What Makes a Guest Ranch Owner - Debbie Atha, Free Rein Guest Ranch, Tells Us

BY Jody Dahl | Fri 19 Nov, 2010

New Kid On the Block...

If you’ve ever been on a guest ranch vacation, I know without question that you’ve almost certainly imagined yourself living the life. After all, what better lifestyle could there possibly be? Who wouldn’t want to wake up to the big blue Western skies every day? Ride as much as your butt can take? Spend quality time connecting with wonderful people from all walks of life? So simple, so perfect.

After my own guest ranch vacation in Colorado years back, I got to wondering…….what breed of human makes a great guest ranch owner? And could that role even remotely possibly be for me?

So, 3 years into my very own guest ranch business and many philosophical debates with other ranchers later...I finally have some conclusions to share. Exactly who are the kinds of people you are you likely to encounter when you arrive at your next dude ranch vacation? It might well just be my humble opinion, but let me tell you, now that I’ve been blessed with meeting so many of these guys, I can honestly say, it’s more than likely to be someone hugely spectacular and inspirational!

I think it’s fairly safe to assume that guest ranch owners share a love of horses and of course the great outdoors...totally true. I think it’s also fairly safe to assume that we must also have an interest in people in order to open up our lives and homes to complete strangers...also true. But the real truth of the matter is, when you meet your hosts at your chosen ranch destination, you are almost certainly going to spend some wonderful time creating fantastic memories with some very true lovers of life.

I have been lucky enough to throw myself into an industry which is massively abundant in active advocates and passionate protectors of the environment. These people are committed stewards of the land, spending time and energy in political circles lobbying governments to ensure our wilderness is protected for the generations to follow. These people are constantly coordinating, cooperating, and consulting with hundreds of other businesses, government bodies, tourism associations and tour operators in order to promote and sustain wilderness recreation for all. These people are hoteliers, marketers, salespeople, book keepers and people managers. They organise and operate a ranch, a hotel AND a restaurant. These people are continually educating themselves in everything from horsemanship to health and safety and hospitality. They are guardians of grasslands, defenders of forests and protectors of wetlands. They face constant adversity, challenges and knock backs, but seemingly always with enthusiasm, determination and smiles. They are well integrated and effective members of their local communities and their motto is often ‘when the going gets tough, the tough get going’. They are warm, friendly, genuine, humble and completely indisputably human.

Phew!!...Yes, your guest ranch hosts are indeed nothing short of walking miracles in my eyes.
So, as the new kid on the block, you can clearly see that I really do have a huge amount to live up to!

Am I up to the challenge? Hmmmm, all I can say is that I’m definitely committed and I’m continually working on it. There’s absolutely no doubt that I certainly have a lot to learn. But the good news is that I know I have the recipe for success right here at my disposal. On the one hand I have my peers, my passionate and supportive peers, who just get it, they totally get what I have walked into, they have walked the same hot coals and they want me to succeed. With support like that, how can I fail?

And on the other hand, our wonderful guests, out truly magnificent and fabulous guests who walk into our lives for such a brief time to share our experience, support and encourage us, accept that we’re not perfect, love us anyway and etch a mark on our hearts for always. Without them we would be nothing, without them there would be no reason to constantly learn, grow and fight.

For those of you who came and went already, and for those that are yet to follow, thank you so much for choosing a ranch vacation, when we see you guys embrace what we have built, it finally all seems real for us.

To book your next guest ranch vacation, contact Debbie at Free Rein, one of the most energetic, positive, straight-shooting individuals you'll ever meet! A real character!

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