Ever since the hit movie “City Slickers” was released back in 1991 (and even before), thousands of city dwellers have booked a week or two at a “dude ranch” as a way to get out into the country for a while and get close to nature.
This is also the sort of “adventure vacation” that appeals to a lot of people, without being too adventurous (or too dangerous). And as a result of the growing popularity of this type of getaway, there is also a growing need for professional wranglers to work with the horses (and help entertain the visitors) at these ranches.
And so if this type of work appeals to you, you should know that there are more and more opportunities for wranglers around the country, although competition for the top jobs can be fierce.
Typically wrangers work both seasonally and year-round, and spend the majority of their time outdoors and in spectacular scenery. Dude ranches are usually located in some of the most breathtaking parts of the country, which means that as a wrangler you’ll be spending your work days in beautiful wilderness settings and surrounded by fun, energetic people.
You’ll also be spending a lot of time tending to and caring for horses, so this is an ideal job for a horse lover. You’ll also be meeting and getting to know interesting people from all over the world. Although the work can be hard, and the hours long, most professional wranglers wouldn’t trade their jobs for anything in the world.
About the job
As you might imagine, the wrangler’s primary job is to care for the horses at the dude ranch or vacation ranch, and help the guests with their riding. Many visitors to these ranches have never been on the back of a horse before, and so need quite a bit of instruction on safety and proper riding techniques.
Some other duties ascribed to most wranglers include:
- The feeding and grooming of the horses at the ranch.
- Packing and saddling horses for long and short trail rides.
- Providing detailed riding instructions to visitors.
- Taking guests on cattle drives and trail rides.
- Repairing equipment, buildings, and mending fences around the ranch as needed.
- Helping to entertain the guests, and participating in social events such as hay rides and dances.
What the job is really like
If you like being outdoors much of the time, you will enjoy working as a professional wrangler. Wranglers are outside most of the time, working with horses, ranch guests, and even cattle at times. This is a perk of the job, as spending time in spectacular scenery and pristine wilderness areas makes work seem more like a vacation at times.
But make no mistake, wranglers work hard for their money. Long hours, weekends, and hard physical labor go with the territory when working as a wrangler. Most are up before dawn to feed the horses, and sometimes stay up late into the night as they help to entertain guests at dances and other events.
Typically wrangler jobs are seasonal in nature. The busiest time for guest ranches in warmer parts of the country are late fall through mid spring.
In colder climates it’s late spring into about mid fall. Because of this fact, it’s not unusual for wranglers to work and live in different parts of the country at different times of the year. This can make it tough on family life, and many wranglers are single as a result.
Many wranglers start the profession early, often right out of high school. As you might expect, the majority of wranglers are male, although there are more and more women give the job a try these days as well.
Also, some wranglers find jobs on working cattle ranches that do not provide guest services, either full-time or part time when they can’t find work on a dude or vacation ranch.
Training and certification
Although no formal training is required to be a wrangler, most dude and vacation ranches tend to hire workers with at least a high school diploma or GED. Strong riding skills and experience with horses is a must as well.
There are some outfits who will hire eager trainees with little or no horse experience for summer jobs, sometimes without pay is a good way to learn the ropes and develop an “in” with a particular dude ranch.