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A western ranch vacation with your girlfriends beats your average horseback riding holiday! Mel Rutherford discovers how girls who just wanna have fun can saddle up together this summer...

It’s true, men have their plus points. But as far as I’m concerned, when it comes to taking a vacation the guys should be left at home. After all, a holiday is about taking a break from everyday life - and that means taking a break from finding beer cans down the sofa and yesterday’s pants in the hallway! Now summer’s nearly here, it’s time to start thinking about that annual vacation with my girlfriends. However, bored of the same old vacation spots we seem to revisit every year, I can’t help but wonder if I can convince them to ‘cowgirl up’ for a couple of weeks...

Plan A? Get them to take a look at Top50’s selection of girls-only ranch vacations. Plan B? Well, with this selection there’ll be no plan B required – especially with the likes of Zapata Ranch’s luxury girls-only western vacations. Head to this Colorado hotspot on August 28th to September 1st for some quality time with the gals, and pampering to boot. Those particularly horsey girlfriends of mine are going to love the idea of riding and working cattle through Zapata’s expansive meadows, while those who prefer to keep both feet firmly on the ground can enjoy photography tours and hiking. The promise of evening cocktails and appetizers on the patio while the sun sets should convince them, and dinners prepared by Zapata’s resident gourmet chef, hot springs pools and massages to soothe those sore riding and hiking muscles are sure to seal the deal.

Bar W Guest Ranch is another that’s really going to appeal to my hard-to-please friends. While there’s always going to be those unavoidable arguments over wake-up times, daily schedules and the rest, there’s once place that all girls agree on: The Spa. Maybe I’ll mention Bar W’s on-site spa first, then throw in their spectacular food and stunning natural surroundings for good measure. These all-inclusive women’s adventure retreat weeks, which Bar W are running several times in June and September, are sure to win over my more adventure-seeking friends. With endless acres of trail to explore, plus a special ‘Saddle Up’ horsemanship clinic to get stuck into, this ranch vacation promises to satisfy every woman’s inner cowgirl. Or beauty queen, as the case may be...

Of course, when planning group vacations you’ve got to take all budgets into account. While I’d quite happily max out my credit card to get my cowgirl fix, some of my girlfriends are slightly more sensible. But everyone loves a bargain, so I’ll definitely be throwing Runamuk Guest Ranch’s ‘Cowgirls’ week – For Women, By Women!’ into the mix. The 20% off special on this no-guys-allowed week from 20-26th June will please everyone’s pocket, as well as providing some quality bonding time. I might have to select my more capable horsey friends for this one, though; hailed as a working ranch vacation ‘for cowgirls who can ride’, this week is perfect for intermediate riders ready to throw themselves into real horseback riding and cattle work at this Montana-based working guest ranch. It’s all about riding, improving your horsemanship skills and building comraderie with the gals. Not forgetting Runamuk’s annual benefit trail ride and old-fashioned barn dance to look forward to when girl-time ends!

OK, so maybe I’m being a bit selfish excluding non-horsey friends. For a happy compromise there’s Triple Creek Ranch’s Klicks For Chicks week (November 3rd – 7th). We hardcore horsey gals can tackle a 100K (62 mile) ride over the wilds of the Rocky Mountain West – an adventure testing each rider’s endurance while providing the perfect opportunity for some proper girly bonding. Meanwhile the saddle-shy girls can enjoy Triple Creek’s many and varied on-ranch activities and luxurious accommodations, before everyone meets up at the ranch at end of each day for burning log fires, cocktails and gourmet food.

If just a few evenings of girl time doesn’t cut it, a dude ranch vacation is the perfect option to please all parties – like Red Horse Mountain Ranch, one of Idaho’s finest dude ranches. It’s Girlfriends Getaway week from September 25th to October 1st has got everything that both seasoned riders and first-time cowgirls could want: luxury, endless outdoor activities, and a seven-course menu to guarantee plenty of time for gossip over a few glasses of wine.

And girls, if you're looking to buy a horse, check out Horse101. Always tons of great horses over there.

All considered, I think I got a pretty good case for an adventure vacation for women. Now I’ve worked so hard to find the best girlfriends’ getaways and women's only vacations, I’m going to take a back seat and let my friends do the hardest job – deciding which one to choose!

Whether you head to one of Top50's dude ranch vacations, guest ranch vacations, working ranch vacations we know you'll have a great time. Or book a riding holiday estancia Argentina or a riding holiday, or to a working ranch in New Zealand, or go horse trekking in Australia, either way Top50 can help you find that ideal ranch experience.

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