How to prepare for a dude ranch vacation

By Remy Scalza

Photo: courtesy Tourism BC

For the Summer 2012 issue of British Columbia Magazine, writer Remy Scalza visited three dude ranches for his article “Urban wrangler.” He offers this list of things to know before you saddle up on a riding adventure of your own.

  • June through August is high season for dude ranches in the south Cariboo. Better rates and milder temperatures can be had in the April-May and September-October shoulder seasons. Note: Many ranches close down during the winter.
  • Most ranches supply cowboy boots and riding helmets, but bringing a good pair of jeans is critical for comfortable riding. Sunscreen and a wide-brimmed hat are also essential in the Cariboo summer heat.
  • Ranches have horses suitable for all skill levels – even absolute beginners. A good wrangler will be sure to pair you with the right one. While many ranches offer twice-daily rides, generally in two-hour stints, newbies may want to limit riding to once a day. (Four hours in the saddle can feel like an eternity if you’re not used to it.)
  • Keeping with cowboy custom, most horses in the Cariboo are trained for Western-style riding. This means the saddle is larger and more comfortable than for formal English-style riding. And reins are held in one hand, rather than two?leaving a free hand for lassoing or, more likely, snapping photos.
  • Chow time is a great feature of the dude ranch experience. Meals, which are buffet-style or pass-the-plate affairs, are generally eaten communally at large tables, where you get to know your fellow dudes and trade slightly embellished stories about the day’s rides. At some ranches, such as Sundance, children eat at separate tables, giving grown-ups a chance for some adult repartee.

Info: BC Guest Ranches has comprehensive information about 15 member ranches scattered throughout the Cariboo and the rest of British Columbia (bcguestranches.com).

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Christine Ly

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