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Thursday, December 8, 2011

It’s 5:00 am in Cody, Wyoming, a couple of hours before sunrise.  Ted Harvey is awake and ready for his first cup of strong, black coffee.  He’ll go through a half pot of coffee before noon.  Ted is a handsome man and a solid buckaroo; a seasoned rancher and wrangler.  He wields the wrangler stride, necessary mustache, Levis that fit in all the right places and a wide smile. He has a solid history of skilled horsemanship, lasting kindness and engaging friendship. 
It’s 7:29 am now. The sun is up and trying to shine. On most days the sunrise is golden, azure and gleaming in Cody.  But today it is gray, perse and rainy, a typical autumn morning in wrangler country; hard, rugged and everything nature.  A climate manipulated and defined by the calloused hands and the sun-baked complexion of weathered wranglers. Ted has just come in from the barn; pulling horseshoes and trimming hooves.  He reaches for another steaming cup of stiff, wrangler coffee.

In 1967 Ted came into this world in Seattle, Washington. His family moved to Chapel Hill, North Carolina when he was five years old. At the age eight, he was introduced to a horse for the first time while visiting distant relatives in France.  His encounter with the horse was exciting and humbling.  Ted remembers, “We were on a farm and there was a horse there.  My twin brother and I had gone out in the morning to pet the horse.  The farmer had just fed him his oats. I really wanted to pet the horse.  My brother kept telling me to leave him alone. The horse was swishing his tail and laying his ears back. I really wanted to pet him.  After a bit, the horse had had enough, turned around, and kicked me squarely in the butt.  He kicked me clear over a fence.  My brother is still laughing about that one.”

At the age of fourteen, in 1981, Ted and his family traveled to Cody, Wyoming for a dude ranch vacation.  Arriving at Valley Ranch, a sprawling ranch south of Cody, Ted became fascinated with the ranching lifestyle.  Staying at the ranch lodge, he became accustomed to the aroma, feel and sensations of western living. The horseback riding was exceptional; well-equipped for family vacations and novice riders. “Back then, I don’t remember much in the way of instruction,” says Ted. “They showed us how to go, stop and turn and that was about it.  In the lodge each evening at dinner there was a sign-up sheet for riding the next day.  You could choose between slow, intermediate or advance.  I went on every advanced ride for the two weeks we were there and I was hooked.  I knew then that dude ranching was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.”  Ted’s experience at the ranch would set the course for his future vocation and instill his love for horses.

Returning to North Carolina, Ted dreamed of being back in the mountains of Wyoming, riding horses and meeting new people.  “At that point in my life I knew nothing of horses or dude ranching.  I needed experience.  So, during high school, I worked shoveling manure at local stables. They would let me ride from time to time.  At seventeen, I returned to Valley Ranch and enrolled in their Wrangler School.  This was a six week course and consisted of eight other wranglers.  This was the real beginning of my formal education as a wrangler; I was a boy of seventeen from North Carolina chasing eighty horses across the Shoshone River at 5:30 in the morning with real cowboys who at the time I considered legends.” 

While attending Wrangler School, Ted had the opportunity to meet some real western characters; famous wranglers, gracious hosts and lifelong friends. “Everyone has people they have met who have had a profound effect on their lives,” he says.  “For me one of those people was a woman I met at Valley Ranch named Irma Larom.  Her husband, Larry, started the ranch in 1914 with one of the Brooks Brothers as a partner. By the time I got there in the 1980’s he had passed away.  But she was still there.  She was about 140 years old.  She wore full-length formal dresses everyday.  She liked to flirt with the wranglers and tell stories about going to New York City in the 1920’s and staying at the Waldorf Hotel.  They would party in New York in the winter and invite their friends to Wyoming for summer adventure.  Irma said to me once, ‘A well-run dude ranch is hospitality at its finest.’ That has always stuck with me and I have tired to live up to it.  Valley Ranch no longer exists, but for me it is where everything began.”  Ted’s journey to becoming a world-class wrangler was becoming reality.  His hard work and dedication to his dream was coming to fruition.  All he needed was a good horse, fitted chaps and a wide-brim hat. Oh…and a good dog.

Wrangler.  It’s a tough word, not for the weak of heart.  Being a wrangler is hard work, long days, extreme environments, great friends and the sweet fragrance of horses - a lot of horses. Wranglers have an honorable place in American history.  Ted explains, “Historically, wranglers were teenagers hired on the big cattle drives of the 1880’s – 1890’s to take care of the string of horses the cowboys used to work the cattle herd.  Depending on the size of the herd, a cowboy might have as many as six to eight horses.  On most drives, the cowboys did not own the horses they rode.  They were owned by the cattle company. This was to prevent the cowboys from quitting and riding off in the middle of a drive that lasted for several months.  During an average day, the cattle might only move eight to ten miles, but the cowboys would ride three times that and change mounts several times a day.  It was the wranglers job to make sure the horses were groomed, fed, shod and generally cared for so they were ready for the cowboys. Today, wranglers are people who work for outfits taking usually inexperienced riders on trail rides, cattle drives and arena events.”

After Wrangler School at Valley Ranch, Ted attended college in Riverton, Wyoming.  He majored in horsemanship, a two-year program including training in overall horsemanship; livestock feeding, colt breaking and training, farrier science, ranch management, English riding etiquette, and team roping. “What I really took away from this experience was a little knowledge about many different equine areas, and it gave me an experience base to land my first paying job as a wrangler,” he states.  “But, if I had known then what I know now, I would have majored in business.”

