Preparing for Cattle Drive Vacations

Getting ready for successful cattle drive vacations is 10 percent perspiration and 90 percent preparation. Now, while it is not strictly necessary to wear in your boots and jeans before you show up for your cattle drive vacation, but we can tell you from experience that it definitely doesn’t hurt. Definitely bring a great attitude, a strong work ethic, and a hefty dose of grit. We’ll work on the rest.

At Dryhead Ranch, our cattle drive vacations begin long before we ever hit the trail. It’s hard to imagine the sort of preparation that goes into a successful drive if you’ve never done it before. On your cattle drive holiday, you will have a hands-on experience every step of the way.

This means gathering tack and handling grub, brushing horses and packing gear, and most importantly listening to expert instruction from our Trail Boss. The Trail Boss is your ultimate authority out on the range; his years of experience driving cattle and riding the West country insures you will be ready to tackle the sometimes tricky work of making cows go where you want to go.

Once everything is ready to go, you will likely get up before the break of dawn to start the ride into the range. Our horses are born and bred for this work. They love nothing more than taking their riders out to herd cattle. Just be prepared for a good long ride. There are more than 800 head of cattle out there and a lot of range to cover.

Once you reach the range, our Trail Boss will pair your with an experienced cowboy who will take one of many carefully-chosen positions around the herd. Driving cattle back to Dryhead Ranch can be a leisurely experience… even kids will have no trouble keeping up, and we make allowances for all skill levels. But don’t let that fool you. The first rule of the drive is “Keep your head up!”

Working on the range can be tough, but once you get back home, there are more than a few creature comforts available. Now, when we say “creature comforts,” we don’t mean Jacuzzi tubs and scented candles. S’more, campfire, and excellent company is a little more like it.

This is because cows don’t always go where you want them to go. It is up to the trail boss, his team of cowboys, and our seasonal help (that means you!) to keep track of all the cattle until they reach the lush grazing lands at Dryhead ranch. Years of experience and keen instincts tell the trail boss and his cowboys where to drive the cattle, but only diligence and perseverance make sure the job gets done.

Along the line, our guests enjoy food from our chuck wagon and the incomparable experience of bonding over victories and challenges on the range with our seasoned staff. They help count and identify the cattle, using ear tags and brands to make sure Dryhead Ranch cows are coming home and everybody else isn’t. Most importantly, they learn valuable trade skills you can’t get anywhere else.

Driving cattle is hard work, but it is also deeply rewarding. There is nothing like hanging up your bridle at the end of a successful drive and settling in with a warm cup of coffee and a bunch of new friends to talk about what went great, what went bad, and what will happen next. This is the sort of thing you can only get on authentic cattle drive vacations with Dryhead Ranch.

We’d love you to come and give us a hand on our next drive. We love herding cattle, but we love sharing the excitement and reward of the ranch life even more!

Working Ranch Guide to Tack

Whether you are a veteran rider or just a beginner on your first cattle drive vacation, it pays to know the language of tack. Though you might not use every piece of equipment we mention in this article on your working ranch vacation, understanding the language of tack will help you be one step ahead of your game on your working cattle drive vacation.

On the range, success often means having the right gear and knowing how to use it. If you are not already, familiarize yourself with these tack terms. You’ll be glad you did when it comes time to saddle up and embark on your cattle drive vacation.

Cattle Drive Vacation: Real Work

Anyone who has ever worked with their hands knows this: using the right tool makes all the difference. During a cattle drive holiday at Dryhead Ranch, you will learn all about the specialized gear that makes Montana cattle drives possible.

Saddles

Most people are familiar with the saddle. The saddle acts as a seat while horseback riding. It is typically made of leather and requires meticulous care to maintain, both for the comfort of the rider and the horse.

Surcingle

A surcingle is a strap that fastens around a horse’s girth region. It is used to hold the saddle in place.

Crupper

A “crupper” is occasionally used to add even more stability to the saddle. It is composed of a padded loop, usually leather, with one side attached to the saddle and the other around the base of the horse’s tail.

Breeching

Breeching, also known simply as a “horse harness,” is the series of straps used when a horse is used to pull a cart or other implement. Chances are, you will not see much breeching during your working ranch vacation.

Saddle Blanket

A saddle blanket is used between the horse’s back and the saddle to ensure the horse’s comfort during riding.

Stirrups

Stirrups are foot straps designed for added stability, especially during hard riding. They hang down from either side of the saddle.

Bridles

A bridle is a head harness used to direct the horse. Some people consider the entirety of the head gear, including the bit and the reins, as the “bridle.” Others might exclude the bit and reins, referring only to the harness.

Hackamores

Hackamores, or bitless bridles, are stiff nosebands used to direct horses. They are often used to train young horses and in Western riding.

Reins

The reins (depending on who you ask) attach to the bridle and are held in the rider’s hands. The rider uses the reins to direct the horse.

Bits

The bit is a piece of metal or other hard material held in the toothless region of a horse’s mouth by the headstall (unless you consider the bit and the headstall to be a part of the bridle, that is). It is used along with the reins to direct the horse.

