Working Ranch Vacations: July Photo of the Month

Published by Jody on July 23 2012 08:27 in Cattle drives | Cowboy Culture | Montana | Rodeos | United States | Working Ranches
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Working ranch vacations aren't just about horseback riding, cattle drives and other ranch activities - some of the most memorable moments (and best vacation snaps) can come off-ranch - as July's Photo of the Month perfectly demonstrates...

Photo: Toby Dahl Photography

July's photo of the month comes courtesy of Toby Dahl Photography and was taken at the annual Will James Roundup in Hardin, Montana. Take a working ranch vacation in Big Sky Country at any one of Top50's Montana working ranches, and you can see bronc riding and other rodeo sports at this, and other, authentic local rodeos.

Says Top50's Editor, Mel: "This incredible shot might have come from a Montana rodeo, but head anywhere in the world for a working ranch vacation and you might see something similar. While bronc riding is famous as a rodeo sport, this and other rodeo games all have roots on working ranches. On ranches where young colts are backed for riding, a cowboy's ability to sit a good buck or two comes in pretty handy! Whether you head to one of Montana's working ranches to see it for real, or to a local rodeo to see cowboys competing to sit '8 seconds' in the saddle of a bucking bronc horse, you can be guaranteed some hair-raising camera shots like this."

If you want to head to next year's Will James Roundup, why not book a Montana ranch vacation? Or to see ranch cowboys sitting some bucks for real, you might want to take an authentic working ranch vacation. Either way - don't forget your camera!

View more dude ranch photos in the Top50 Gallery


Recreational ranch activities - your at-a-glance guide

Published by Jody on April 18 2012 10:36 in Children's Programs
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Dude ranch vacations are the ultimate way to enjoy a whole host of recreational activities. And it's not just about the horseback riding! In fact, many of our Top50 dude ranches, guest ranches and working ranches are great places to relax and unwind without even going near a horse.

Of course, if horseback riding is your go-to stress reliever then you'll find trail rides, pack trips, horsemanship clinics, horse treks and cattle drives aplenty...

Best ranches for...

 Action-packed cattle drives - Zapata Ranch, Beaumont High Country Experience, Burnt Well Guest Ranch, Lazy E-L Ranch, The Hideout Guest Ranch, Chico Basin Ranch

Pack trips - Estancia Ranquilco, Snowy River Horseback Adventure, Estancia Huechahue, Latigo Ranch

Wilderness horse treks - Clayoquot Wilderness Resort, Brush Creek Ranch, Siwash Lake Ranch, Estancia Ranquilco

Horsemanship clinics - The Hideout Guest Ranch, Three Bars Ranch, Zapata Ranch, Chico Basin Ranch, McGinnis Meadows

Rodeos - Averill's Flathead Lake Lodge, Brush Creek Ranch, Lone Mountain Ranch

Cattle work in the arena - Bar W Guest Ranch, Bonanza Creek Ranch, McGinnis Meadows, Rowse's 1+1 Ranch, Sweet Grass Ranch

Appealing to non-riders, these ranches offer some equally enjoyable ways to spend your time on dude ranch vacation...

Best ranches for...

 Water sports - Averill's Flathead Lake Lodge, Siwash Lake Ranch, Clayoquot Wilderness Resort, Majestic Dude Ranch, The Resort at Paws Up

Fly fishing and angling - North Fork Ranch, Triple Creek Ranch, The Ranch at Rock Creek, C Lazy U Ranch, Siwash Lake Ranch, Averill's Flathead Lake Lodge

Golf - C Lazy U Ranch, Rancho de los Caballeros, Echo Valley Ranch & Spa, Lone Mountain Ranch, Ranch at Rock Creek, Three Bars Ranch

Spas - Echo Valley Ranch & Spa, The Resort at Paws Up, The Ranch at Rock Creek, Clayoquot Wilderness Resort, Rancho de los Caballeros

Children's activities and supervized children's programs - Red Horse Mountain Ranch, The Resort at Paws Up, Alisal Ranch, Lone Mountain Ranch, Elk Mountain Ranch, Sugar and Spice Ranch, Majestic Dude Ranch, C Lazy U Ranch, The Ranch at Rock Creek, Siwash Lake Ranch, Three Bars Ranch, Vista Verde Ranch

