Top 10 Questions About Dryhead Ranch
Top 10 Questions Asked About Cattle Drive Vacations
10. Cattle Drive Vacations are better than Dude Ranch Vacations?
Dude ranch vacations are for people who are not avid horse riders. They cater more to the amenities people look for in a vacation: swimming pools, spa, game rooms, fishing. Cattle Drive vacations are a working ranch amenity. Our horses are cow horses trained to work cattle and help our guests feel like a real cowboy. Cattle Drives are work and that creates a partnership between a cowboy and a horse that is very thrilling.
9. What are Ranch Weeks?
This is one of the most often asked questions. Cattle Drives move cows from Wyoming where we spend the winter to the grassland pastures in Montana. Horse Drives do the same-we move horses to the ranch so we have horses to ride and back to Wyoming for the winter. Ranch weeks are all the working weeks we have when we are living at the ranch from May to November. These weeks are full of branding, getting cows settled on spring pastures, doctoring calves and heifers who get sick, breaking and training horses, weaning calves in the fall, pregnancy testing cows, making mare bands for breeding our horses, weaning colts off their mothers for training and selling. This is the heart of the ranch work that we share with guests who come to ride with us.
8. Why do we have Cattle Drives Vacations?
Our cattle winter in Wyoming because there is less snow in the Big Horn Basin than in the Pryor Mountains. Our farm pastures are without snow most of the winter because the snow falls on the mountain tops all around the Big Horn Basin. So, we keep our cattle in Lovell, Wyoming all winter and the cows have their calves. We do authentic cattle drives back down the historic old Sioux trail and through the Wild Horse Range/Big Horn Recreation Area and into Montana to the Dryhead Ranch where the spring pastures have native grass and lots of natural spring water. It takes us 4 days to trail cows and calves almost 50 miles. It is real and the weather is whatever comes in spring: wind, snow, rain, sunshine. It is hard as the calves get tired and they have to be pushed and guided from stopping places to leased pastures and then to the ranch. Lunch is not always at noon. We are on cow time.
7. What are Horse Drives?
Dryhead Ranch owns 140 head of horses. Some horses are cavvy horses that our guests and cowboys ride. Some are breeding stock, mares who have 20 head of colts each spring, stallions, and young horses we keep for training and selling. Several years ago, we found the need to take them to Wyoming for the winter and hauling them in stock trailers was to expensive so we began to trail them. The Horse Drives are two of our most popular weeks for the guest ranch season. We trail between 60 and 80 horses out of the ranch in late October and back into the ranch in mid-April. The mares stay at the ranch year round.
6. Where did the Dryhead Ranch gets it’s name?
Our ranch is on the Crow Indian Reservation. Indians lived and roamed our ranch country many years before the white man came to this part of the country. In the 1500’s before the Indians had horses or guns the buffalo was a large part of their Indian culture. The buffalo jump located in the canyon below the ranch was a central place where buffalo could be pushed off the canyon wall to kill enough of them to feed their tribe. Many groups of Indians used this buffalo jump so the Indians named that area “Dry Skull” because of all the buffalo bones that laid below the buffalo jump. Through the years the name evolved into the Dryhead country. The Dryhead Ranch was made into a ranch in 1898 when the Phelps family, who was part Indian, moved there and built the barns and buildings and ran cattle.
Joe Bassett bought the Dryhead Ranch with a partner in 1989. As a kid his uncle was the cowboy who managed the ranch for 35 years. Joe spent a lot of time helping his uncle, Tuff Abbott, ride and work cattle. From those growing up days Joe learned to love good cow horses and how to work cattle and how to ride big pastures and work in the Dryhead country. When Joe and Iris got married in 1947 it was always understood that dad would own cows and be a rancher. The start was slow but steady and in 1965 he had enough cows to buy the Schively ranch which was 12 miles away from the Dryhead Ranch and 2500 acres but it was his own. In 1983 we started the guest ranch business as it fit so well with the ranching business and offered an additional income using the same assets. We rode and had cows at both ranches for 15 years and took guests back and forth each week to take care of all the cows. We have been on the Dryhead Ranch exclusively since 2001 when we sold the Schively and centralized our efforts in one location.