Ted’s first position as a wrangler was at Black Mountain Ranch in McCoy, Colorado.  It is at Black Mountain Ranch where he met Rowdy, a bay Quarter Horse gelding. Rowdy’s dam was a Quarter Horse named Joker who belonged to Sam, the manager at Black Mountain Ranch. Ted recalls his years at Black Mountain. “I started there in 1987 as a wrangler. After about a month into my first summer, the head wrangler was fired for let’s say inappropriate behavior with a married female guest.  The manager came to me and said you are the head wrangler now.  The following summer we had a guest named Chuck.  He was a wiry, cocky twenty-three year old from Pennsylvania who, after being a guest like me, wanted to live the dude ranch life.  The manager and I agreed to hire him.  Chuck turned out to be the best wrangler I had ever known.  We only worked at Black Mountain for three years together and went our separate ways. Chuck went to work as a hunting guide for an outfitter on the western slope of Colorado.  I went to Tumbling River Ranch near Mount Evans, Colorado, and became the head wrangler there.”  When Chuck left for his new position in Colorado, he took Rowdy, the bay Quarter Horse gelding, with him. Rowdy has been in Chuck’s family for nearly twenty-three years now. Recently, Chuck was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease).  Ted says, “Chuck and his family now live in Cody. I am honored to keep his horse for him.  My daughter, Wren, who is six years old, is learning to run barrels on Rowdy.  She won’t ride any other horse.”
While at Black Mountain Ranch, Ted had the opportunity to meet great equestrians from around the world. “In 1988, a group of guys called the Newfoundland Trail Riders came to Black Mountain Ranch.  These guys all owned horses and were good riders.  They brought their own chaps, spurs and saddles with sealskin saddlebags – packed with dried salted cod and Screech rum!” Ted exclaims. “We took them on an all day ride everyday they were there.  We did a 3-day pack trip and really had a lot of fun with these guys.  At the end of the week, their president thanked me for a great week.  He said they wanted to have a pair of custom chaps made for me to show their appreciation.  They were really beautiful and well-made, excellent leather, and stamped, ‘Thanks from Newfs, 1988’.  That was one of the nicest gifts I ever got.” 

Ted’s riding tack has grown throughout the years.  He is not partial to a particular saddle maker, but, through experience, prefers custom tack.  “The saddle I ride was built on a wade tree, with a big Mexican horn and a five inch cantle.  I have saddlebags that are actually permanently attached to the saddle,” he says. “I also ride with a custom made leather cantle bag.  With the cantle bag, I don’t like saddles with Cheyenne rolls.  Working on dude ranches, I ride a lot of different horses and find that the wade tree, with its high gullet, fits most horses well.”  A classic ‘wade tree’ saddle is designed for working ranch horses.  The tree defines the shape of the pommel and cantle. Riding horses with diverse physics require a multi-fit saddle that the rider is accustomed to and is appropriate for all horse types. 

Between 1992 and 2001, Ted was hired as head wrangler for Tumbling River Ranch in central Colorado.  Located deep in the Colorado high country, this ranch had an elevation of 9,200 feet.  “We rode to 12,000 feet on all-day rides every week during the summer.  One of the rides was a place called Rosalie.  There is nothing quite like riding a good horse above timberline with 14,000 foot mountain peaks all around you.  This was my church.”  The Colorado Rocky Mountains.  Beautiful, breathtaking and a trail riders dream. 

In 1994, while head wrangling at Tumbling River Ranch, Ted meet his sidekick, Spur. “I think everyone is entitled to one great dog in their lifetime.  Mine was a black and tan coonhound named Spur,” Ted says, remembering Spur. “He was a birthday present from my parents. He was the runt of the litter.  When they went to pick him up he was nine weeks old, had pneumonia, was tied under a pickup truck and the breeder was going to let him die.  My parents got him for $50.  I had Spur for fifteen years.  He spent most of his life on a dude ranch and went on trail rides daily in the summer.  Spur was truly my best friend.  On my 30th birthday, I was on a working ranch in Roy, New Mexico.  This was a 23,000 acre ranch and very remote.  The closest neighbor was about 45 minutes away, if it wasn’t raining.  On my birthday, I was the only human on the ranch and I didn’t get a single phone call all day.  But Spur was there for me.  In his later years he slept about 23 hours a day.  In the end, he died at the age of fifteen on his couch in his sleep.  He lived well and died well.  I will never have another dog like him.” No wrangler is complete without a well-loved dog.  Spur was just that and much more.

From the Colorado high country, Ted moved to Whitefish, Montana.  There he was the general manager of the Bar W Guest Ranch.  This was another opportunity to meet more horses, more dude ranch vacationers and make more friends. Ted says, “For my 40th birthday the staff gave me a pair of custom boots.  These were really high quality boots with my initials on the uppers.  During a cattle drive on the Blackfoot Reservation, a man offered to take my duffle bag which had a leather vest, a pair of Levis, gloves a fifth of Wild Turkey, and most importantly my custom boots.  I thought he meant he would take them to the truck, but apparently he meant take-for-good.  I miss those boots.”

After leaving the Bar W Guest Ranch, Ted purchased Zeus, an almost-black Appaloosa.  Zeus had been stabled at Bar W for over five years.  Zeus was notorious for his disorderly disposition and bucking episodes. He was originally purchased from Mouse, a Blackfoot Indian.  Ted explains, “Mouse is a horse trader in the truest sense of the word and has some really great horses.  The Blackfeet have always been known as the best horseman of all the tribes. Zeus was the kind of horse that exploded into everything he did.  Because he loved to GO, the wranglers tended to let him go.  Unfortunately, this was not what Zeus needed.  He needed a consistent rider that would help him to calm down.  He now lopes on a loose rein and is a different horse.  My four year old son rides with me on Zeus.”
Ted owns another horse, Comet, who also came from Mouse.  Comet is a fifteen year old Palomino gelding. “Comet was given to me as a gift by the owner of Bar W Guest Ranch when we left there to move to Cody in October of 2010,” Ted says. “At that point Comet was already my horse since I had been, with a few exceptions, the only one to ride him. Comet is my friend and really fun to ride.  He is the kind of horse that will run the barrels at a dead run and five minutes later walk around the barrels with my four year old son, with his head down and a loose rein.  Comet has power steering, power breaks and cruise control.  In my life I have had several great horses, but Comet is the best.  He will do just about anything I ask; cross a deep river, go over the bridge, or jump off a cliff.  He is fun to ride.”  Comet is 15.3 hh and 1,200 lbs.  He is Ted’s all-time favorite horse, friend and confidant.

