I have worked on dude ranches in Colorado, Wyoming and Montana since the mid 1980s. My
business now is dude ranch consulting. One of the things I do is set up
horseback riding programs for new ranches. I am certified by the Dude Ranchers
Association as a wrangler instructor. I teach Horse Safety Certification
courses. Over the years I have trained countless wranglers and taken thousands
of guests on trail rides. Probably 70% of the guests I took out were beginners.
My percentage of accidents with injuries is less than 1%. My number one goal has always been safety.
If you are looking at places to ride and are concerned about their safety program start by
asking a few questions before making a reservation.
- Do they allow people to ride on their
own without a guide? If they do this could mean a general lack of concern for
either riders or their horses.
- Are guests allowed to run or gallop
the horses? If they do offer loping/cantering how is that conducted? Does the
leader of the ride just start running in big open fields when he feels like it
or does he stop the ride before starting and give instructions about the rules,
how far you will go, and when you will stop.
- How many riders are allowed on each
ride? What is the guest to guide ratio? It should be about 4 to 1.
- Is any thought given to the order of
the horses on the ride?
- How often do they check cinches
during the ride. Loose chinches are the number one reason people come off
- Do they allow double riding or allow
a parent to have a small child ride with them? These are big no no’s and a safe
operation would know better.
- Do they have a written orientation
speech or if not what does the orientation consist of?
- What kind of experience do the
wranglers/guides have? Are they nonchalant about moving around the horses and
mounting people or are they all business. DO THEY HAVE FIRST AID/CPR?
- What do the horses and equipment look
like? Are the horses well cared for or are the skinny and not groomed? A horse
that is not in good shape is more likely to have problems on a ride. If the
tack is in poor condition it could lead to accidents.
These are just a few things to think about when looking at trail riding operations. Most
dude ranch operations will have comments on trip advisor. About half of the
ranches that are member of the dude ranchers association are horse safety
certified. If it is not a dude ranch but just a trail riding operation I would
ask if they have any kind of safety accreditation. I hope you find this helpful
to this discussion. Anyone who would like to discuss this with me is welcome to
contact me directly. http://duderanchvacation.blogspot.com/