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!