Touring the States is all part of the job for the Top50 Ranches team, as Jody Dahl reveals in her series of blogs for the UK's Horse&Rider Magazine. First stop, Brush Creek Ranch, a luxury Wyoming dude ranch...
Horse riding holidays can be expensive, so when you’re spending you’re hard-earned money on a horseback riding holiday you want to know that your chosen destination gives you exactly what it promises on the tin – or on Top50Ranches.com at least!
Part of showcasing the best horseback riding holidays in the world means ensuring travellers get the ranch experience we promise them on Top50Ranches.com. While it’s very easy for a ranch to tell us they’re giving all their guests great horseback riding holidays, the only way to ensure that is to experience it for ourselves. And so this summer we’re embarking on our annual tour of the ranches, and checking out new ones to see if they make the Top50 grade!
First on our road trip was Brush Creek Ranch in Wyoming. As we’re based in Montana this meant just a short hop across the border – well, at 500 miles it was more than a hop, but compared to the rest of our route the first leg was easy! After a long day on the road with my husband (and Top50 photographer extraordinaire) Toby, we pull into the ranch – and immediately feel right at home. Brush Creek Ranch is one of our luxury dude ranches, so we had high expectations of this one. We weren’t disappointed. Ultimate luxury from start to finish this might be, but it’s a world away from a ‘clinical’ five-star resort. Every guest is made to feel like the ranch is their house and home, thanks to personal touches like complimentary slippers for each guest to slip on when entering the main lodge. Toby and I took no time in sounding out the large indoor fireplace with its huge comfy couches – the perfect way to relax after our long drive.
When it comes to dining at Brush Creek, boy are you in for a treat. Now, I’m not really a fan of lamb but when it was served up to me at dinner that night I became a convert. It was dang good! And instead of being handed a wine list, we were escorted down to the wine cellar where we could pluck out any bottle of our choice. With some $200 on offer and all included in the base price, this takes guest satisfaction to a new level. Sipping on fine wine and tucking into wonderful food, we truly believed we’d died and gone to heaven as we watched the horses munching away in the pasture outside through the dining area’s huge windows, which offer panoramic views of the vast Wyoming dude ranch.
Great horseback ridingNext day it was all about the action. Being an Orvis-endorsed fly-fishing lodge, Brush Creek offers great fishing for avid anglers - but we were all about the horseback riding. Arriving at the barn we found all the horses to be in great condition and of the highest quality. And it was like sitting back in one of those comfy armchairs in the lodge when we climbed into our saddles. All of Brush Creek’s tack is chosen for comfort and quality, and is clearly well cared-for by the attentive and highly-trained wranglers.
While chatting with our guide out on one of the beautiful trails covering thousands of acres of ranch land, we learned how each wrangler is trained to provide horseback riding for all levels, from beginner to advanced. Really avid riders can take part in private ‘clinics’ with the dude ranch’s lead horse trainer. Back at the ranch I was asked if I wanted to try one of Brush Creek’s trained cutting horses – and with cutting being one of my favourite western horseback activities, I jumped at the chance. As I’d previously only cut cattle on one our home-bred and trained saddle horses, riding a finely-tuned cutting horse in the huge outdoor arena felt incredible, and something I’d definitely recommend for serious riders. Toby certainly had his eye on at least one of their cutting horses! I knew we should’ve brought the trailer…
After a wonderful horseback riding experience we checked out the full-service spa complete with fitness room, sauna and steam room. The rest of our tour took us to see the climbing wall, a very comprehensive shooting range and a huge paintball course. And that was just outdoors! Heading inside to the indoor gym we found great basketball facilities and even indoor simulated golf. I had a hard time trying to convince Toby that a career change from cowboy to pro golfer was not a good idea. I think Tiger Woods can rest easy... .
Jody's Top 5 favourite things about horseback riding holidays at Brush Creek Ranch:
- Although everything is high-end and no expense has been spared, the ranch maintains a homely feel with great hospitality and warm service
- Incredible facilities for ranch weddings and corporate retreats – including a separate ‘ranch within a ranch’ so guests can stay separate from the main dude ranch guests. They’ll even bring the horses to you!
- Everything is included in one price – even those $200 bottles of wine! So no need to bring or buy snacks, alcohol, drinks or anything else during your stay.
- The ranch owner has great connections and brings in bands such as Marshal Tucker, for private concerts held solely for the guests staying at the time.
- Incredible horses and riding program for ALL levels – from absolute beginners to challenging riding for experienced and advanced riders.
For more information on Brush Creek Ranch, visit Top50ranches.com