White Stallion Ranch is Top50's newest luxury dude ranch

Published by Jody on April 24 2012 11:06 in Children's Programs | Dude Ranches | Food & Wine | New Ranches | Ranch Owners | Relaxation Ranches | Rodeos | Shopping | Therapeutic | United States
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White Stallion Ranch, a luxury dude ranch and working cattle ranch in Arizona, USA, is the latest ranch to gain the Top50 accolade. One thing that really stood out for us was not just the ranch's convenient location just 35 minutes from Tuscon International Airport, but the fact that as soon as you step cowboy boot-clad foot inside the Arizona ranch, you could be a hundred miles from the 'outside world'. One reason is that White Stallion Ranch sits right alongside Saguaro National Park, with access to mile upon mile of cactus-adorned desert plains and mountain wilderness. What's more, the luxury dude ranch is nestled into the west side of the Saguaro studded mountains, where only on reaching the very top is the nearest town in sight.

Don't be fooled by the ranch's high guest capacity of 70 and luxury, resort-style facilities and amenities. This family-owned and operated 3,000-acre ranch is steeped in history, and is still a working cattle ranch alongside providing luxury and family dude ranch vacations. Brothers Russell and Michael True took over the guest ranch from their parents, who bought White Stallion in 1965, and go out of their way to get to know each and every guest taking dude ranch vacations at the ranch. This is the kind of place where people treat you like one of the family - so no wonder the Trues are renowned for their high-quality service and first-rate hospitality.

At White Stallion Ranch, it's all about the horse riding. This is the perfect family ranch vacation for parents with children able to ride, as kids aged 5 and above are, if able, welcome to join in the beautiful, scenic trail rides on the diverse riding program. Children aged 8 and above can - again, if able - even join the faster, more adventurous rides, complete with loping and trickier terrain. And if you want to ride without the kids, you must go on the adults-only "Cheese and Wine Ride" - a slower, relaxing ride to one of the ranch's most beautiful areas where you'll enjoy wine, cheese and other treats. With 140 horses, the Arizona dude ranch runs one of the largest horse herds in the state and so can match each guest with more than one perfect horse. Whether you're a complete beginner or an advanced rider looking to tackle some 'real' riding, there is a horse and a trail ride for you.

Running 100 head of cattle across the ranch, White Stallion runs a hugely popular team penning program - an arena based riding activity where guests can learn the art of this tricky rodeo sport. And because you'll no doubt be hooked on rodeo by the end of the week, you'll love the weekly ranch rodeo featuring local cowboys and ranch wranglers demonstrating how the pros do it.

Not interested in riding? The guest ranch's wonderful location offers wonderful guided and unguided hiking opportunities, both through White Stallion Ranch and in the adjacent Saguaro National Park. There are also plenty of off-ranch activities to enjoy should you wish to head further afield - all made easy with the option of hiring a car direct from the ranch.

Aside from comfortable lodging and tasty meals, the luxury dude ranch boasts a heated pool with a large redwood hot tub; a fitness room with an exercise room, sauna and massage therapy; a lighted tennis court and sports court; a recreation room with a 27-seater movie theater, lots of fun games; a children’s playground and a petting zoo. Come evening, retire to the beautiful bar and hop up on one of the western-saddle bar stools for a drink with other guests - you don't have to be a rider to get in these saddles! And forget having to trek to town for souvenirs, as the ranch has its own gift shop where you can buy riding gear, gifts, travel items and lots more.

Whether you're travelling alone, with family and friends, with your partner or as part of a corporate retreat, White Stallion Ranch will give you a dude ranch vacation experience you will never forget - and want to return to year after year.

