Life on any ranch means getting up early to start work. Whether you're cleaning bathrooms, repairing a tractor or taking a group on a guided trail ride, sleeping in isn't really an option. You won't find many luxuries on a ranch either. There are exceptions to this rule: Some guest ranches are more like vacation resorts that allow guests to experience a taste of ranch life, but a working ranch is a different story. Many guest ranches are essentially working ranches that employ seasonal workers.
Meals on a large ranch are served cafeteria-style in a large dining hall. On overnight trail rides, dinner is cooked over a camp fire. Seasonal workers share cabins or bunk rooms, while permanent caretakers typically have their own modest house on the ranch property.
Daily tasks will usually involve basic things like feeding the horses and maintaining their tack, housekeeping, preparing meals and other basic chores. Ranch caretakers have to be adaptable, though, because new tasks will crop up on a regular basis. You might have to fix a chainsaw that has stopped working, help a mare birth a foal in the middle of the night, or deal with a sudden snowstorm.
Caretakers do get free time -- once all the work is done. They explore the outdoors, hang out with the other caretakers and ranch workers, or pursue a hobby of their own.
Things can be different for permanent caretakers. They treat the ranch as if it's their own. Some ranch owners leave the ranch during the winter months, leaving the caretaker there to manage things in their absence. Caretakers may earn a nominal hourly wage or they might earn equity in the ranch. This allows them to be paid from the ranch's profits, and the arrangement may help caretakers to take ownership of the ranch eventually.
For more information about ranch life, take a look at the links on the next page.
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- Dunn, Gary. "Life as a Caretaker on a Montana Ranch." Countryside & Small Stock Journal, Nov/Dec. 2000.
- Dunn, Thea K. "Make Yourself At Home: Get Local as a Property Caretaker." Gonomad.com, accessed Dec. 3, 2009.
- Caretaker Gazette. "Caretaking: A way of life - Profile of Glen Horton III." accessed Dec. 2, 2009.