Historically dude ranches were part of year round horse or cattle operation. Having paying and working guests provided further income and labor for the ranches, and an opportunity for the "dudes" to "experience the west" after western expansion had largely drawn to a close. Nowadays ranches may be working cattle ranches or ranches strictly catering to guests. As they did in the past, they still provide a great opportunity to see the west and experience western lifestyle. And every ranch has the ability to affect people in profound ways.
A couple of years ago I had a woman from Scotland as a guest. When she made her reservation she sent me a hand written letter about why she wanted to take this vacation. Several years earlier she had a bad accident with a horse and broke her back. She had not been on a horse since, and on this trip she was hoping to get her confidence back. By the end of the week I had her on loping rides and she was talking about buying another horse when she got home. When it was time to check out she came to me in tears saying that she couldn’t thank us enough for giving her back her confidence and her true love for horses.
Yes, a well run dude ranch is “Hospitality at its very finest,” and this means everyone working on a well run ranch goes that extra mile to take 7 year old Sally out to the corral one last time to say goodbye to her horse; the cooks saying, “No problem…we are happy to take care of special requests"; and people leaving feeling well-cared for, relaxed, more connected to what matters to them, and wanting to come back.