For more information on dude ranch vacations at White Stallion Ranch, visit their ranch profile at Top50Ranches.com

Planning a ranch vacation: Top 10 tips

Published by Jody on April 17 2012 08:46 in Argentina | Australia | Canada | Cattle drives | Children's Programs | Dude Ranches | New Zealand | Pack trips | Shopping | United States | What to wear
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Planning a dude ranch vacation isn't something to leave until the last minute! There’s a lot to consider, so follow Top50's top 10 tips to make sure you get the most out of your western riding holiday

1. Best place for a ranch vacation?
Which country? Which state? Mountains or desert? The options are endless. Here at Top50 Ranches we showcase Canada guest ranches, USA ranch vacations, Argentina horse riding holidays, riding holidays in Mexico, Australia horse treks and New Zealand cattle stations – but your choice will depend on how hot you like it and the kind of riding country you’re after. For mountain riding, Colorado, Montana, Canada and Argentina are good choices. If you like hot weather, choose a ranch in the southern States and south America, which boast great weather all year round. Best place for winter sun? Australia, which of course has its summer during the USA/European winter. Taking the kids? Find a child-friendly ranch with a supervised children’s program.

2. Budget early on
The cost of a dude ranch vacation varies greatly, so it’s worth setting a budget early on – taking into account getting there (flights, care hire if applicable), spending money and tipping. If you know your limits, you won’t even be tempted to consider ranches you can’t afford and save yourself disappointment. And it might be that you realise an extra year of saving might be worth it if you do want to opt for some luxury dude ranches.

3. Getting cheap flights
To avoid a shock when it comes to booking flights, check when it’s cheapest to fly before you book your ranch. Book as far in advance as you can, as prices tend to rocket closer to the flight date. Don’t be tempted to go for the very cheapest flight if it means several tight connections – give yourself plenty of time in case of delays, so you don’t run the risk of missing your connections.

4. Pack sensibly
Pack lots of layers if the weather is variable, and remember your swimsuit! Pack plenty of comfy jeans for riding, low-heeled shoes/boots for riding, smarter clothes suitable for dinners in the evening, and a pair of sneakers will also come in handy for exploring the ranch on foot. Check to see if you need to pack your hard hat or boots, as some ranches provide these for guests. Padded underwear and a good sports bra will also come in useful for long days in the saddle!

5. Leave room in your suitcase
…for souvenirs, gifts for friends back home, and the western riding gear you’re sure to be tempted by at local western outfitters.

6. Money matters
Some ranches charge extra for certain activities and remember that tipping is pretty commonplace – especially in America – so take enough currency that you won’t need to rely on your credit card (complete with hefty fees for use abroad). And yes, you will want to buy that shiny new pair of cowboy boots!

7. Do your western riding research
You will of course get ‘Western Riding 101’ from the wranglers before they set you loose on the open range, but it’s worth getting familiar with the western riding aids – many of them verbal – and techniques such as neck-reining. We can’t promise your dressage schoolmaster will know what on earth you’re asking him to do, however! Really keen? Book a couple of lessons at your nearest western riding centre.

8. Car hire
Even if you’re not planning a road trip and your chosen ranch provides airport transfers, you might want to head off ranch a couple of times to see the local area – especially if you’re near Yellowstone or Glacier National Parks, The Grand Canyon and other famous landmarks. From the UK or Europe? Booking car hire from the UK/Europe is vastly cheaper than getting it while in the USA and Canada, so save yourself some money and sort it before you go.

9. Make sure you’re legal!
Immigration officers abroad are notoriously strict, so avoid a lengthy delay at airport customs by making sure you have the right documentation before you travel. For travel to the US, that now means applying for a visa waiver online and paying a small fee, which you can do online here.

10. Get fit for riding
You might already pack in several hours’ riding a week, but hard riding all day for up to two weeks on long cattle drives or pack trips can take its toll on your muscles. Avoid burning out after the first day by getting fit before you go – swimming is a great way to up your fitness levels and muscle endurance, and practise sitting trot as often as you can to prepare that bottom!

To find your ultimate dude ranch vacation, visit Top50Ranches.com

Cattle drives

Published by Jody on March 19 2012 10:56 in Cattle drives | Cowboy Culture | Dude Ranches | Ranching First | United States | Working Ranches
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Cattle drives are about as real as it gets on a ranch vacation. Working ranch vacations offer the chance to get to grips with real roundups on cattle drives across the ranch, whether it’s moving sheep, cows or bison. Feel like a real cowboy as you drive cattle across the open range to find fresh pastures for them to graze, and make a real contribution to the working ranch operation as you help gather cattle for sale or branding in a spring or fall roundup. From USA working ranches to Australia cattle stations, cattle drives are a sure-fire way to embrace life as a real cowboy.

