The best ranches for advanced riders tend to be working ranches that offer skilled cattle work adventurous guests can participate in.
That said, there are many guest ranch vacations and luxury dude ranch vacations that also offer similarly great opportunities for advanced riders – some even holding special advanced rider weeks for more experienced horseback riders who may be looking for longer, faster and more adventurous riding and horse treks from their ranch vacation.
Cowboys 'n' cattle
Any ranch that encompasses the Ranching First ethos guranatees authentic cattle drives with riding as the real cowboys do it. That includes Badger Creek ranch in Colorado, USA, an authentic working ranch specializing in cattle drives, where rides are grouped by ability meaning advanced riders won't be held back by those less experienced in the saddle.
Another ranch running sheep, as well cow-calf pairs, is Burnt Well Guest Ranch in New Mexico, USA. Here you might ride from before sunrise until after sundown if it means getting the job done, and their 'old west style' cattle drives require "a spirit of adventure and determination"!
Check out Bonanza Creek Ranch if you're after a guaranteed advanced riding program, as this Montana working ranch has a strict intermediate and advanced rider-only policy.
Another Ranching First operation is Nebraska cattle ranch Rowse's 1+1. Working ranch vacations here mean riding with the cowboys - working cattle, riding the range and experiencing life as a real cowboy on a real working cattle ranch. By the end of your ranch vacation here, you'll be roping, sorting, rounding up cattle and team penning like a pro!
Pack trips 'n' trails
For a ranch experience like no other, head to Estancia Ranquilco which offers remote pack trips into the mountains. Swim with your horse in remote mountain lakes, and negotiate demanding terrain as you trek on horseback through the Patagonian wilderness.
Journey to Mexico for a backcountry horse riding vacation at Rancho Los Banos, which runs special adventure vacations perfectly suited to advanced riders. With 30,000 acres as your playground, you'll enjoy unlimited hours of challenging, thrilling, yet fun-filled adventure riding in remote, rugged and secluded isolation, surrounded by an inspiring vastness of mountains, hills and canyons.
The natural way
Want to learn the art of natural horsemanship and progress your riding skills even further? Then you'll love McGinnis Meadows ranch, a Montana working ranch with a focus on horsemanship and cattle work. Instruction here is second to none, with wranglers trained in Buck Brannaman-style horsemanship imparting their knowledge both in the arena and out on cattle drives. They even run special clinics throughout the year, where you can bring your own horse or ride one of the ranch's well-trained ranch horses.
Advanced riders also looking for luxury in their ranch vacation will love Brush Creek Ranch and Spa, a luxury Wyoming dude ranch and working ranch. A stay here means all the pleasures that a luxury dude ranch brings, but with the options to get stuck into weekly cattle work and pasture gathers, as well as annual brandings and horsemanship clinics.
There's something for everyone
Other working ranches with a hint of luxury and family-friendly include The Hideout Lodge and Guest Ranch in Wyoming and Sweet Grass Ranch in Montana (pictured below). Both offer excellent opportunities for advanced riders, but without the pressure to do riding and nothing else. Great if you're the rider of the family and your partner and/or kids would rather keep both feet on the ground!
Three Bars Ranch in BC, Canada, may not offer cattle work, but it does schedule fast rides for advanced riders looking for more exciting horseback riding on their guest ranch vacation. Like the look of Bar W Guest Ranch? Advanced riders should head here in the spring or fall, for the spring roundup and spring branding, and the fall roundup later in the year.
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