Ted’s favorite horse breed? A Quarter Horse, of course. American bred, with the largest breed registry in the world, the Quarter Horse is a wranglers dream.  Quick, efficient, compact and smart, the Quarter Horse is well-suited for American terrain. Ted expounds on his experience with other horse breeds, “I am a believer that after each breed’s basic characteristics, horses are a product of their environment.  In high school, I worked at a couple of Arabian Show barns mucking stalls.  The horses spent most of their time in a 12 x 12 stall and they were always trying to kick, bite or stomp me.  At the time, I hated those horses and thought that was just the way Arabians were.  Since then, I have had numerous Arabs on dude ranches and while they generally are a little more high strung, I have had some that were great dude horses.  I have known mountain trail riders who swear by various breeds, but in my opinion, most of them can be turned into great trail horses if they are treated and used right.”
Working outside, in the elements, with horses, surrounded by sky, streams and mountains.  Wrangler.  A vocation synonymous with chaps, saddles, bits, bridles, manes, tails, and dirt.  What is the difference between a cowboy and a wrangler? Ted explains, “Often the words cowboy or wrangler are used interchangeably, generally representing a man who can ride.  A funny story: On Cowboy Sunday, the kids were at the front of the Church and the Minister asked if they knew a cowboy.  My daughter answered that her dad was a cowboy.  When asked then if I have cows, she said, ‘no, but we might get chickens.’ My three year old son stood up and then announced to the congregation that he was a cowboy…and he had a toy gun, boots and spurs to prove it.  I used to think being a real cowboy was having those things, too, but I have learned it takes a lot more.  When my son crawls into bed at night we always say ‘The Words’….they go like this:

Always tell the truth
Always be honest
Always do the right thing
Always admit when you are wrong
Always do what you said you would do
Always respect others

Someday, whether my son is riding the range or working in a bank, I hope he will understand that his character and the choices he makes are what make him a true cowboy.”
Ted is currently a wrangler instructor and a dude ranch consultant in Cody. “The thing I am spending the most time on these days is managing Turpin Meadow Ranch in Jackson, Wyoming,” he says.  “This ranch was foreclosed and the bank hired me to run it until a new owner can be found.  My consulting includes caring for ranch horses, legal issues, horse program development and long-term ranch management.  Most likely I will be involved with this ranch for some time, including finding a new string of about sixty horses for the ranch.” Ted is a successful wrangler, businessman, equestrian, family man and friend. If you are considering a dude ranch vacation, give Ted a call.  He’ll provide you with accommodations befitting any want-to-be-wrangler; a quality horse, a sturdy rope, a night under the stars and memories that will last forever.

* * *
For more information, visit Ted’s website
For more information on Larry Larom, visit

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Turpin Meadow Ranch Moose

Working in the lodge at Turpin Meadow Ranch yesterday I looked out the window to see these two huge bull moose.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Horsetown USA seeking new dude ranch.

Recently a economic development person contacted me from the town of Norco, California. This town's nickname is Horse town USA.

The long-term goal is to develop the town into a horse oriented vacation destination.  Norco is about 50 mile east of Los Angles. They are actively looking for investors to come in and build a resort dude ranch operation to compliment other horse related attractions in the town.  They are offering tax incentives and land prices are reasonable. Favorable grazing leases for horses would also be possible as part of the package.

Concept: With 50-250 rooms, this Western-style resort would strongly reinforce the Norco’s brand of “Horsetown USA.” It would be situated in an area where the resort’s amenities can tie into the rural equestrian lifestyle of Norco, and a site that is secluded from traffic and urban activity. Potential amenities include golf (or privileges at Hidden Valley Golf Club), tennis, swimming, fitness center, full-service spa, fine dining, banquet facilities, parking for horse trailers, and on-site equestrian activities that can be integrated into the City’s existing 140-mile network of trails.
Clientele: Upscale travelers insisting on a greater package of amenities, more attentive service and higher quality on-site dining. Corporate events would also be attracted to this kind of property.
Potential Sites: The prospective site (est. 25-75 acres) requires scenic backdrops and considerable buffering from traffic and development. The best possible location, based on aesthetics and available acreage, is part of a 429-acre parcel in southeast Norco. Some of that property could be leased and much of the activity is compatible with a nature conservancy.

Concept: A more down-to-earth variation on the Western resort concept. Instead of standard guestrooms and suites—or in addition to them—the accommodations might consist of more rustic (but potentially upscale) cabins, casitas or even luxury tents. Most guest ranches are located on working cattle ranches, predominantly in the Rocky Mountain region (some offer riding privileges in nearby National Parks). Very few are located in Southern California and there are none in the Inland Empire. A Norco location would require a deviation from the usual formula, but would offer a unique experience for visitors from L.A. or San Diego.
Clientele: Adventurous upscale travelers looking for a completely different experience relatively close to home. Guest ranches are also popular for corporate team-building events.
Potential Sites: Because guest ranches require extensive trails and grazing land, the minimum size site for this kind of concept is typically 100 acres. However, some of that property could be leased and much of the activity is compatible with a nature conservancy. The best possible location, based on its scenic nature, compatibility with current zoning and ample acreage, is the same 429-acre site in southeastern Norco.