4. Can I bring my own horse?
No. Dryhead Ranch is located at the foot of the Pryor Mountains and every direction that we ride is up the mountain or down the canyon. This is naturally rocky, brushy country. Our horses are raised here and learn from their mothers side how to place their feet and cross creeks and keep our guests safe on all our trails. It would be unkind to bring a horse that is not muscled up and conditioned for this type of riding. Health reasons are our second reason. We have an isolated horse cavvy that are not exposed to horse type diseases like strangles, West Nile, and etc. We cannot afford to expose them to these problems and still have horses to give to our guests to ride for 6 months out of the year. We just can’t have outside horses come to the ranch.
3. Do you have dogs?
Yes, quite a few. Our dogs are working dogs and they have a specific owner who takes his/her dogs with them to help them work cows. They are tied up all of the time so when they are let loose they know it is to go to work. No, we don’t recommend that you bring your dog here on vacation. You would have to keep it kenneled and not in the cabins or rooms. We do have a vet in Lovell who kennels dogs for the week, if that is of interest.
2. What are some of the wild animals around the ranch?
We hear a lot of coyotes. We have rabbits, whistle pigs, sage hens, mountain lions (which we never see), brown and black bears (which we see in the fall) deer, antelope, elk (which we never see), snakes (which we kill if they rattle). The area has some of the best fishing in the USA so we see a few trout in the creek and beavers down the canyon.
Most all our guests plan to see Yellowstone National Park as part of their Working Ranch experience. That is one of the 7 Wonders of the World, so I recommend taking at least 2 days to drive through Yellowstone National Park. It is only 2 hours from the ranch.
Cody, Wyoming is a great western town with lots of touristy stuff to do but the best is the Cody Nite Rodeo from June 1-September 3. Everyone needs to see a rodeo and these are home town supported with cowboys as well as the Cody community has a gun fight on main street every day and great shopping. It is only 1 hour from the ranch and a good place to go on to Yellowstone National Park.
Buffalo Bill Historical Museum is one of the best in the USA and is located right there in Cody, Wyoming. The museum offers Western Art, Cowboy and Indian historic chuckwagons, teepees, arrowheads, clothing and history. Best Remington gun collection in the country and other famous cowboy guns and information. It is a great place to visit. Spend at least a day.
Custer Battle Field is an interesting historical place to see lots of Indian history as well as learn about the battle Custer and his army had with the Indians. The Crow Indians also offer several historical reinactments and a Crow rodeo there in Crow Agency each summer.
There is a Dinosaur Museum in Thermopolis, Wyoming that has several dinosaurs that were found near Thermopolis. The Wind River Canyon is also in that area and a beautiful place to drive through.
Frannie, Wyoming has a great tack store that is one of the best in this rural western horse riding area. If you drive to the ranch, it is a great place to stop and shop. They have saddles, all kinds of tack, western riding equipment, western jewelry, bits, spurs, cowboy vests, chinks that he can make for you and ones that are already made.
Red Lodge, Montana a great town to stop in on your way through the northwest entrance to the Yellowstone Park. Over Beartooth pass is a great scenic route to get into the park.
Interested in a Cattle Drive Vacation? Send us Your Questions or Comments.
One of my favorite images from MT last summer at the Dryhead Ranch was chosen as the Opening Shot in this month’s February 2020 issue of Western Horseman magazine! Watching James ride Yeller and rope his calf was truly one of the highlights of my trip. The determination and seriousness on his face is priceless! Lol Good thing two grown cowboys were nearby to help out. -Pam Gabriel Photography
The future belongs to the few that are still willing to get their hands dirty. Thanks to all the farmers and ranchers for keeping us well fed. -PhyllisBurchettPhoto
So excited to open the May edition of Western Horseman magazine April 2020. It be honest, during all of the craziness that is currently happening, it’s been very hard for me to stay positive about my small business. The opening shot couldn’t have come at a better time for me! Stay healthy and happy, my friends! I hope to photograph you all in the coming months. -Hilary Bishop