Wine tasting vacations - Estancia Los Potreros, Vista Verde Ranch

Cooking classes - Clayoquot Wilderness Resort, Echo Valley Ranch & Spa, Lazy E-L Ranch, Triple Creek Ranch

Local/historical attractions - Lone Mountain Ranch, Tod Mountain Ranch, Bonanza Creek Ranch, Latigo Ranch, Rancho Las Cascadas

Yoga - Brush Creek Ranch, Echo Valley Ranch & Spa, Lone Mountain Ranch, The Resort at Paws Up, Vista Verde Ranch

Adventure sports - Rancho Los Banos, Majestic Dude Ranch, Beaumont High Country Experience, Clayoquot Wilderness Resort

Mountain biking - Majestic Dude Ranch, Tod Mountain Ranch, Lone Mountain Ranch

Wildlife/Safari tours - Clayoquot Wilderness Resort, Siwash Lake Ranch, Zapata Ranch, The Hideout Guest Ranch, Badger Creek Ranch, Brush Creek Ranch, Triple Creek Ranch, Snowy River Horseback Adventure


For more information on all activities at dude ranches, visit

Rodeos: the Top50 definitive guide

Published by Jody on March 16 2012 10:08 in Canada | Cowboy Culture | Rodeos | United States
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Rodeos are an iconic part of western cowboy culture. Dude ranch vacations offer the perfect opportunity to see an authentic western rodeo, whether it’s a local off-ranch rodeo, a national event or even a take-part rodeo on the dude ranch. Never been to a rodeo before and want to know your broncs from your barrels before you get there? Then you need Top50’s definitive guide to the sport of rodeo…


Rodeos date back to the early 19th Century and are based on the on the tasks required by cattle ranching, testing the skills of working vaqueros and later, cowboys, in what today is the western United States, western Canada, and northern Mexico.

Main events

Calf Roping
Also called Tie-down roping, calf roping is a rodeo event based on ranch work in which calves are roped for branding, medical treatment, or other purposes. The cowboy ropes a running calf around the neck with a lariat, and his horse stops and sets back on the rope while the cowboy dismounts, runs to the calf and ties three feet together. A well-trained calf-roping horse will slowly back up while the cowboy ties the calf, to help keep the lariat snug.

Team Roping
Also called "heading and heeling", this rodeo event involves capturing and restraining a full-grown steer. One horse and rider (the header) lassos a running steer's horns, while the other horse and rider (the heeler) lassos the steer's two hind legs. The riders then face each other and lightly pull the steer between them, so that it loses its balance and lies down.

Steer wrestling
Also known as "Bulldogging", this rodeo event sees the rider jumps off his horse and 'wrestling' a steer to the ground. Arguably the most physically dangerous event in rodeo for the cowboy, who not only has to jump off a running horse at speed, but runs the risk of having the steer land on top of him – horns first!

Steer wrestling

Bronc riding
Bareback bronc-riding involves the rider hanging onto a bucking horse with a type of surcingle called a "rigging"; in saddle bronc-riding, the rider uses a specialized western saddle and hangs onto a heavy lead rope attached to the horse’s halter. This is a timed event, the winning rider being the one who stays on for as long as possible – usually only a matter of seconds.

Bull riding
This popular rodeo event sees cowboys ride full-grown bulls instead of horses! Not at all like bronc horses, bulls are unpredictable and may attack a fallen rider – rodeo clowns, or "bullfighters”, work to distract the bulls and help prevent injury to the fallen cowboys.

Bull riding

Barrel racing
A rodeo event primarily for women, in which horses and riders individually complete a clover-leaf pattern around three pre-set barrels placed in a triangle in the center of an arena, against the clock. This fast and furious race combines the horse's athletic ability and the rider’s horsemanship skills – competitors mustn’t knock the barrels over while riding tight turns around them at speed.

Variety acts, which may include musicians, trick riders or other entertainment, often occur halfway through the rodeo at intermission. Novelty events such as "mutton busting” – like bronc riding for small children, but on sheep! – are always popular with crowds. Some events even include events open to the general public – such as wild cow milking for adults – most of which carry a high risk of injury for untrained competitors.

Have a go!