The City of Norco is actively seeking out hospitality industry investors, particularly those experienced with guest ranches or other non-traditional  properties. For more information please contact Ted Harvey 406-314-5330. or visit my web site. 

Thursday, August 18, 2011


Tanque Verde RanchTucson, Arizona

TVRlodge.jpgTanque Verde Ranch is nestled among the majestic natural beauty of the Rincon Mountains between Saguaro National Park and the Coronado National Forest just east of Tucson, Arizona. An Arizona dude ranch since 1868, the family guest ranch is comprised of more than sixty thousand acres of unspoiled southwest landscape. Plush accommodations, unparalleled amenities, and a diverse menu of daily rides and activities provide guests with a memorable dude ranch vacation sure to revive the spirit of the Old West!

Friday, July 8, 2011


whitestallionloping.JPGThis charming, informal ranch gives you the feeling of the Old West. Only at White Stallion Ranch can you find 3,000 acres of wide-open land at the foot of the ruggedly beautiful Tucson Mountains, adjacent to the Saguaro National Park. Here, ranch hospitality is blended perfectly with the comforts of a top resort.
Dude Ranch Vacation

Tuesday, July 5, 2011



Rimrock Ranch is nestled on the banks of Canyon Creek, 24 miles west of Cody and 27 miles east of the East Entrance of Yellowstone National Park. Our ranch is family owned and operated since 1955.
We book Sunday-to-Sunday, and offer shuttle service to and from the Cody airport. Our average capacity is approximately 36 guest, and nice size to allow our guests tp become easily familiar with one another and with us. Dude Ranch Vacation

Friday, June 24, 2011


7D Ranch. Cody, Wyoming

7dlodge.jpgHorseback riding is the premier activity at the 7D. We cater to all levels of riders from the first time rider to the highly experienced. We have a horse herd of 75 well broke mountain horses and we carefully match each rider to the appropriate horse for the entire week. Private instruction is always an option for those wanting to work on their horsemanship skills. Overnight pack trips are also options for the adventurous. Whether you are on an all-day excursion, the Brunch Ride, or a 3 hour ride, being on horseback is an amazing way to experience the mountains and this spectacular area of the Absaroka Mountains!

7dpasture.jpgFishing is another great activity at the ranch. The Sunlight River flows directly through the ranch for easy access and our fishing guide is available to you for fishing anywhere in the Sunlight Basin. We also offer a hiking/fishing excursion into the Beartooth Mountains each week that is another great opportunity to fish some additional waters and enjoy the beauty of these high mountain lakes and breathtaking views of Wyoming and Montana!

Many guests enjoy a break from the saddle and choose to hike from the ranch with a guide, take a day trip into Yellowstone, river raft on the Shoshone River through Cody, or spend a day in Cody at the Museum, rodeo or just exploring the western town. Each evening we will visit with you about what you and your family would like to do the next day. We strive to make this a custom vacation for each family or individual by offering a flexible schedule.

7driver.jpgIf you are traveling with children, you will be happy to know that the 7D is well known for its children's program. We take great pride in this program and kids have a blast! The program is designed for kids 5-12 but younger children often enjoy participating in many of the activities. Each day provides kids with a different nature experience focusing on horses, cowboys, rivers/streams & wildlife! We also offer babysitting for younger children for an additional fee.
The 7D is most definitely a genuine western and fabulous family experience! Whether you are riding, hiking or fishing, you always have an opportunity to see wildlife. We would love to show you our western brand of hospitality and share our piece of the Wyoming mountains with you.

Thursday, June 23, 2011



4:00pm, New Guests check in at ranch office. After being greeted by the ranch managers, Guests are shown to their cabin. After dropping off luggage, new guests are given a tour of the ranch and it's facilities.

5:00pm, Guests relax and settle in to their cabins. At this time they can wander around on their own, see the horses, fish, swim in the pool, or go to the trading post for a new cowboy hat.

6:30pm, Dinner in the lodge. Guests and ranch staff enjoy meals together. This is a chance to meet some of the wranglers and other staff.

8:30pm, Orientation out on the huge deck of the lodge. This is where the guests meet the entire staff, and introduce themselves. Then we talk about the different activities scheduled for the week. Guests will then sign up for some of these, such as rafting, fishing trips and the over night pack trip.



7:00 am, Hot coffee is brought to each cabin for those who must have their java fix first thing in the morning.

8:00am, Guest Breakfast in the lodge.

8:30am, A van leaves for town to pick up items guests may have forgotten to bring such as beer, wine, toothpaste, film etc.

8:45am, Three to five year olds start their own ride with their councilor on the ranch’s black pony, "SPADE".

9:00am, Orientation rides begin. All guests already have a horse assigned to them by the head wrangler. Horses are assigned based on height, weight, age and riding experience. On the first day of riding, families ride together. Each ride will consist of no more than ten guests. Two wranglers will be on all rides. Under no circumstances will guests be allowed to ride without a wrangler. Orientation rides last about two hours, which include an orientation speech about basic horsemanship and safety, followed by some instruction in the arena. When everyone feels comfortable with their new horse, it's off to the trail for about an hour.

12:30pm, Hamburger cookout by the pool.

2:00pm, Afternoon trail rides begin. This afternoon we are offering three different rides ranging from an hour and a half to three hours.

2:00 pm, Basic fishing instruction at the upper pond. This is for all ages. Parents will have to determine whether small fries are old enough.

2:30pm, Riding instruction in the arena. This will last any where from forty minutes to two hours depending on how many people sign up.

5:30PM, Happy hour on the porch of Dad's Old Fart Brewery for the adults. The hay ride for the kids leaves from the brewery.

6:00 pm, The hay ride, drawn by our team of draft horses, Zeus and Apollo will take about half an hour and meet the adults at the picnic area by the lower pond for a steak cookout.

