Press Release - Top50

Best dude ranch vacations for Rodeos at

Best dude ranch vacations for Rodeos
Top50 Mar 21 2012

Rodeos are an iconic part of western cowboy culture and dude ranch vacations offer the perfect opportunity to see, and even take part in, the exciting event. To help rodeo first-timers to learn their broncs from their barrels, Top50 Ranches has compiled a definitive guide to rodeos, and reveals the best dude ranches at which to experience the awe-inspiring sport.

Dating back as far as the early 19th century, rodeo events are based on the basic skills required of cattle ranchers. Working vaqueros were the first to test their ranching skills in rodeo events, with cowboys of western USA, western Canada and northern Mexico later developing their own brand of what is now an iconic part of western cowboy culture.

Head to any rodeo and you’re likely to see six main events – calf roping, team roping, steer wrestling, bronc riding, bull riding and barrel racing. All are judged against the clock, although the rider(s) must adhere to strict rules in order for their time to qualify.

Calf roping stems from ranch work where calves are roped for branding, medical treatment or other purposes. The cowboy is required to rope a running calf around the neck with a lariat attached to his saddle. After successfully roping the calf, his horse stops and sets back on the rope while the rider dismounts, runs to the calf and ties three feet together.

Team roping involves two riders working together to capture and restrain a full-grown steer. While one rider, the header, lassos the running steer's horns, the other, the heeler, lassos the steer's hind legs. The riders must then face each other and lightly pull the steer between them so that it loses balance and lies down.

Steer wrestling sees a lone cowboy jumping off his horse and 'wrestling' a steer to the ground. Arguably the most physically dangerous event in rodeo for a cowboy, who not only has to jump off a running horse at speed but could also have the steer land on top of him, horns first.

Bronc riding events are either ridden bareback or with a specialized western saddle. Here, the rider has to stay on-board a bucking horse for as long as possible – usually only a matter of seconds. A skill required by many cowboys starting young colts on the ranch!

Bull riding is probably the most iconic and well-known rodeo event, in which cowboys compete to stay on-board full-grown bulls. Unlike bronc horses, bulls are unpredictable and may attack a fallen rider – rodeo clowns, also known as bullfighters, work to distract the bulls and help prevent injury to the fallen cowboys.

Barrel racing is the one rodeo event primarily aimed at women, in which horses and riders must individually ride a clover-leaf pattern at flat-out gallop around three pre-set barrels placed in a triangle formation. This fast and furious event combines the horse's athletic ability and the rider’s horsemanship skills, in riding as fast as possible without knocking over any of the barrels.

Go to a rodeo!

Want to watch or even participate in some rodeo events? Several of Top50 Ranches’ dude ranch vacations host their own rodeos, some of which guests can take part in after learning the ropes, while others arrange off-ranch trips to rodeos where you watch the pros in action.

California dude ranch Alisal Ranch hosts special rodeo days where adults can take lessons in team sorting before competing that afternoon, with the chance to win a signature Alisal belt buckle. All guests will enjoy the rodeo itself, where Alisal wranglers demonstrate rodeo events including roping and barrel racing.

Looking for a family ranch vacation? Kids will love Averill’s Flathead Lake Lodge in Montana, where they can learn the ropes and strut their stuff in the weekly kids’ rodeo, which includes fun horseback games such as penning, barrels and pole bending. Or head to Lazy L&B Ranch in Wyoming where, every Friday night, guests can enjoy a free shuttle and free entry to the local rodeo to watch cowboys compete in all the usual rodeo events. Adults can get into cowboy spirit with beer, bonfire and burgers, while kids are invited to take part in the fun “ribbon scramble” event.

Moms and daughters looking to bond through horses on vacation at Sugar and Spice Ranch in Bandera, Texas, can enjoy fun rodeo games in the arena, including barrel racing. Then watch the pros in action at an authentic local rodeo, to which trips are scheduled each week.

Want to watch the pros in action? Head to Montana’s Bar W Guest Ranch where each week guests get the chance to go off-ranch to the local Blue Moon Rodeo Series, which sees Montana’s best riders and ropers compete in an authentic western rodeo. Or take a break from cattle work on your working ranch vacation at Wyoming’s Lazy EL Ranch, and put your new-found ranch skills to the test at the Cody Night Rodeo, held every evening between June and August. The fun rodeo welcomes amateurs and kids to compete in roping and barrel racing, while spectators can watch in awe as the real cowboys compete in bronc and bull-riding events.

For a rodeo experience like no other, Top50 recommends Estancia Los Potreros in Cordoba, Argentina – the perfect great ranch to stay at if you want to visit the hotly contested Argentine National Rodeo Championships, hosted each year in Cordoba.

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

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