Halters

Halters are bitless head harnesses which can accept a rope or lead for leading a horse while walking.

Horsing Around on a Working Cattle Ranch Vacation

Learn from the best! On a cattle drive vacation, you will have opportunities to work along real cowboys and see how they get things done. A hands-on education is the best kind of education, and Dryhead Ranch is excited to show you the ropes.

Now that you know a little about tack, you can confidently talk equestrian with our seasoned staff during your working ranch vacation. Horses will be a big part of the adventure. They are an indispensable part of any cattle drive. Come learn a little more about horses with us here at Dryhead ranch. Book your cattle drive vacation today.

Authentic cattle drive vacations take place in the great outdoors. For those who are considering their first cattle drive retreat, there are few questions more important than this one: “What should I pack?”

Cattle Drive Gear Rules

Venturing out on the range with the right gear can make the difference between a really good time and one you might later recall as “challenging.” Luckily. packing well for the outdoors means following just a few simple rules. Do the right thing and invest in good gear.

Packing for an outdoor adventure is not the same thing as packing for a typical vacation. First of all, those shorts? You might want to leave them back at the house. Shorts and cowboy boots look sort of strange together, not to mention the way exposed lower legs tend to receive the brunt of the damage the range has to offer. Rocks, sand, sage brush, critters, horse and cow stuff… these are all things you should avoid making contact with. A nice well-worn pair of denim jeans seems to work well enough for us.

So, now that we have been over the shorts thing, let’s talk Gear Rules for your Montana cattle drive vacation.

Rule 1: Weight Is the Enemy

Cattle drives, just like any expeditionary outdoor adventure, involve moving from point “A” to point “B.” Now, this might seem like a simple-enough proposition, but the fact is this: every bit of weight a person takes out into the field means an extra bit of weight that person must carry around all the time. It might not seem like much, but added weight here and there really add up.

Rule 2: Use the Right Tools

Luckily for us, many manufacturers have designed outdoor gear in utilizing cutting-edge materials that are warm, light-weight, and packable. You might pay a premium for the latest synthetic-insulation mid layer, but when you’ve been out all day and you’re still comfortable, you’ll thank yourself.

Rule 3: Layers are Your Friend

Most outdoor gear systems are comprised of three layers: The base layer sits next to the skin. Its job is to regulate heat and moisture where you notice it the most. The mid layers are next; mid layers are usually specific to the needs of the task at hand. A nice fleece might be adequate for a crisp Spring ride; an 850-fill-power down jacket might be required for a winter foray. The shell layer forms the final layer of protection between you and the elements. Its job is to keep out rain and wind, especially if worn over a mid layer that doesn’t perform well when wet.

Rule 4: Pack It Up

A good day-pack carries your water, snacks, personal effects, and layers shed over the course of the day. A backpack with 22-30 liters of carrying capacity should work great for day-long adventures. A larger solution might be necessary for longer trips.

Cattle Drive Vacation Gear

Obviously, there are some things that you might need on a cattle drive that you probably won’t pack. Don’t worry. Our experienced team of expert cowboys are prepared for things you have never even thought of.

Montana and Wyoming offer an excellent opportunity to try out all your outdoor gear in an environment sure to test your mettle. For more information about what to bring on your cattle drive vacation, give the folks down at Dryhead Ranch a call today. They are waiting to help you prepare for a vacation you will never forget.

Horse Anatomy

Without horses, we could never host cattle drive vacations. You couldn’t call cattle smart exactly, but they can be clever. More than that, they still possess the herd instincts of their wild auroch forebears. They can evade and confuse with the best of them, using herd dynamics to make life difficult for any creature trying to move them around. Man on foot is hopeless against cattle: not only are cattle fast when they need to be, but they are also dangerous if they want to be. It takes other herd animals and the guidance of a skilled team of riders to make the herd go where it needs to go. Horses fit the bill exactly.

Dryhead Ranch isn’t just a premier cattle drive vacation destination… it is also home to world-renowned quarter-horses. We take horses very seriously here at the ranch, and we hope you do too.

Cattle Drive Horse Terminology

The equestrian world is full of specific terminology. Thanks to the fact that putting a leather saddle on a thousand-pound animal that walks on its tiptoes is a very specialized thing, horse people tend to use very specialized language. In the case of horses, it is especially important to know the anatomical terms we use for body parts people don’t have. For instance, do you know where your croup is? Can you identify your fetlock? If not, read on. We’ll start from the back and end with the withers.

Back

Where the saddle sits.

Barrel

The wide part of the horse formed by the ribs. Most of the organs are in here.

Buttock

The part of the hindquarters behind the thighs and in front of the dock.

Cannon

A very long hand or foot bone with the fetlock hoof at the end of it, though people sometimes call it a “shin.”

Chestnut

Not actually a nut, but rather one of (up to) four callous-like protrusion on the upper inner legs of a horse.

Chin Groove

Behind the lower lip and chin. The curb chain can go here.

Coupling

The loin.

Coronet

Sort of like your cuticle, this is where the outer surface of the hoof comes from.

