The genesis of Equitours goes back to 1971 when Bayard Fox bought the Bitterroot Ranch in northwest Wyoming and began to operate it as a dude and cattle ranch. He had dreamed of living on a ranch in the Rocky Mountain West since 1943 when he made the four day journey from Philadelphia to Seattle on a train pulled by a coal burning locomotive and spent two weeks with his father on a pack trip around Yellowstone Park. After graduating from Yale he joined the CIA and worked for 20 years, mainly overseas, before beginning his second career as a rancher.
One of the problems with a dude ranch in northwest Wyoming is that the guest season is only about four months leaving far too much down time. Bayard’s wife, Mel, had lived for much of her life in East Africa where riding safaris were just getting started in 1978. Bayard and Mel began leading groups in the winter to ride through the renowned Masai Mara Game Reserve in Kenya. It was very remote and unspoiled in those early days and every safari was filled with adventures.
Around this time we made contact with Silvia Frech, a Swiss lady, who had a riding tour company selling trips in Morocco, France, Portugal, Ireland and Italy. In those days the riding tour was a virtually unknown concept in America. Silvia suggested that we should send American customers on the rides she had organized. This happy cooperation continued for several years until Silvia retired and the Foxes struck off on their own.
While the Kenya safaris were becoming popular in the early ‘80s so were the other rides around the world. In the early years Bayard ran the business with one assistant out of a tiny converted chicken house on the ranch communicating with Equitours outfitters around the world mostly by telex. As business grew he could no longer cope with it alone and set up an office in Dubois (pop. 1,000), 25 miles away and the nearest town to the ranch. More local employees were hired and they have been with Equitours now for from 15 to 25 years. They take great pride in their jobs and have been a vital factor in making Equitours the company it is today. These dedicated ladies are all horse people and have taken many Equitours rides overseas so they can advise guests with the benefit of first hand experience.
In this line of business financial profits are small, but the life style suits the Fox Family perfectly. The family business now includes Mel and Bayard’s son Richard Fox, and his wife, Hadley, another Yale graduate, whom Richard met while guiding a safari in Kenya.
The Foxes live on a ranch with their animals in a beautiful setting and have frequent opportunities to ride around the world from India to Argentina and from Ireland to Africa. There is a healthy mix of intellectual and physical activity. They have met and established long lasting friendships with the fabulous characters who are Equitours outfitters around the world. Above all they have the opportunity to ride and interact with hundreds of their guests every year on the ranch and on foreign trips, forming wonderful bonds with diverse and interesting people from many places and walks of life with whom they have much in common. It has given the Foxes great satisfaction to know that thousands of people have gained a better understanding and appreciation of foreign countries and their cultures through taking these riding tours. By the same token, these visits have improved the image of America in the minds of the local people they have encountered during their visits. Another huge plus is that it helps keep hundreds of horses happy and healthy throughout the world.