How Ranch Caretakers Work

What You Need to Know to Be a Ranch Caretaker

Riding on horseback.
Experience with horses is essential to working on a ranch.

There are many different jobs on a ranch, each of which requires different skills and knowledge. The one thing all ranch jobs have in common is hard work. There's a lot of physical labor involved, whether you're clearing trails or shoveling out the stables. You need to be in decent physical condition to perform most ranch jobs well. You'll also be outdoors most of the time, so hiking and camping experience is crucial.

Many dude ranches offer training as part of their seasonal work programs, but workers with experience in certain areas will have an advantage over other applicants. If you're vying for a permanent caretaker job on a working ranch, you'll definitely need to have the right skills ahead of time.

The most popular ranch jobs are wrangling and cowboy or cowgirl jobs. To qualify for these, you need to be good at horseback riding, and you should know how to feed and take care of healthy and sick horses alike. Some basic maintenance skills are helpful as well, since you might be called on to repair a broken fence or paint a barn. Wranglers often serve as trail guides for other guests, so dudes with teaching and instruction skills are useful, as well as those who can work well with children. In fact, a gregarious personality is a must for a wrangler on a dude ranch. While caring for the horses is a priority, you'll have to interact with other guests and keep them entertained with stories and jokes as you teach them new things or guide them along trails.

If you're not good with horses, there are still plenty of other ranch jobs available. Ranches always need cooks, mechanics, housekeepers and food servers. If the ranch offers a day care center for guests and employees, that opens another possibility for work.

On the next page, we'll explore life as a ranch caretaker.