Cattle drives on a working ranch vacation

What to expect
How long you spend in the saddle with depending on the nature of the cattle drive – some can be short rides to move small herds to an adjacent pasture, while those involving driving large groups across several miles of ranch can last all day. That said, the duration of cattle drives can be unpredictable, especially on large ranches where actually finding the herd of cows can take longer than the cattle drive itself - meaning a short cattle drive can turn into an all-day ride if the herd decide to play hide-and-seek.

Depending on the ranch and the number of cattle run over the land, cattle drives can take place every day, offering unbeatable horseback riding opportunities for keen riders and those looking to get stuck into real ranch work. Other ranches may only need to roundup cattle once or twice a week – sometimes less.

The pace can vary greatly on cattle drives, so bear in mind your riding ability and level of confidence before embarking on a cattle drive at your chosen guest ranch. The ranch hosts and wranglers will be happy to advise you and will of course match you with a suitable horse for your ability. So should you want to experience a cattle drive but aren’t so keen on riding flat-out for hours on end, many ranches will ensure you go on the right cattle drive to match your needs. Some working ranches encompassing a Ranching First ethos require a certain standard of riding, so check before you go that you’ll be able to join in on a cattle drive. Either way, most ranches will allow you to follow the cattle drive on horseback but simply watch the action unfold, should you not wish or be able to actually take park in the cattle drive yourself.

Preparing for a cattle drive
For longer cattle drives, if you’re not used to spending many hours in the saddle it can be worth wearing a pair of padded pants or underwear underneath your jeans! Make sure that you’re totally comfortable in your clothing and are dressed appropriately for the weather. Even if it’s sunny, tie a light waterproof to your saddle as the weather can change without warning, and dress in layers should a cold or cloudy day suddenly take a much warmer turn. And before you set off, make sure you’re totally happy with your stirrup length, as you may not get the chance to stop and adjust the length once the cattle drive gets going.

Capture those lasting memories created on cattle drives with a small camera, but make sure it’s small enough to fit in your pocket or saddle bag – when moving faster, a big clunky camera is the last thing you’ll want swinging around. Most important is a canteen of water, as cattle drives can last several hours, often in high temperatures. Check with your chosen ranch before you go whether you’ll need to bring your own or if the ranch will provide them.

Top tips for your first cattle drive

Cattle drives on a working ranch vacationLearn to 'read' cows on your working ranch vacation cattle drive!

Your team leaders and wranglers will give you ‘cattle drive 101’ before you set off, but here are the main points to remember when working cattle…

  • When ‘riding up’ on a cow to get him to move, always ride toward its hip.
  • Try to treat each cow as an individual as well as part of the herd. One cow making a run for it can take the whole herd with him, so be on your guard!
  • Low stress cattle handling/stockmanship is key. Yelling or shouting at the cattle is discouraged;however, there are times when a "hey" or voice encouragement can be warranted.
  • Let the herd travel at its own pace – pushing too much can cause the herd to panic and run, splitting over a large area. And once they’ve gone, it’s hard to get ‘em back!
  • If you’re not sure what to do – ask! A wrangler will be on hand to guide you through your ranch cattle drive experience, so don’t be afraid to check you’re doing the right thing if you’re unsure – they will be happy to advise and teach you the ropes along the way. If you don’t feel confident enough to ride on your own, just say and a wrangler will make sure to stay with you the whole time.
  • Make sure your horse is responsive to your aids, as you may have to suddenly turn, stop or pick up the pace at a moment’s notice, so you need your horse to be listening to you.

Fall roundups
Want to get stuck into all-day cattle drives for the duration of your working ranch vacation? Then book your stay during the week of a ranch’s fall roundup. Fall roundups involve riding out for as long as it takes to gather every last cow in the herd and moving cattle back to the ranch where they’ll be shipped for sale. On working ranches with large herds – think up to 2,000 head of cattle – this can take a whole week and involve riding out all day, every day! One for the serious rider and those looking for true immersion into western cowboy culture.