8:00pm, Smores by the bon fire, along with guitar playing and singing old cowboy songs. 

Tuesdays rides are centered around a brunch cookout at the top of Indian Head Mountain, where our cooks will meet the rides.

7:00am, Early morning ride leaves for a one and a half hour ride. This is an adults only ride. Councilors will be on hand to watch the kids while their parents are gone.

8:00am, Teens leave with their councilor, for a short ride of their own.

8:30am, The six to eleven year olds head out to the arena for horse games before their half hour ride to Indian Head Mountain.

8:45am, There will be a van going up to brunch for anyone not riding.

9:00am, Brunch is served. "Cookie" is there with the biggest frying pan you have ever seen.

10:00am, Six to eleven's mount up for a two hour ride back to the ranch. Then it's the pool for these guys. The councilors will be with them all afternoon, so mom and dad can do their own thing.

10:15am, The teens head off on a three hour adventure to a little water fall on Poplar creek to try their hand at little panning for gold.

10:30am, Now that we have gotten rid of all the kids, the grown up can choose between a short one hour ride back to the ranch, or a longer four hour ride. On this ride we will do some faster riding along old logging roads.

12:00 For those who don't want to ride quite so much, we are taking a van trip to Little Switzerland for some shopping. This is a very scenic drive through winding mountain roads. We will return to the ranch around 4:00 pm.

4:30pm, All rides have returned. Time to relax before dinner.

6:30pm, All the kids head down to the lower pond for hot dogs and games with the councilors.

7:00pm, The adults will be treated to a fancy dinner in the lodge with candle light and wine.

9:00 Time to collect your kids and head off to bed. The councilors are pretty tired too.

7:00 am, Breakfast in the lodge for all those going rafting.

7:30am, Vans leave for the all day rafting trip on the Colorado River. This trip is for everyone eight and older.

8:00am, Breakfast for all those not rafting.

9:00am, All day ride leaves for Rich Mountain. We will take sack lunches with us. No vans on this ride. Rich Mountain is about an eight-hour ride. This ride is for adults and teens.

9:30am, Six to eleven's head out for Poplar Creek to have a PB&J picnic. And then try their luck at panning for gold. These guys will be busy all day. They will be taken care of until the rafting trip returns around 4:00 pm.

10:00am, For those who don't want to ride all day, we have an easy two hour ride.

12:30pm, Lunch in the lodge for that one guest that is still on the ranch.

2:00pm, Instruction in the arena.
4:00pm, The rafting trip returns. Time for a nap before diner.

6:30pm Dinner in the lodge.

8:00pm, Tonight is talent night. In the lounge we have invited a local Mountain Man to tell some stories and do a little banjo picking. All guest are invited to show off their talent, skits, piano playing or whatever. The staff will be there to show off as well. Who knows, Dad might even show up with some of his special brew.


8:00 am, Breakfast in the lodge.

9:00am, Time to head out on the over night pack trip. This is for adults and teens. After a fantastic all day ride, we will meet "Cookie" at our camp for steaks, peach cobbler and a cold beer. This trip is not for wimps. It's a real taste of what life in the wilderness of the Rocky Mountains in the 1880's was like, only with a better sleeping bag and better food.

10:00am, Rides start leaving for a two hour ride to Byrd Creek for a Tex Mex cookout. This ride is for all ages. The Teens will take their own ride with their councilor. On this ride they will get the chance to do some faster riding. Sorry, no adults on this ride. Six to eleven's and their parents will ride together.

11:45am, There will be a van leaving from the lodge to take the three to five's and anyone not riding to lunch.

12:00pm, Lunch is served.

1:00pm, Six to Eleven's head back for games in the arena and then a swim in the pool.

1:15pm, Adults can choose from a one hour ride straight back to the ranch, or a longer three hour ride.

2:00pm,This afternoon we have two van trips. First a short drive to Roan Mountain Gardens to take a beautiful hike. The other van will be going to Georgetown for a little shopping.

5:30pm, Happy hour on the porch of Dad's Old Fart Brewery.

6:30pm, Kids head to the pool for pizza and games.

7:00pm, Adults meet at the lower pond for dinner and some guitar playing by our own wranglers.

8:00am, Pancake Breakfast on the porch of the lodge.

8:30am, Susan will be leading a rigorous three hour hike to the cliffs of Ball Buster Ridge. This hike is for anyone but it is a tough hike and you should consider whether or not you think you are up for it.

8:30am, Today we are going to take the kids off your hands for the whole day. For them we are going to Georgetown, about an hour away. There they will ride the narrow gauge train and then go to a famous candy store.

9:00am, Lisa will be taking a nature hike. This will last about an hour. Lisa is a famous botanist from Haiti. She will correctly identify every flower, bush, and shrubbery.

9:00am, All day ride for adults and teens leaves for Spivies Gap.

9:30am, We know that at this point some of you are getting a little tired, so we have an easy, short one and half hour ride along Poplar Creek. At about the half way point your wrangler will stop the ride for a break. He will tie up the horses and then spend about half an hour telling you unbelievable lies about his thirty year career as a Texas Ranger.

10:30am, After a two hour ride, the over-nighters return in time for a shower before lunch.

12:30pm, Lunch on the porch of Dad's Old Fart Brewery.

2:00 pm, Rodeo practice for everyone. You don’t have to practice to participate in the rodeo, but your chances of winning a Blue ribbon might be a little better.

2:00 PM, Skeet shooting for teen and adults.

2:30 pm, Two hour ride.

5:00 pm, Kids return from Grandfather Mountain.

6:30 pm, Dinner in the lodge for everyone.

8:00 pm, Square dance. Don’t be shy, anyone can square dance and all the wranglers and staff will be there to strut their stuff.

