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When the time came to book a girls getaway, I could think of nothing better than a dude ranch vacation! Writer Mel Rutherford explores some of the best dude ranches for girls getaways

I sat at my desk at work the other day - daydreaming away as usual and clicking the heels of my cowboy boots together, whispering 'There's no place like Montana... there's no place like Montana...' - when a work colleague suddenly snapped my attention back to reality. "Mel," she announced, "I think we girls are long overdue a holiday."

I think they call it a ´lightbulb moment´. "I know just the thing!" I replied, a little to enthusiastically. Having been ranching in the US before, I'd been keen to convince both my horsey and non-horsey girlfriends to to join me on a Western adventure.

So, what better opportunity than this to introduce these English ladies to American cowboy culture? Turns out, that´s not exactly what they had in mind. Apparently, not everyone´s idea of relaxation is long days in the saddle and camping out under the stars at night - that´ll just be me, then.

Massage and meditation appeared further up their list of priorities, it seemed...hmm, this could prove tricky. Not one to be defeated, however, I made it my mission to prove to them that actually, cowboy country can be the place to escape with the girls...

Choosing a girls getaway ranch vacation

For head-to-toe pampering, it has to be Averill's Flathead Lake Lodge, which offers therapeutic massages from professional masseuses that would tempt even me out of the saddle. The Montana ranch's Spring Retreat particularly caught my eye, promising a relaxing and enjoyable three-day package for riders and non-riders alike - and all at a very reasonable price. Even I could be persuaded to forego a lie-in favour of a rejuvenating fitness walk along Swan River Nature Trail in the cool of the morning, which are held daily at the ranch.

Not even the least horsey of my girlfriends could resist The Ranch at Rock Creek´s five-room spa, with its menu of professional massage therapy treatments, facials, and hair and nail treatments. The latter I found particularly attractive; don´t get me wrong, I´m not afraid of a bit of muck here and there, but dirt-ridden nails and straw-entwined hair at dinner really isn´t the best look for a girl.

Unless your primary motive is to meet a handsome cowboy and ride off into the sunset, Three Bars Ranch is the place for an all-girl getaway. Its bespoke women-only weeks offer the perfect opportunity to leave those men behind, whether you choose to take to the trail or retreat to the heated indoor pool.

On my mission to find a ranch retreat to please several demanding ladies and provide me with my Western fix, I half expected my choice to be limited to dude ranches. So I was pleasantly surprised to find several working and guest ranches offering great relaxation facilities as well as an authentic Western experience. Being able to combine real ranch work and riding, with yoga, massage and soaks in the hot tub is my idea of horse heaven!

OK, so maybe I´m not being entirely selfless here... I´ll grab any opportunity to put my cowboy boots to good use! But I think I´ve proven my point that ranch getaways don´t have to be about riding and horses. What better place to spend quality time with friends and recharge those batteries than in the vast, open spaces of cowboy country? Put is that way and I don´t think the girls will take much convincing... I think I can safely call this mission accomplished.

´Til next time!

Mel, Horse & Rider; PONY magazines, UK

Mel Rutherford worked as News Editor for Horse & Rider Magazine in the UK before more recently taking on the role of Website Editor for Horse & Rider and PONY Magazines.

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