HORSEBACK RIDING & CATTLE WORK AT BONANZA CREEK RANCH
The Bonanza Creek horses are almost all Quarter Horses with a few Paints and Appaloosas sprinkled in for color, and a few Draft Horse crosses for size. These solid, hearty and sure-footed animals are the iconic horse of the American West. Many are former ranch horses, and all are familiar with our terrain. If you’ve never ridden one, you’re in for a treat.
We own approximately 40 guest horses and only have 8 -12 guests per week. This ensures that our horses are well-rested and in excellent shape for the entire season. It also means that we have a large selection to choose from when matching horses to guests.
Each guest will start the week with a horse chosen just for them. We have a pretty good track record of making good matches, but we’re always willing to make a change if you, or we, feel the match isn’t right.
During the season our horses live in a 500 acre pasture where they have lots of room to roam. Even the horses that are being used for the week are turned out to pasture each evening after the day’s ride. In the off-season the horses are turned out to an even larger 3000 acre pasture. Our horses definitely live the good life.
Meet our horses…
Bonanza Creek is a true horse riding guest ranch and we’re a great fit for guests with riding experience. We spend long hours in the saddle (4-6 hours each day) and ride a wide variety of breathtaking terrain including steep climbs and descents. (You’ll get a good sense of the variety of our beautiful country from the many photos on this website.) It’s important for your enjoyment, and the enjoyment of the other guests, that you’re physically fit and have riding experience and saddle time before you arrive. We unfortunately cannot accommodate novice riders.
We ask that ALL riders be comfortable in the saddle and able to control a horse and ride at a canter in open country. On advanced rider weeks, riders will be picking it up a notch with a good gallop or two across the wide open spaces on a spirited horse. We will match you to the right horse for your ability whether it be intermediate or advanced. How adventurous are you?
All riders must be physically able to mount their horse unassisted. While we have a mounting block available at the stable, on the trail, stumps, rocks and high ground will provide the only mounting assistance.
The weight limit for riding is 225 – 250 lbs, depending upon height and physical condition. Pregnant women cannot ride. We welcome families with kids age 8 and older with riding experience.
Come and enjoy a kid-free atmosphere with other adult riders (18 and over). Seven weeks of riding and fun just for you.
2018: June: 17th, 24th, July: 15th, August: 5th, 19th, 26th, September: 2nd, 9th
ADULT ADVANCED RIDERS
We’ve set aside four of the Adult weeks for ADVANCED RIDERS only. We have lots of well trained horses with plenty of get up and go for advanced riders. You must be able to safely gallop in open country as these rides are faster and longer, and cover varied and challenging terrain. Rides will include some steep ascents and descents. Past advanced riding experience (preferably in the recent past) and good fitness is a must.
2018: June: 17th, August: 5th, 19th, September: 2nd
ADULT INTERMEDIATE RIDERS
Two weeks are set aside for INTERMEDIATE RIDERS who know how to ride in varied terrain and are comfortable at a canter in open country but prefer less fast paced and challenging rides on a good responsive horse. Being fit is a must. ADVANCED RIDERS are also welcome this week.
2018: June: 24th, July: 15th, August: 26th, September: 9th
RIDERS OF ALL AGES (8-78!) WEEKS
We’ve set aside one for families, groups, and individuals with a variety of riding abilities at the intermediate level and above. Please review our information on this page regarding minimum riding ability requirements. Our terrain and rides are not suitable for the novice rider. 2018: July: 1st
Riding in this big country with other good riders who love to ride is an incredible experience. Come and enjoy the freedom of riding in open, unspoiled country where for generations ranchers have tended to the land, sheep, cattle and horses. You’ll ride not only on the beautiful Voldseth ranch, but also on the vastness of the Helena Lewis and Clark National Forest. The views and the experience will stay with you forever.
With country as big as this, there is an endless variety of rides we can take our guests on. The rides chosen for each week will vary based on the weather, time of year, time available, and preferences and make-up of the guests. The altitude of the rides will vary from 5200 feet to as high as 8300 feet above sea level. This country has a wide variety of terrain – large pastures, woods and streams, rocky and aromatic sage brush-filled hillsides, gentle and not so gentle, climbs and descents, open country – and you’ll get to see it all. We ride four to six hours each day.
Two rides that, weather permitting, we offer every week are:
- The Breakfast Ride: Saddle up for an early morning, relaxing ride though the picturesque woods beside bubbling Bonanza Creek to a stream-side campfire where our cook and his team will be waiting with a hearty breakfast. Dismount, tie your horse, and saddle up to some chow. Then mount again and finish a wonderful morning ride.
- The All Day Ride: You’ll pack a lunch and hit the trail for a full day in the saddle. The Helena Lewis and Clark National Forest is full of many wonders —- a real memory maker.
Cattle work is usually done once or twice a week. Moving herds from pasture to pasture, bringing the bulls home, checking for sick or injured cattle, or moving the cattle to better grass and water is all great fun. It’s great to have a job to do on horseback.
For cattle work, riders should be proficient enough to ride on their own without a wrangler by their side. However, don’t worry that you need to already be an experienced cowboy. Our wranglers, who grew up in this country working with horses and cattle, will give you instruction on how to work with cattle and how to accomplish the specific task.
For those looking for a little variety and sport in their riding, team penning can’t be beat! It will test your skills, regardless of your riding level. Who will win —- the cows or the riders??
Team Penning is a western horseback riding sport that evolved from the common ranch work of separating cattle into pens for branding, doctoring, or transport. It’s a fast-paced event that gives a team of three riders on horseback a set amount of time to separate three specifically identified cattle from a herd and put them into a pen at the opposite end of the arena. Sounds easy enough, right?
Ranching is not just a business, it’s a way of life. And it’s a 365 day a year commitment. Regardless of the weather, holidays, or any other plans we may have, the cattle have to be taken care of.
There are four main seasons on a working cattle ranch: calving, branding, haying and shipping
Of course these are just the highlights and in no way includes all of the work involved in running a cattle ranch. There is always work that needs to be done – repairing fences, moving cows from one pasture to another, checking the condition of the cows, feeding the cows in the winter, irrigating the 1,500 acres of hay fields, equipment maintenance, gathering and caring for the horses, etc.
Calving season begins with the heifers (the 2 year olds that are calving for the first time). They begin calving at the end of February and will usually be done around the end of March. The three year olds and older cows will begin calving at the end of March and usually will continue until the end of April.
At the end of April and the beginning of May we brand all the calves. This usually takes 5-8 days scheduled according to the weather. The calves are vaccinated, branded, and the left ear is cropped for identification purposes. The branding process is very quick to minimize the stress on the calves and quickly return them to their mothers.
During the summer months we hay approximately 1,500 acres of land. We put up approximately 5,000 round bales (that is equivalent to over 100,000 small square bales). Each round hay bale weighs approximately 1,700 lbs. With one swather, two balers, and one rake, it will take us two months with a crew of 4-5 people to get this job done! During the winter months, we feed this hay to our cows.
In October the steer calves are sold and shipped to a feed lot in Iowa. Approximately half of the heifers (female calves) are kept for replacements and the other half are then sold to either a feed lot or another ranch. For a working cattle ranch this is Pay Day, the culmination of what we have been working towards all year.