8:00 am Ted has been in the kitchen since 4am making his famous biscuits and gravy. This is the best you have ever tasted but don’t ask what’s in it.

9:00 am, Kid’s rodeo practice.

9:30 am, Last chance for a half day ride with Ted or your favorite wrangler.

9:30 am, Lisa is taking another hike. This one is pretty easy and good for anyone who wants to go.

9:30 am, Skeet shooting again for teens and adults.

2:30 pm, Lunch by the pool.

2:00 pm, Off to the arena for everyone. It’s time for the rodeo, to show off the horsemanship skills you learned this week.

6:30 pm, Cookout by the lower pond for everyone. Beef tenderloin, BBQ chicken, corn on the cob and a home made dessert you won’t soon forget.

8:00 pm, Everyone to the pool for find out the results of the rodeo. Ribbons and commentary from Ted. This is the time for good-bye’s and exchanging addresses. We hope to see many of you back again next year.


8:00 am, Breakfast in the lodge.

8:30 am, Vans start leaving for the airport.

Thanks for coming and we hope to see you again.

Dude Ranch Vacation

Sunday, June 12, 2011


This post is not so much about dude ranching as it is about what horses can do for us. My daughter Elizabeth is 6 years old. From February 2006 to October 2011 I was the general manager of the Bar W Guest Ranch in Whitefish, Montana. During those first years Elizabeth’s life I was working 15-16 hours a day 6-7 days a week during the summer and 12 hours a day for the rest of the year. We really did not spend much time together. In the summer Elizabeth and her bother Dodge (3 years old) would come to the ranch now and then and go on pony rides or participate in the guest rodeo. But there were times when I was too busy and one of the other staff working on the ranch would take my kids around. I do not regret this time working on the ranch. I have lived and breathed dude ranching since I was 13 years old. I do however wish I had made a point of making more time for my kids.

In October of last year with my wife Lisa we moved to Cody, Wyoming. Since then I have been working to build my Dude Ranch Vacation Travel Agency and Dude Ranch Consultant Service. These business models are somewhat unique and with little money proving difficult to get off the ground.  I have built two web sites and spend most of my time either working on promoting these businesses or thinking about them. At the same time I have become a stay at home dad. Going from managing a ranch with 30+ guests, 20 staff and 55 horses to driving kids to school, swimming, and ballet lessons has been a difficult adjustment for me. I have at time even resented having to spend so much time with my family because it was taking time away from building the business.

I still struggle with spending time working and with my wife and kids, but about three weeks ago our horses helped make this a little easier. Until just recently Elizabeth had been mostly interested in being a princess. Being a cowgirl was secondary and the horses were kind of a prop. About three weeks ago she asked if she could go riding with me. The first day I held her lead rope and we walked down to the river and back. Since that day she is riding completely on her own and started loping in the arena a couple of days ago. She wants to ride everyday now and asks me all the time when are we going to ride.

Before we started riding together it seemed to me she had little use for me. At night she always wanted her mother to put her to bed, she wanted to ride in mom’s car and she would hardly ever say hello or even acknowledge me when I came home. Now she is more snuggly toward me, she says I love you daddy when she goes to bed and gives me a hug when she gets up in the morning.

I don’t think this new horseback riding connection has made me a better parent but it has greatly improved my relationship with my daughter. Now she asks me when I am going to find a ranch for us so she can be the ranch manager when she grows up. Thank god for horses. For those of you who don't have horses, take your kids to a dude ranch for a vacation. You will not reget it!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Google Plus One

I wanted to share a new tool that I discovered from Google. It is called Google +1. It is a button you can put one your web site that people who visit your site can click on if they link the content of your site. It is kind of the same thing as the Like button on Facebook. I would like to invite my connections to go to my site and click the + 1 button at the bottom right on my home page. “

Anyone interested in putting it on your site go to this link. “ “ On this page you can copy the html code to embed the button on your site. This program helps with ranking on Google. If anyone does put this on your site and would like me to start the ball and click on your +1 let me know.

Sunday, June 5, 2011


Dude Ranch Vacation

For people looking for a ranch vacation I recommend ranches that have completed the Dude Ranchers Association Wrangler Safety Certification.


 The idea that any dude ranch operation is going to make expert riders out of their  guests in one week is not realistic. The goal should be as follows;

  1. Wranglers and counselors do everything they can to keep our guests safe.
  2. Guests have fun.
  3. By the end of the week each guest feels they have learned more about Western riding and have gained confidence in their riding ability.
Staff Training and Policies

