The best ranches for advanced riders tend to be working ranches that offer skilled cattle work that guests can participate in. That said, there are many guest ranch vacations and luxury dude ranch vacations that offer similarly great opportunities for advanced riders, some even holding special advanced rider weeks for more experienced horseback riders who may be looking for longer, faster and more adventurous riding and horse treks on their ranch vacation.
Chico Basin cattle work
Here's Top50 Ranches' pick of the best ranches for advanced riders...
Any ranch that encompasses the Ranching First ethos guranatees authentic cattle drives with riding as the real cowboys do it. That includes Badger Creek ranch in Colorado, USA, an authentic working ranch specializing in cattle drives, where rides are grouped by ability meaning advanced riders won't be held back by those less experienced in the saddle. For something a little different, head down under to Beaumont High Country Experience in New Zealand, for days filled with sheep mustering - something of an art form that advanced riders will enjoy mastering.
Another ranch running sheep, as well cow-calf pairs, is Burnt Well Guest Ranch in New Mexico, USA. Here you might ride from before sunrise until after sundown if it means getting the job doen, and their 'old west style' cattle drives require "a spirit of adventure and determination"!
Check out Bonanza Creek Ranch if you're after a guaranteed advanced riding program, as this Montana working ranch has a strict intermediate and advanced rider-only policy.
Head to Colorado to sister ranches Zapata (pictured above) and Chico Basin, both working cattle ranches offering fabulous horseback riding for advanced riders. Not least at Zapata, which runs a herd of bison - herding these fast, dangerous beasts calls for quick wits, skilled riding and absolutely no fear! At Chico Basin, a large-scale working cattle ranch, riding is dictated by the ranch's work that day - often meaning gathering cattle across the prairie on specially trained cow horses. Education is at the fore here, so if you're a keen rider looking to further your horsemanship skills, this is the place for you.
Another Ranching First operation is Nebraska cattle ranch Rowse's 1+1. Working ranch vacations here mean riding with the cowboys - working cattle, riding the range and experiencing life as a real cowboy on a real working cattle ranch. By the end of your ranch vacation here, you'll be roping, sorting, rounding up cattle and team penning like a pro!
Advanced riders looking for an abundance of cattle work on their ranch vacation will not be disappointed at Lazy El Ranch. The Montana working ranch specializes in cattle drives. This is no fantasy cowboy experience - daily cattle work with the ranch's 3,000 head of cattle mean you'll bget more than your fill of authentic cattle roundups. Twice a year they hold Advanced Rider weeks involving the extreme side of cattle work - from shipping and receiving, to sorting and doctoring, you're a part of the team with a big job to do, dawn to dusk.
Estancia Ranquilco, Argentina - photo courtesy of Eddie Thornton
For a ranch experience like no other, head to the southern Americas for an Argentina horse riding experience. Estancia Huechahue offers great opportunities for advanced riders to immerse themselves in the gaucho lifestyle, riding all day on long cattle drives at this real working cattle ranch. Estancia Ranquilco offers remote pack trips into the mountains - swim with your horse in remote mountain lakes, and negotiate demanding terrain as you trek on horseback through the Patagonian wilderness.
Journey to Mexico for a backcountry horse riding vacation at Rancho Los Banos, which runs special adventure vacations perfectly suited to advanced riders. With 30,000 acres as your playground, enjoy unlimited hours of challenging, thrilling, yet fun-filled adventure riding in remote, rugged and secluded isolation, surrounded by an inspiring vastness of mountains, hills and canyons.
Want to learn the art of natural horsemanship and progress your riding skills even further? Then you'll love McGinnis Meadows ranch, a Montana working ranch with a focus on horsemanship and cattle work. Instruction here is second to none, with wranglers trained in Buck Brannaman-style horsemanship imparting their knowledge both in the arena and out on cattle drives. They even run special clinics throughout the year, where you can bring your own horse or ride one of the ranch's well-trained ranch horses.
Advanced riders also looking for luxury in their ranch vacation will love Brush Creek Ranch and Spa, a luxury Wyoming dude ranch and working ranch. A stay here means all the pleasures that a luxury dude ranch brings, but with the options to get stuck into weekly cattle work and pasture gathers, as well as annual brandings and horsemanship clinics.
Other working ranches with a hint of luxury and family-friendly include The Hideout in Wyoming and Sweet Grass Ranch in Montana (oictured above) - both offering excellent opportunities for advanced riders, but without the pressure to do riding and nothing else. Great if you're the rider of the family but your partner and/or kids would rather keep both feet on the ground! Three Bars Ranch in BC, Canada, may not offer cattle work, but it does schedule fast rides for advanced riders looking for more exciting horseback riding on their guest ranch vacation. Like the look of Bar W Guest Ranch? Advanced riders should head here in the spring or fall, for the spring roundup and spring branding, and the fall roundup later in the year.
For more information on all of Top50's ranches for advanced riders, visit Top50Ranches.com