Dude Ranching for us is primarily about families. And while we do have a wonderful “Adults Only” time in September, the three main months of the summer are primarily families who come to share an all-inclusive, adventure vacation with our family. We do have couples and groups and we love them. But the backbone of the ranch is sharing our lifestyle and family with other families.
We run the ranch with my husband’s parents and we have three children ourselves, as well as nieces who come down from Denver regularly. It has been so informative to have them be part of our Buckaroo Program (ages 3-5), the Cowpoke Program (6-11 year olds) and now the Teen Program (12-17 year olds). As parents, we want our children to be fully engaged and to learn even as they have a great time. We, like our guest-family parents, are thrilled that our kids are far removed from Game Boys and cell phones and constant texting. As dude ranchers, we want to pass on the traditions of a western lifestyle and promote all the positive things that come from close contact with horses, with outstanding role-models as represented by our staff members and of course the great and spectacular outdoors.
But the most rewarding of all is watching the teens transform over the week… We see so many of them who truly do not want to be on vacation with their parents, and certainly not at a dude ranch doing “cheesy” things. Then you add the horror of no cell phone service (we do have Wi-Fi) and activities like dancing (OMG~!) in the evenings, and you can literally feel their resistance. This usually lasts, at max, through part of Monday, which is dedicated to family rides. But as they meet the other teens and families and want to hang out with the fun teen counselor, you can absolutely see them start to change. By Saturday afternoon at the ranch rodeo, they are cheering each other, and everyone else, on and they are hugging their horses goodbye with tears in their eyes. And Sunday morning as families start to leave to go back home, there are emails and phone numbers being exchanged, promises of Facebook “friending” and desperate pleas to parents to book for next year right now!
The transformation from surly teen to happy teen is something beautiful to watch and the best part of it is that it happens every Sunday, for going on twenty great years now of family dude ranching at Rainbow Trout Ranch.