  1. General Corral Procedures and Policies.
    1. All wranglers and counselors should be dressed in Western clothing when working with the horses and around the guests. Wranglers should wear blue jeans, western long sleeve shirts, cowboy hats and cowboy boots. Wranglers and counselors should be required to carry a pocket knife and/or a leatherman type tool whenever working around the horses.
    2. At the beginning of the season each wrangler should be given a first aid kit. The general manager and head wrangler should go over its contents and use. Each wrangler is responsible for replacing used items and keeping the kit ready for use at all times.
    3. No guest or employee of the ranch other than wranglers should be allowed to ride alone or with out a wrangler either on the ride or in the arena.
    4. During their off time wranglers are allowed to ride only with the permission of the head wrangler. The head wrangler decides which horses may be ridden. Employees riding on their time off must inform the head wrangler of where they are going and when they will be back.
    5. Any time anyone falls off a horse, whether they were injured or not, the employee or employees who were closest to the event should be required to fill out an accident report as soon as possible.
    6. All areas of the corral and barn are to be kept neat and clean every day, including tack put away properly, tack rooms cleaned, manure picked up, and bailing twine disposed off.
  2. Horse Corral Procedures.
    1. When any ride is being mounted or dismounted all gates must be closed and secured.
    2. As soon as a ride returns to the corral the tail wrangler must close the gate to the corral.
    3. A wrangler should  always hold the guests horses when getting on and off. Get the guests off quickly and tie up their horses quickly. Move the guests away from the tied up horses.
    4. All horses should be tied high and short when tied to the rails or to trees out on the trail. Every horse will be tied with one wrap around the rail and tied with a slip knot. Do not use multiple loops.
    5. When grooming and saddling, each wrangler must inspect the horses for any injuries, sores, chinch galls, loose or missing shoes and lameness.
    6. When grooming special attention should be paid to all areas where the saddle, pads, breast collar, and cinch touch the horse.
    7. Farriers are to be left alone to do the work they are being paid for. 
  3. Trail Ride Policies and Procedures.
    1. Every trail ride leader should carry a cell phone, in addition to their personal phone. Ranch phones and personal are to be used on the trail only for emergencies.
    2. On each ride the head wrangler should assign a leader of the ride. This is the person responsible for making decisions if there are any emergencies.
    3. Smoking is not permitted on any trail ride! This includes guests.
    4. The rule of thumb is 4 to 1, guests to wranglers.
  4. Wagon and Sleigh Rides
    1. Guests must sign the liability release form, if they have not already signed one for horseback riding.
    2. All sleigh/wagon rides should always have two employees working, with one driving and one on the back step.
    3. The person driving is in charge of the sleigh/wagon ride and should give instructions to other employees and guests.
    4. The driver is responsible for inspecting the harness and sleigh/wagon to make sure everything is in good and safe condition.
    5. Whenever the teams are hooked up and stopped there must always be an employee standing at the front holding the horses unless they are tied to a rail.
    6. The teams are not to start moving unless all the passengers are seated.
    7. If there are any problems during the ride, such as a horse falling down or a mechanical problem with the wagon/sleigh, it is the responsibility of the  shotgun rider to get all the guests off and safely away from the team.
Riding Program

1)      Every guest must sign a liability release form before riding.

a)      Kids 17 and under must wear a helmet unless their parents sign the refusal statement on the release form.

b)      Adults are not required to wear helmets but are to be encouraged to do so by our staff.

2)      Our riding program begins with our orientation speech and demonstration. All wranglers are required to learn and give the same speech.

a)      All guests must go through orientation regardless of age or experience.

b)      Each guest is assigned their own horse for the week, based on height, weight, age and experience.

c)      After the orientation speech guests are introduced to their horses, helped to mount by our wranglers and stirrups adjusted.

d)     Kids and adults ride together on orientation rides, with rides limited to 8 guests.

e)      Following the orientation speech the guests are lead to the arena to have additional instruction and practice controlling their horse.

f)       When the wranglers are comfortable with the guest’s ability to handle their horse they are then taken on an easy 1½ hour ride.

3)      Through out the week guests can choose rides ranging from 1 hour to all day, as well as arena rides, barrel racing, lessons, pole bending, games, cattle round-up, and team penning.

a)      The head wrangler should make suggestions to the guests for which rides the guests will like or are qualified for. Sometimes wranglers are required to tell the guests, “No it is not safe for you to go on that ride”.

b)      Kids 7 and older can go on all adult rides provided both the head wrangler and parents agree that they can handle the ride. If the parents suggest that they would like their child to go on a loping ride or long ride and the head wrangler feels they are not qualified he would then suggest another ride or a one-on-one lesson in the arena instead.

4)      For arena rides and team penning have specific horses that are good at these events.

a)      While the horse assigned to our guest might be a great trail horse he might not be good at the arena events such as barrel racing or team penning. So rather than have a bad experience on an unresponsive horse they can trade off for these activities.

b)      All guests should be encouraged to spend as much time as they would like in the arena with more one-on-one instruction.

5)      Trotting and loping rides are conducted with specific rules for safety.

a)      Before participating in loping rides each guest must be approved in the arena by the head wrangler. For some experienced guests this may only take a few minutes. Beginners need to spend as much time as needed for the head wrangler to feel comfortable with their ability to handle loping on the trail.

b)      Only the most experienced wranglers should be  allowed to take out loping rides.

c)      Within the trail system there should be designated areas for trotting and loping. All wranglers should be  aware of these areas.

d)     The wrangler leading the ride should stop the ride and talk to the guests about what they are about to do, tell them how far they are going, and hold up his hand when he is getting ready to stop.

e)      Wranglers should check cinches before loping.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Dude Ranch Vacation Safety

I have worked on dude ranches in Colorado, Wyoming and Montana since the mid 1980s. My business now is dude ranch consulting. One of the things I do is set up horseback riding programs for new ranches. I am certified by the Dude Ranchers Association as a wrangler instructor. I teach Horse Safety Certification courses. Over the years I have trained countless wranglers and taken thousands of guests on trail rides. Probably 70% of the guests I took out were beginners. My percentage of accidents with injuries is less than 1%.  My number one goal has always been safety.

If you are looking at places to ride/vacation and are concerned about their safety program start by asking a few questions before making a reservation.

1.      Do they allow people to ride on their own without a guide? If they do this could mean a general lack of concern for either riders or their horses.

2.      Are guests allowed to run or gallop the horses? If they do offer loping/cantering how is that conducted? Does the leader of the ride just start running in big open fields when he feels like it or does he stop the ride before starting and give instructions about the rules, how far you will go, and when you will stop.

3.      How many riders are allowed on each ride? What is the guest to guide ratio? It should be about 4 to 1.

4.      Is any thought given to the order of the horses on the ride?

5.      How often do they check cinches during the ride. Loose chinches are the number one reason people come off horses.  

6.      Do they allow double riding or allow a parent to have a small child ride with them? These are big no no’s and a safe operation would know better.

7.      Do they have a written orientation speech or if not what does the orientation consist of?

8.      What kind of experience do the wranglers/guides have? Are they nonchalant about moving around the horses and mounting people or are they all business. DO THEY HAVE FIRST AID/CPR?