Unique cattle drivesBison gathers

If you’re looking for a unique or exciting cattle drive experience, Top50 has a great selection of working ranch vacations for you to choose. Head to Zapata Ranch in Colorado, USA (pictured above), where you have the unique opportunity to ride with bison. These large, fast and unpredictable beasts make for fast-and-furious cattle drives with a real element of danger – one for experienced and confident riders.

For the unique chance to muster sheep on a cattle drive, head to Beaumont High Country Experience in New Zealand. This working cattle and sheep station runs 9,000 head of sheep on the 18,000-acre ranch, for a backcountry horseback riding experience like no other.

Although some guest ranches and dude ranches don't offer cattle drives, many do offer guests the opportunity to try cattle work in the arena, with lessons and competitions in team penning and cutting. This is ideal if you’re after a more relaxing or luxurious ranch vacation but still want to get stuck into some authentic ranching activities.

For the ultimate combination of experience, authenticity and luxury, we recommend Brush Creek Ranch in Wyoming, USA. This working ranch runs bison and is also a luxury guest ranch, meaning you can ride out all day on exciting real-life cattle drives as a real cowboy, AND indulge in some pampering in the full-service luxury spa. What more could you wish for?

Burnt Well Guest Ranch in New Mexico is another working ranch famous for its abundance of cattle work, and Lazy E-L Ranch is a Montana working ranch that specialises in cattle drive vacations. If cattle work is your priority on your working ranch vacations, this is the place to go - discover more about their cattle drives here. Or certainly check out The Hideout Guest Ranch in Wyoming, USA - which has been considered the "Gold Standard" of ranch vacations. You'll experience a working ranch stay and authentic cattle work; however also enjoy the softer side of European luxury, fine food and spa services. If you are looking for something truly intimate, give Sue and Eric a shout with Badger Creek Ranch or Duke Phillips a try with Chico Basin Ranch - where they only take YOUR group for the week! Chico Basin runs over 3000 head and focuses on a getaway for the experienced rider - you'll be doing a load of trotting and serious riding(recently featured in the acclaimed BEEF magazine for their ranching and grazing practices). With Badger Creek Ranch, although you'll have a true experience, they have the ability to take it "down a notch" to accommodate less experienced riders.

Go on a cattle drive!
Ranches with cattle drives
Ranches with sheep mustering
Ranches with cattle work in the arena
Ranches with bison

For more information on all of the ranches offering cattle drives, visit Top50Ranches.com

Dog-friendly ranches

Published by Jody on March 14 2012 05:00 in
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Dog-friendly ranches can be hard to find, especially as some dude ranches don’t openly advertise that they welcome dogs. When it comes to dude ranch vacations, dog owners are often left with no choice but to leave their dog in the pound or in kennels for the duration of their ranch vacation, or else pay hefty rates for a dog sitter, or leave their dog with family or friends – to whom eternal favors are owed!

However, taking your dog with you on your dude ranch vacation is made easy at five of Top50’s ranches, who welcome dogs with open arms…

dog on a dude ranch vacationYour dog will love a dude ranch vacation at Badger Creek Ranch, in Colorado!

Echo Valley Ranch and Spa in British Columbia, for instance, lets you bring your dogs when staying in their Deluxe Cabins. The Canada dude ranch charges just $20 per night for you to bring your best friend with you on your dude ranch vacation.

The aptly names Resort at Paws Up in Montana, USA, is totally pet-friendly and welcomes you to bring your dog with you on your luxury dude ranch vacation at the resort. The Montana dude ranch even holds canine-themed events and dog-training clinics throughout the year!

Other USA dude ranches that allow you to take your dog on vacation are Badger Creek Ranch in Colorado, USA – a working cattle ranch with 5,000 acres of private land for you and your dog to roam – and Burnt Well Guest Ranch in New Mexico, another working cattle and sheep ranch which boasts 10,000 acres of high desert country. And for moms and daughters looking to bond through horses on a dude ranch vacation at the Sugar and Spice Ranch in Texas, bringing your dog with you is not a problem.