Want to watch or have a go at some rodeo events? Check out the following dude ranch vacations…

Alisal Ranch, California
Averill’s Flathead Lake Lodge, Montana
Badger Creek Ranch, Colorado
Bar W Guest Ranch, Montana
Brush Creek Ranch, Wyoming
Lazy L&B Ranch, Wyoming
Lone Mountain Ranch, Montana
Majestic Dude Ranch, Colorado
Siwash Lake Ranch, BC, Canada
Sugar and Spice Ranch, Texas and Wyoming
Tod Mountain Ranch, BC, Canada

We especially recommend Estancia Los Potreros in Cordoba, Argentina, which is a great ranch to stay at if you want to visit the nearby Argentine National Rodeo Championships, which are held every January in Cordoba.

Remember, it’s always worth asking your chosen dude ranch on booking whether there are any local rodeos or even pro rodeos nearby. Many dude ranches even provide shuttles to and from the rodeos.

For more information on incorporating rodeos into your dude ranch vacation, visit

Cattle drives at Burnt Well Guest Ranch

Published by Jody on January 17 2012 09:49 in
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Cattle drives are an iconic part of any dude ranch vacation and the ultimate western riding experience for any wannabe cowboy or cowgirl. Cattles drives are one of the most exciting horseback activities you can do on a dude ranch vacation, and Burnt Well Guest Ranch in New Mexico, USA, provides a selection of cattle drives that caters for all ages and riding abilities - so you can experience the thrill of a cattle drive no matter how inexperienced or experienced a rider you are - scroll down for details.

cattle drive new mexico dude ranches
Cattle drives at Burnt Well

Patricia Chesser from Burnt Well Ranch explains: "Due to the lack of grass at the ranch after the drought of 2011, our only cattle drive for 2012 will take place on October 1-7, Monday afternoon to Sunday morning. The details are yet to be confirmed, but we hope it will be in conjunction with the 'Chisum Challenge' Ranch Rodeo in Roswell. We have proposed that our cattle is used in the wild cow milking and, if the rodeo board accepts our proposal, we will drive the cattle to be used in the rodeo from Burnt Well to the Roswell rodeo arena. Guests will also be able to watch the very cows that they drove to the rodeo!

"Whatever the board decides, there will still be a cattle drive on these dates - but details will be confirmed at a later date. What we can guarantee at this time however, is that guests will be active participants in an authentic 'old west' style cattle drive in the Burnt Well tradition and quality.

"Our typical 'old west' style cattle drives are adult-only (see cattle drives descriptions below for more details). For a group of 6 or more (we take 10-12 riders on a drive) we will put together a 'old west' style cattle drive replica that may or may not actually leave Burnt Well property. Unless you've been on one of our other cattle drives, you would not be able to tell the difference between the real and replica cattle drives. Why, you might ask - as people have in the past - do we tell you whether it's a replica cattle drive or not if the two are so similar? This is just not the way we do things at Burnt Well - we're not going to play games with you and pretend to be doing something we're not. If we can't offer an authentic cattle drive because of circumstances out of our control but can offer a replica of one, we will be upfront with you from the start."

Interested in reserving your spot on the October 2012 cattle drive? Reservations have already started coming in, so book your spot today! Simply visit Burnt Well's ranch profile on for contact details or to email the ranch. 

2012 prices
$1,710.00 plus tax, 20% deposit required upon booking.
Bookings taken on a 'first deposit received' basis.
Visa, MasterCard and Discover accepted, as are personal checks.


Cattle Drives at Burnt Well Guest Ranch

Dude Ranch Style cattle drives

Drive any number of cattle from point A to point B, which could be from one to 10 miles. On these drives, we typically sleep and eat most, if not all meals, at the ranch. We may have the occasional need to pack a lunch in the saddle bag. We can take just about any age, riding and/or adventure level. This type of cattle drive is very common, if not the norm, at Burnt Well on most regular ranch stays, unless you specify that this is not what you want to do.

Since we are a working cattle ranch of 15,000 acres, there is always plenty of cattle work to be done. The need to round up the cattle and drive them various distances to different pens could very well have you in the saddle for many miles or hours a day. Our guests have told us that our cattle work on a regular ranch stay is more than many other ranches' “specified” cattle drives.

Authentic "Old West" Style cattle drives

As with our dude ranch-style cattle drives, on our authentic "old west" cattle drives, we are actually doing a job, not just moving cows in the name of a cattle drive.

