Like most trade groups, dude ranchers have a trade association that they can make application to join. In owning and managing Marble Mountain Ranch, I have resisted the call to join the Dude Ranch Association (DRA) for over 20 years. Why? The reasons were myriad, but largely placed in my perception of a poor fit between Marble Mountain Ranch and the larger dude ranch industry.
Traditional dude ranches put clients in the saddle for long hours while working on cattle drives, penning, or on extended trail rides. Non horse-related adventures such as rafting were largely absent in the original dude ranch business model. The last thing I wanted was to end up with a ranch client who was not getting what they were expecting because we were not “horsey enough”.
Times have changed. The modern dude ranch must meet an evolving demand from the public that calls for a more diverse activity offering. Frankly, not many travelers can survive the longer saddle hours of traditional dude ranching. The modern dude ranch audience also frequently travels with mixed interest groups. While horses may be the reason to travel for mom and daughter, dad and son may be more interested in rafting, shooting, or fishing.
Contrary to most ranchers, we came to the dude ranch industry from the heart of the white water rafting industry. Our original primary offering of rafting, plus some riding, has evolved over the decades to a greater emphasis on equestrian sports. Our program now has an equal emphasis in both the equestrian sports, and the larger adventure offerings of rafting, shooting sports, and fishing. We might have originally called ourselves an “adventure ranch”, now we are quite accurately also called a “dude ranch”.
Marble Mountain Ranch is the only west coast dude ranch to provide daily riding instruction, educational arena games, comfortable covered arena facilities, and traditional scenic trail rides opposite a white water rafting activity set. Our unique saddle/paddle vacation, or raft and ride holiday, is unmatched in the dude ranch industry and accurately meets the needs of a good portion of the dude ranch guest audience.
Times have indeed changed for us and the ranch industry, and now we are proud to be accredited and accepted by the Dude Ranch Association. Our ranch was inspected this last year, we are attending our first DRA convention this January, and we look forward to a long beneficial association with our ranching peers!
No single ranch can meet the needs of every prospective guest, and we align ourselves to that audience that is looking to mix dude ranch tradition, with modern outdoor adventure. We hope you too can join us this coming season for California’s “saddle/paddle” vacation.