What it’s Like to Be a Teen Wrangler on a Ranch by Dan Christopher

Andy and Cassie, teen siblings from Chicago, have unyielding relationships with their iPhones. When their parents told them they wouldn’t be using them for their week at the Colorado Dude Ranch, they were stunned.

“No way,” Andy had proclaimed.

Cassie wasn’t thrilled about giving up her phone, but the idea of horseback riding was too exciting. Cassie did a little research and found out there would also be white water rafting and trapshooting—suddenly Andy was more pumped than anyone.


They arrived at the ranch with their parents Sunday afternoon. Free time gave everyone a chance to familiarize themselves with the ranch and the breathtaking beauty all around it. Cassie hung out at the pool for a while, and loved the peace and quiet amongst the dazzling blue skies, soaring mountains and warm sunshine.

She said, “The first thing I noticed about the ranch was the open space! I couldn’t get over the trees, the mountains and the fields with all the flowers. The whole area felt endless! It was really pretty.”

Of his first impressions, Andy said he “thought it was cool.” The Wrangler Rodeo gave a solid introduction to the Colorado Dude Ranch life. “The stunts the wranglers pulled on horseback were awesome—one rider jumped off the horse, hit the ground and hopped back up in the saddle backwards, then flipped around again. Another guy swung to the side of the horse and held onto the saddle with his feet straight up in the air!”


“Cupid and I had an instant connection,” Cassie shared of the Appaloosa that was her charge for the week. “Right from the intro lesson, it was like we’d known each other for years. The wranglers showed us how to communicate with the horses, and it clicked. When we were out riding, he understood exactly what I was telling him. Andy was doing alright on a horse named Misty, but Cupid and I really hit it off!” The ride was mostly across gorgeous open field, and Cassie became quick friends with a couple other girls who had been coming to the Dude Ranch for several years.

In the afternoon, Cassie and her new friends hit the pool, while Andy couldn’t resist the opportunity to shoot clay pigeons for the first time.


“Tuesday was awesome because after our morning trail ride, we played volleyball—that’s my sport. Andy and I played on opposing teams, and I scored three points in a row—one shot sent him sliding trying to save it, but he just missed. I could tell Andy was impressed—he hadn’t seen me play in a while and didn’t know that I’m pretty good now. So, that was fun.” Cassie chuckled at Andy’s paradigm shift.

Andy shared about the square dance that evening, “A square dance may not sound cool, but it really was. It wasn’t like your typical school dance where everyone’s awkward and not sure who to dance with. No, it was like everyone’s there to have fun, we learn a few steps, we mess them up and nobody cares. It was just a lot of fun.”


Wednesday was the day of rapids. Andy, Cassie and the other teens were in for white water rafting.

Andy described the rafting, “One minute the water’s smooth and everyone’s just talking, and the next minute everyone’s laughing and yelling bouncing around in their seats getting soaked!”


“The zip line is a total kick,” Cassie said. “It’s like the ground was racing below me. I know it’s safe, but it’s also a little scary—very exciting. It was like flying and falling at the same time—in a good way.”

Andy, in the meantime, became a rock climber. “The rock wall is a challenge against myself. One hold at a time. There’s nothing quite like it. I’ll definitely do that again.”


“It was funny,” Cassie said, “by Friday, I saw my brother on his horse, and he looked so natural. He was racing and joking around with the other guys in a way that made it look like being on a horse was normal for him.”

With saddle bags filled with sandwiches, Friday was a chance to head out on horseback and take a refreshing plunge into the nearby river. Andy and the other guys showed off a bit, leaping into the cool waters from tall rocks on the shore. The girls said “thanks anyway” and took a gentler approach.


“Saturday’s highlight was definitely the Guest Rodeo!” Cassie said, “By then we’d all learned enough to do roping and barrel racing. Some of us had more experience than others, but everyone had a blast. Our parents were all cheering us on. It was great.”


As one last gesture before her departure, Cassie headed for the stable, giving Cupid a hug and whispering goodbye. Cupid offered a little snort and a long sigh.
As they climbed into the car, Andy asked his parents, “Can we come back next year?”
The answer came with a resounding: definitely!

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