Posted on Thursday, August 21st, 2014
…Experience another way of life
Genuine working ranches can offer some wonderful opportunities for horseback riding vacations. Horses are still an integral part of operations on cattle ranches so they take riding seriously and guests can often help significantly with the necessary work of moving or sorting cattle. Ranches that depend on horses to handle their cattle usually have responsive and athletic horses. These horses can do much more than just follow along in a nose to tail line and are a pleasure for guests with some equestrian ability to ride. If you are herding cattle, you need a horse with some get up and go which responds well in driving cattle even in rough terrain and is prepared to strike out on its own rather than just following a leader. Many horses get to love working cattle and become good at it so that it is a pleasure to work in partnership with them to accomplish the task at hand.
Of course it is not usually necessary to work cattle every day at ranches, but often they need to be checked on frequently to be sure they are in the right places and to check for wolf, puma and bear kills in a timely manner where these predators are a problem. The point is that horses at working ranches do have a purpose other than just giving people a ride. A working ranch like the Bitterroot in Wyoming or Los Potreros or Huechahue in Argentina have the character of a family farm as well and produce their own meat, many of the vegetables served to guests and raise their own horses. These places are self-sufficient to a great extent and have an atmosphere totally different from a resort. It is a disappearing way of life which used to be common, but there are still places where you can move back in time and experience this appealing life style. You will become part of the family as you ride and take meals with them.
The Bitterroot Ranch in Wyoming is located high in a remote valley. The Highland and Angus cows spend the summer grazing in the mountains of the national forest adjacent to the ranch. Wolf and grizzly bear attacks are an ever present threat and it is import to find kills quickly in order to get reimbursed for them by the state. Unless the carcass is found quite quickly there is usually no way to prove the cause of death as the evidence is soon devoured. The ranch also has a vegetable garden and raises horses and sheep. Aside from the aspect of a working ranch, the Bitterroot has an outstanding equestrian program with an extensive obstacle course for advanced riders, complimentary lessons, team-sorting competitions, wilderness pack trips and a wide variety of trail rides. Riding groups are carefully chosen according to skill level. Fishermen can enjoy a trout stream which flows through the property. The Bitterroot can offer guests a fine ranch riding vacation.
Los Potreros is a large cattle ranch in central Argentina run by four generations of an Anglo-Argentine family. They raise Black Angus cattle and are located in a secluded part of the mountains near Cordoba. Guests can help the colorful gauchos herd cattle or go on trail rides in the surrounding area. Visitors have a marvelous introduction to the picturesque culture of the Argentine gaucho which dates back to the 16th century. An interesting equestrian aspect of Los Potreros is that they have a polo field where those who wish can have an introduction to this famous sport. They are able to cater to different skill levels from beginners to experienced players.
Huechahue Estancia is located in the foothills of the Andes and has a very fine trout stream running through it with excellent fly fishing. It comes closest to complete self-sufficiency with an extensive garden as well as cows for milk and cheese. The ranch also raises pigs and keeps poultry for eating as well as fresh eggs. Huechahue has a prize Criollo stallion and they also raise and train their own horses. There are frequent opportunities to work cattle depending on the time of year and they run pack trips into the neighboring Andes.
At an authentic working cattle ranch you can ride with a purpose and experience another way of life. It is a vacation for true horse lovers where your equine companions have a vital role to play.
Bayard Fox / August, 2014