Summer Jobs on a Dude Ranch -
Right for You?
If a season spent traipsing through canyons, trotting the trails and strumming your guitar in the moonlight sounds appealing, then dude ranch job may fit the bill. It's an ideal opportunity for someone who loves every facet of outdoor life and isn't afraid to get dirty. Even if that someone's previous experience with horses consists of a stable full of My Little Ponies, the possibilities are endless. An open mind, positive attitude and sense of initiative mean more than a history on the range and will greatly facilitate your ranching success.
As hospitality businesses, dude ranches rely on strong, consistent customer service. They require employees who are warm, out-going, mature, friendly, helpful and cheerful. Because of the close interaction with guests, staff need to demonstrate these qualities at all hours and above and beyond the call of duty. This means not only smiling as you deliver lunch, but playing Pictionary with the kids for two hours before escorting Grandma back to her room. It also means that to enjoy a dude ranch job, you should honestly delight in interacting with guests and making their experiences memorable. If you don't like people (or animals, for that matter), you probably won't like ranches.
The isolation factor should also influence your decision to apply for a dude or guest ranch job. If you can't live without impromptu shopping trips or indulging your whim for Haagen Dazs, a ranch probably won't be the place for you. Most ranches deliberately limit their trips to town and discourage "modern" activities.
While some provide TV, DVD, and/or Internet facilities for staff, the general experience definitely harkens to simpler, earlier times. This applies to drugs, alcohol and tobacco, too; all ranches prohibit drugs and limit alcohol and tobacco, and some ban drinking and smoking all together. If you relax with a long walk in the woods instead of a long, cold beer, a ranch will offer everything you need.
Most importantly, you cannot be afraid to work hard. Dude ranch work is incredibly rewarding but also physically demanding, and rarely follows a particular schedule or offers direct supervision. With the benefits of variety come its costs. More than likely, you will wash dishes, make beds, and shovel poo. Of course, you will also gallop through streams and fly fish in the breeze, but if you're not keen to raise your hand for the more menial tasks, these advantages may not be worth it and your experience will be limited. As many ranches reach into the higher levels of atmosphere, you should also consider fitness levels. Even if you're willing to work hard, you need to be able to.
One ranch employee summed up the pros and cons to ranch work in a few simple phrases:
"The worst parts of working at a ranch include low paying positions, the isolation, and difficult weather. On the other hand, the best parts are doing what you love and being outside. It's all about location, location, location."
Another ranch's website offers candid comments from past employees:
"Thank you so very much for one of the most incredible experiences. I honestly feel privileged to have had the opportunity to work here, become a part of the 'ranch family' and experience a completely different style of living. I had a few expectations of what I would gain from this experience, but I could have never imagined just how gratifying and enjoyable this summer has been."