Crest

The mane comes out here.

Croup

The tops of the hindquarters.

Dock

The part of the tail that isn’t just hair.

Elbow

The joint of the front leg where the leg meets the belly. Just like your elbow, but you have a longer humerus.

Ergot

Like a chestnut, but on the fetlock.

Face

Above the top lip, below the forehead.

Fetlock

Right above the hoof, a joint sort of like a joint at the end of your toe.

Flank

Where the barrel meets the hind legs.

Forearm

Somehow, on a horse, this is between the knee and the elbow.

Forehead

Where you might expect it to be, which is right in front of the poll.

Forelock

The part of the mane that falls on the forehead.

Frog

The soft back under-part of the hoof.

Gaskin

Like your calf muscle.

Girth

The part behind the elbow where you might strap on a saddle. Also the widest part of the barrel.

Hindquarters

Above the stifle, behind the barrel.

Hock

The big back leg joint, which is like your ankle.

Hoof

Like the foot of the horse, but more like finger- and toe tips with the world’s toughest nails.

Jugular Groove

Where the jugular vein goes.

Knee

The big bone in the front leg, which is like your wrist.

Loin

Right behind the saddle, from the last rib to the croup.

Mane

Long hair growing on the ridge of the neck.

Muzzle

Where the mouth and nostrils are.

Pastern

The bones between the hoof and the fetlock.

Poll

The joint at the beginning of the neck; also, the big bump on the top of the head.

Root of the Tail

Where the dock is attached to the rump.

Shoulder

Goes from the withers to the points of the shoulders.

Splints

Two skinny little bones on either side of all four cannon bones.

Stifle

Like your knee, if you had really short femurs and really long feet.

Tail

The long hairs coming out of the dock, and also (sometimes) the dock.

Throatlatch

Where the windpipe slips in under the jaw.

Withers

The tip tops of the spine bones between the shoulders.

Working Ranch Horse Getaway

Can you identify all the important parts of this horse? If you have a tablet, screencap this picture or just save it and then use your stylus to label each piece! Learning is what cattle drive vacations at Dryhead Ranch are all about.

So, now that your know how to talk about horses, it’s time to put that new knowledge to good use. Give us a call here at Dryhead Ranch today to talk about booking your own cattle drive horse vacation. We guarantee you’ll be able to brush up on your equestrian anatomical terminology while you’re here.

Interested in a Cattle Drive Vacation? Send us Your Questions or Comments.

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I just came home from a week at the Dryhead Ranch and wanted to thank Iris, Jennifer, Jackie, and Jake for the greatest vacation I have ever had! I have always wanted to see Montana and this experience was more than I ever hoped for. The bunkhouse, food, horses, scenery and hospitality shown by this wonderful family is something I will always fondly remember. I came home with answers and this really did change my life in a…read more

Third time and keeps getting better! A big thanks to Jake, Sky, Jennifer, Jackie, Cannon, Suzie, and everyone else at the Dryhead for making my third trip to the ranch so much fun. We really got to experience a little bit of everything last week! The other guests and I really got along and seemed like had I had known them for years instead of just a few days. The warm family atmosphere at the…read more

For many of you, the Dryhead Ranch experience is a once in a life time event. For me, it was a twice in a lifetime event, 1995 and 1997. Last night, I was excited to hear from my wife that she would LOVE to experience the Dryhead-Shivley world!!! So for me, it will be a three time experience and to be able to share it wife my wife Cindy, just makes it even more special.…read more

I'm from London and I went to this ranch when I was 13 years old with my older brother. I am now 29! I remember having my cowgirl boots with the spurs and everything. I can honestly say it was one of the best experiences I have EVER had and I still have some pictures to prove it! I remember Jen taking the video and me calling Iris (momma) because that is my mother's name. Great memories that will stay with…read more

Just came back from the most amazing vacation ever. The people at the Dryhead Ranch opened their hearts and homes to us as if we were family. I've already booked for a second run at this next year. If anyone ever wants this type of experience, I recommend this ranch with 5 stars... See you in 2014! - Denise Christensen, September 30, 2013

Most amazing experience ever! A visit at the Dryhead Ranch is an experience of a lifetime and being here puts your whole life back into perspective. I should really do this more often! - Desiree Lesger, October 31, 2014

Wonderful vacation! We all felt so welcome and cared for. Scenery and horses were beyond words, Great place for families or even singles. We did the horse round up and it is certainly an experience we will cherish forever. Thank You! - Michele Doherthy, July 1, 2015

Best vacation we ever had. Matter of fact, we're going again this year! - Janet Hopgood Zintgraff, August 5, 2015

This is the kind of experience that stays with you long after you have left. I have so many happy memories and I cannot wait to go back. I have been twice already! - Ryan Hall, September 2015

I've had the pleasure of being part of the group twice. It's an experience I hold close to my heart and I'll never forget. No vacation has ever come close to my time in Montana. The mountains, the family, the hospitality are amazing!!! It's on my bucket list once more before I die. One day when hiking up to the top of a hill and looking out into the vastness I thought "this must be what heaven is…read more