9.      What do the horses and equipment look like? Are the horses well cared for or are the skinny and not groomed? A horse that is not in good shape is more likely to have problems on a ride. If the tack is in poor condition it could lead to accidents.

These are just a few things to think about when looking at trail riding operations. Most dude ranch operations will have comments on trip advisor. About half of the ranches that are member of the dude ranchers association are horse safety certified. If it is not a dude ranch but just a trail riding operation I would ask if they have any kind of safety accreditation. I hope you find this helpful to this discussion. Anyone who would like to discuss this with me is welcome to contact me directly.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


In reading up on the history of dude ranching, I came accross this excellent piece on Dude Ranchers Association Educational Trust site. The purpose of the Dude Ranchers' Educational Trust is to protect and preserve the history of Dude Ranching by maintaining a museum and archives for educating the public on the historical nature of the dude ranching industry.

In the post Civil War cattle boom of the 1880’s, Howard Eaton started the Custer Trail Ranch in the Dakota Badlands. He was soon joined by his brothers Alden and Willis and a friend from Pennsylvania, A.C. Huidekoper. Thrilled with their new lifestyle and potential success, the Eatons' wrote enthusiastic letters to friends back East.

One such letter, published in a New York newspaper, caught the attention of Teddy Roosevelt. Roosevelt quickly made his way out to the Badlands and spent his time hunting, fishing and riding. He bought the Maltese Cross Ranch near the Custer Trail Ranch and struck up a friendship with the Eatons'. Stories of ranch life and exceptional hunting spread like wildfire, and soon the Eatons' found themselves hosting Eastern visitors.

It wasn’t long before their generosity and hospitality lead to overwhelming costs. Many visitors recognized the financial burden they were creating and offered to pay for room and board. While the concept flew directly in the face of western hospitality, the Eatons' had to consider the opportunity. The first recorded paying guest was Bert Rumsey, of Buffalo, NY and with the purchase of a guest book, the ranch officially began accepting “dudes.”

A devastating wildfire and the unusually harsh winter of 1886 revealed a spring stock count equal to that of their first year on the Custer Trail Ranch. A quick look at the books revealed 2,200 free meals provided in the previous year. The Eaton brothers estimated they would have to charge $10 a week for each guest. Capitalizing on the grandeur and serenity that surrounded them, they tailored a unique experience designed to improve the mental and physical condition of their guests, through ranch chores and riding. Before long, the Eatons' focus on the well-being and enjoyment of their guests became a trademark. Ultimately, their unique style of hospitality became the benchmark for all dude ranches.

The harsh winter of 1886 and the Panic of 1893 affected ranchers across the country. With the railroad pushing west and cattle prices dropping, Montana ranchers tried their hand at the “guest business.” Many new travelers were anxious to get into Yellowstone and the Big Horn Mountains by horseback. By 1903, as rangeland was fast disappearing in the Badlands, the Eatons sold Custer Trail Ranch and moved their operation to Wolf Creek, WY. By 1917, Eatons' Ranch covered 7,000 acres, ran 500 horses and several hundred head of cattle. Their guest capacity reached 125 - the largest dude ranch in the country.

As the railroad expanded in the 1920’s, dude ranches spread across the west and as far south as Arizona. The cattle industry was struggling and many ranchers were faced with financial hardship. Ernest Miller of Elkhorn Ranch in Montana convinced Max Goodsill of the Northern Pacific Railway that there was an opportunity for a mutually beneficial relationship. Goodsill passed the idea along to A.B. Smith, passenger traffic manager for Northern Pacific, who arranged a meeting at the Bozeman Hotel. This became the first official meeting of the Dude Ranchers’ Association on September 27 and 28, 1926. Ranchers, railroad officials and national park officials attended the two-day event to discuss the five objectives set forth:1) Establish cooperation among ranchers and railroad officials 2) Discuss the transportation and proper care of guests 3) Create advertising and publicity for the association 4) Standardize practices 5) Create an efficient sales organization. Having agreed to all five objectives, the ranchers added a sixth - the organized protection of fish and game.

Larry Larom of Valley Ranch, instrumental in starting the organization, became the first president. A.H. Croonquist of Camp Senia at Red Lodge was named vice president and Ernest Miller of Elkhorn Ranch was named secretary-treasurer. Seven directors were appointed: Paul Van Cleve Jr. of Lazy K Bar Ranch; Dick Randall of OTO Ranch; W.A. Binko of Missoula; Mrs. Walter Shaw of Shaw’s Camp; Ed Wyman of Trappers Lodge; William Eaton of Eatons’ Ranch; and Dr. Horace Carncross of Bar B C Ranch.Twenty-six ranches signed up as charter members the first year and the number grew to forty seven the second year. In 1928 Larry Larom and Max Goodsill persuaded T. Joe Cahill to become the executive secretary. Northern Pacific gave Cahill passes for all his travel and helped with expenses while the DRA paid his salary and the remainder of his expenses. Cahill was a dynamic man who tracked and published important ranch and travel statistics while generating newspaper and magazine publicity. He was credited with getting the young organization off to healthy start.

Ultimately, the railroad would benefit by increasing passengers while promoting dude ranches as new destinations. The ranches would receive much needed marketing and increased number of guests. Visitors from the East Coast and Midwest could escape the crowds of their urban and suburban lives to experience the unique rejuvenation of spirit that ranches had become known for. Ranches quickly became a “home away from home” as returning guests became lifelong friends with the staff and guests. The remote location often lead to creative socializing; costume parties, games, romances, contests and practical jokes. This social interaction became just as important as the riding. It’s a quality that exists today, as ranch vacations continue to provide that special brand of western hospitality that nourishes body and soul.