How to Run a Dude Ranch

by Sharyl Stockstill ; Updated September 26, 2017

People are looking for an adventure and something different when they go to a dude ranch. By providing a wide selection of activities, hearty meals and comfortable accommodations, you can be sure those who try you out will come back and bring others with them.

Each dude ranch is different. Some dude ranches are luxurious, while others are very basic. Keep your guests as happy as possible and your dude ranch will be successful.

Items you will need

  • Accommodations
  • Horses and tack
Step 1

Set up comfortable accommodations. Guests will need a place to sleep, bathrooms, and a place to eat. Most guests will be looking for the experience of living in the old west, but they will also want modern conveniences such as safe, comfortable sleeping quarters and private bathrooms. Set up your guest quarters to be multi-functional, if possible, perhaps by offering a large bed for parents and bunk beds for the kids. If a group of singles come, they can still use the same accommodations, but try to not mix groups as most people do not like being thrown in with a bunch of strangers when they are settling in for the night.

Step 2

Plan your activities. Most guests will be looking forward to riding horses. You should have horses available to handle a wide range of horsemanship skills from beginner to expert. Your guests may want to help you tend to the horses, so try to accommodate them if this is the case. Remember that they are paying to be entertained. Let them choose the activities they want to participate in and have other things they can do if they would rather.

Other activities can include working with cattle and livestock, going on trail rides or overnight campouts, bird-watching, learning to throw a rope, or wandering through a petting zoo. Campfires are always a popular activity for evenings.

Be sure to have backup plans in the event of a sudden storm forcing the cancellation of a trail ride. You could plan day trips for local sightseeing, or maybe an old-fashioned dance if you have a large group of people.

Step 3

Set up your meal plans well in advance. Guests will want good food and plenty of it. One of the best ways to get referrals and return guests is to provide them with something special. A good meal, possibly served family-style, is one way to break the ice between you and your guests. Have plenty of food stockpiled so you don't have to abandon your guests to go to the grocery store.

Tips

  • When a guest makes a reservation, ask what types of activities they expect. This will help you to entertain them.

    Find out if any anticipated guests have any food allergies or other diet restrictions, or other special needs that should be addressed in advance.

Warnings

  • Be sure to carry plenty of liability insurance. Accidents happen, no matter how gentle your livestock is.

    Keep first aid supplies stocked.