On these cattle drives we camp out on the trail for at least three nights, sometimes four or five. We provide you with a "cowboy" bedroll (a three inch mattress made up with sheets & blankets and rolled in a tarp) and we have "cowboy" teepees in case of inclement weather. There are also cots for those who are a little squeamish about being right on the ground! We usually make between 10 and 15 miles a day with the cattle and are in the saddle between 5-10 hours a day. We start early, driving cattle by sun up, and will try to be at camp by early afternoon.

Hot breakfasts and suppers are cooked Dutch oven-style and over the campfire while out on the trail. There is always plenty to eat. After breakfast you pack your lunch for the day, choosing from a wide variety of choices, along with a delicious wrap made with the "extra Chesser natural beef" from supper the night before.

Nightly campfires, a blanket of twinkling stars on a New Mexico black velvet sky and an evening of sweet fiddle music. Since we are out for the duration of the drive, actually doing a job, and living and eating in the elements, the conditions can sometimes be unpleasant. Therefore, our authentic "old west style" cattle drives are adult-only. They are for adventurous adults with plenty of stick-to-it-ness! The stuff memories and bucket lists are made of...

Top 5 Rodeos - Try an authentic Rodeo then head to a Top50 Ranch

Published by Jody on April 4 2011 14:10 in Rodeos
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Sync your dude ranch vacation or riding holiday with one of these Top Rodeos!

Or visit any number of the Top50 ranches who offer the opportunity for the guests to get involved in rodeo activities right at the ranch.

5.    Australia - Australian Professional Rodeo National Finals: The Australian Professional Rodeo National Finals is one rodeo event you won't want to miss. The national finals showcase Australia's most talented cowboys and cowgirls as they compete in a number of rodeo events, such as saddle bronc riding, bull riding, bareback bronc riding, ladies barrel racing and much more.

4.    La Fiesta de los Vaqueros: La Fiesta de los Vaqueros is an annual rodeo event held in Tucson, Arizona. This popular outdoor rodeo features top-notch bull riding, barrel racing, team roping and steer wrestling by more than 650 cowboys and cowgirls. The Tucson Rodeo also has the world's longest non-motorized parade that features colorful, western-themed floats, festive Mexican folk dancers and historic spectacles the whole family will enjoy.

3.    Rocky Mountain Stampede: The Rocky Mountain Stampede, also known as the Greeley Stampede, has been keeping the western heritage alive in Colorado for 89 years with its Pro Rodeo and kids rodeo events, as well as western art shows, demolition derbies, BBQs and music concerts. The Greeley Stampede is the world's largest Fouth of July rodeo and one you won't want to miss.

2.    Cheyenne Frontier Days: Cheyenne Frontier Days in Cheyenne, Wyoming, is not called the "Daddy of 'em All" for nothing. A couple hundred thousand visitors come to this popular outdoor rodeo every year to see the exciting and fast paced rodeo acts. There are at least 10 different rodeo events and three track acts you can catch over the course of nine days. Not to mention a handful of awesome music concerts.

1.    Calgary Stampede: The Calgary Stampede in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, is one of the most famous and richest rodeos in the world. The 10-day Stampede is known for its authentic chuckwagon races, livestock exhibition and outdoor rodeo that draws over 1 million visitors per year. Visitors dress in their finest Western wear and participate in city-wide pancake breakfasts and barbecues.

Below is where the cowboy desires start - we had this little 4 year old tell us the other day, "I wanna be a real cowboy and get bucked off a horse..." Hmmm...just what a mother wants to hear!


Whether you head to one of Top50's dude ranch vacations, guest ranch vacation, working ranch vacations or book to a riding holiday estancia Argentina or on a riding holiday, or to a working ranch in New Zealand, or go horse trekking in Australia, Top50 can help you find that ideal ranch destination.

About the author

Welcome to Top50's Ranch blog -The best way to stay current on the best ranch getaways, network with friends, and share stories about your ranch experiences.

Since this blog is largely driven by guest and ranch input and experiences, please contact us with your videos, photos, and stories about your ranch experience or for any story ideas you may have! 

Continue to check back regularly as ranches keep us updated about happenings & special offers throughout the year. 


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