To take your dog with you on any of these dude ranch vacations, simply mention on enquiry or booking – and remember to let them know you heard it through Top50 Ranches!

See all dog-friendly dude ranch vacations and working ranch vacations at Top50Ranches.com

Best dude ranch vacations for non-riders

Published by Jody on March 9 2012 07:00 in
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The best dude ranch vacations might be great for keen horseback riders, but drag your other half along with you to your chosen dude ranch, guest ranch or working ranch and you might not have the same level of enthusiasm when it comes to western horseback riding. But even if your travel buddy has never gotten on a horse and has no intention of doing so, these dude ranch vacations offer an incredible non-riding activities that might even tempt you out of the saddle…

hot air ballooning ranch at paws up

From hot-air ballooning to white-water rafting, The Resort at Paws Up offers activities like no other ranch. This luxury Montana dude ranch caters for chilled-out guests (think yoga, campouts, hot tub and fishing) and adventurers alike (think climbing, water sports, ATV tours, zorbing and backcountry camping). A dude ranch vacation where you might choose not to ride!

If your non-riding partner loves water sports, they’ll be in heaven at Averill’s Flathead Lake Lodge. The Montana dude ranch’s lakeside location allows it to offer a multitude of water sports, as well as river floating, swimming in the outdoor pool and more.

Colorado dude ranch C Lazy U is the place to go if your partner’s a golfer. With an 18-hole golf course on-site, they’ll be happily entertained while you ride off into the sunset. When all 18 holes have been sunk, there’s a whole host of non-riding activities including sporting clays, tennis and fishing.

Those looking to reconnect with nature will love Clayoquot Wilderness Resort in BC, Canada, a tented safari camp on Vancouver Island. Guided wildlife safari tours will lead you to black bears, birdlife, wolves, cougars, elk and deer, and take whale-watching trips where you’ll also spot sea lions, harbour seals and sea otters in the ocean. The Canada dude ranch’s seafront location also makes it ideal for water sports enthusiasts.

Adventurers listen up! Rancho Los Banos in Sonora, Mexico, offers as much for the non-rider as it does the keen horseman. While you’re backcountry horse riding in Mexico’s pristine and unspoilt lands, your partner will be having just as much fun climbing, mountain biking, canyoneering, bouldering, jeeping, river floating and kayaking. After an action-packed day of adventure, you can relax together in the hot springs or take a mesmerizing night-time wildlife safari!

For keen mountain bikers, it has to be Majestic Dude Ranch in Colorado. Located in the Mesa Verde National Park, this Colorado dude ranch has access to Phil’s World – named one the top 10 mountain biking trails in the USA. Accompanied by Majestic’s cycle guide, take your pro-standard mountain bike and get ready for a rollercoaster of a rider down the twists and turns of this thrilling mountain trail! Warning – you might just want to take one of these mountain bikes home with you…

If your partner’s idea of a dude ranch vacation is being pampered from head to toe, Echo Valley Ranch and Spa will tick all the boxes. While you head out on horseback, your partner can indulge in Baan Thai massages, spa treatments, dips in the hot tub, and use of the indoor pool. And if they do fancy braving the saddle, you can rest safe in the knowledge that Echo Valley was selected by the BBC’s ‘Holiday’ programme as the ‘Best Place to Learn to Ride’.

For fishing aficionados, head to North Fork Ranch in Colorado. This Orvis-endorsed fly fishing lodge offers world-class fishing in two miles of private water, all guided to ensure quality and safety. Or fish unguided on the public water just below the ranch, where you'll find plenty of fish.

Looking ahead to a winter dude ranch vacation? If skiing if your thing, think The Ranch at Rock Creek in Montana. This multi-activity Montana dude ranch is renowned for its hidden gems of ski trails, which rival any 5-star ski resort. The ranch continues to run horseback riding throughout the winter season too, so you can get your western horseback riding fix and USA ski holiday in one!

For more non-riding activities offered by all of Top50’s ranch vacations, visit Top50Ranches.com

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