can certainly look to expand your Western riding skills at the "adult only" Colorado Cattle Company.  There is also a Cowboy School on site, the fun games of team penning, team sorting, cutting, tag, cowboy handball and barrel racing teaching you “must-have” cattle handling skills. Visit the ranch in July and August and you'll SAVE £420pp: Six-nights from only £1,370pp (no single supplement) including six night’s accommodation, meals, ranch activities (including riding), use of ranch facilities and taxes. Transfers available from Denver from £100 (per group) and return flight on request. 

Montana’s Lonesome Spur Working Guest Ranch has been under the same ownership for five generations.  The wranglers here (including a legendary rodeo star and once champion bull rider) follow the traditional cowboy code and old fashioned values of the west by helping friends and neighbours with branding and doctoring their cattle on request.  The ideal place to earn your spurs, you will have the opportunity to learn to catch and saddle your own horse (under supervision), ride the range and help gather and move the cattle as the days permit. Travel in June and there might be chance to visit the thrilling Cody Night Rodeo. SAVE £400pp: Six-nights from only £1,000pp (two sharing) including accommodation, meals, most ranch activities, taxes, transfers and gratuities.  Excludes return flight from £895pp. Offer valid on stays between May 19th – June 29th. Book before 31 March. 

Covering 4,000 acres, South Dakota’s Crow Creek Working Ranch overlooks the scenic Black Hills and straddles two states, giving guests the opportunity to ride across the border into Wyoming. May activities include branding, cattle drives and fun games of team penning. You can expect a truly intensive Western workout in the saddle, as rather uniquely, the ranch takes only four to six guests at a time, the owners running about 500 head of Angus cattle on 5000 to 6000 hectares in three leased locations as well as at their 1400-hectare ranch. SAVE £230pp: Six nights from £719pp (no single supplement) including accommodation, meals, ranch activities, use of ranch facilities taxes and transfers from Rapid City. Excludes gratuities as left to discretion, and return flight from £889pp. Offer valid on all May, June and July departures. Book by 30 April.

At Wyoming’s New Haven Working Ranch, the owners rear horses, cattle and sheep and there is always plenty of cattle work for greenhorns. Alternative pursuits include pedal boating on the lake, fishing and target shooting. SAVE £250pp: Seven nights from only £1,175pp (no single supplement) including accommodation, meals, ranch activities, use of ranch facilities, taxes and gratuities. Excludes transfers from Rapid City from £135pp and return flight from £895pp. Offer valid on departures between 18 May to 25 May. Book before 31 March.

All deals are subject to availability. Ranch Rider (01509 618 811; ranchrider.com) ATOL PROTECTED No 4660 ABTA 96395/V9150.

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