Dude Wrangler – Recreation Career Opportunities

Career Profile

Duties:Facilitates interactions between dude ranch guests and horses, as well as providing an authentic ranch experience through trail rides and other activities, as well as horse and barn maintenance.

Alternate Title(s): Wrangler; Dude Rancher

Employment Prospects: Good

Advancement Prospects: Fair

Best Geographical Location(s): American West, Southwest, and mountain regions such as Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, etc., with limited opportunities in other U.S. states


  • Education and Training—Varies; training in riding and caring with horses required
  • Experience—Prior experience working with horses or on a ranch
  • Special Skills and Personality Traits—Strong communication and interpersonal skills; ability to work with horses; interest in working outdoors; leadership ability and sense of humor

Career Ladder

Head Wrangler

Wrangler, Dude Ranch

Student or other ranch worker

Position Description

Cowboys and the Wild West are deeply ingrained in American culture. When deciding how to spend their free time, many people consider visiting a dude ranch. Anyone who has seen the film City Slickers will never forget the life-changing experience Billy Crystal’s character and his friends had on their trip. Dude ranches can range from family-friendly destinations to upscale resorts with high-end amenities to adults-only hard-core cattle driving experiences.

Working ranches raise livestock for the purpose of producing a product, such as meat or wool. A guest ranch, also known as a dude ranch, is one that caters to visitors and tourism. Visitors get a ranch experience that includes horseback riding as well as cattle drives, roundups, and branding. Horses are an essential component of any ranch, and Dude Wranglers work with horses in a variety of capacities.

Dude Wranglers are one part outdoor trip leader, one part tour guide, and one part social director, while serving as experts on horses as well. They entertain guests of a dude ranch and provide opportunities for them to interact with horses. Their role is twofold in their care of both visitors and horses.

Dude Wranglers, on the other hand, provide visitors with an enjoyable ranch experience. They lead trail rides for guests, planning itineraries based on their knowledge of the terrain and skill and interest levels. Dude Wranglers share history, information about the sights, flora, and fauna, as well as amusing anecdotes, jokes, and funny stories while on rides. They must always be aware of the guests’ safety while riding. Their horse experience guides them in matching the right person with the right horse based on his or her ability.

At some ranches, Dude Wranglers may lead guests on more challenging courses, including cattle drives and roundups. They may also take them out of the ranch for one or several days to camp, where they pitch tents, build fires, and prepare food. Dude Wranglers should be skilled in outdoor and wilderness education as well as knowledgeable about conservation and wildlife laws.

Dude Wranglers also work a lot with horses. They care for horses and tack, such as saddling and unsaddling, corralling, grooming, caring for sick horses, and barn management. Dude Wranglers must be able to adjust saddles for guests as well as assist with mounting and dismounting.

Additional duties may include:

  • rounding up the horses each morning
  • packing horses with supplies and provisions for extended or overnight trips
  • driving or leading pack horses
  • entertaining guests by singing, telling stories, or playing a guitar or other instrument
  • escorting female guests to dances and other social functions
  • participating in rodeos provided by ranch management
  • cleaning stalls and the barn area
  • eating meals with guests
  • leading hikes, rafting, or fishing trips
  • making repairs around the ranch
  • answering questions about horses
  • pitching in for other areas such as dishwashing, cleaning, etc.

Some Dude Wranglers specialise in working with children, especially on family-oriented ranches. These professionals must be skilled at teaching and have a talent for keeping children’s attention. They are extra cautious with the horses and tailor all activities to the children’s skill level. If they work with children, Dude Wranglers may plan curriculum and daily activities and supervise fishing, arts and crafts, and other programmes as well.

Dude Wranglers participate in all ranch activities such as barbeques, campfires, and other social events for guests. They may also be asked to eat meals with guests. Since ranches are often in isolated areas, they frequently live on the premises and socialize with the other ranch workers. The work is often seasonal, with Dude Wranglers working during the summer months, the high season for most dude ranches. Each dude ranch has a different horse program and philosophy and Dude Wranglers must be able to subscribe to the philosophy of their particular ranch.

Hours are usually 40 to 60 hours per week, usually spread over six-day workweeks with varying hours (and anything over 40 hours may qualify for overtime). Dude Wranglers are required to wear specific types of Western dress (typically jeans and cowboy boots) and they need to be prepared for the sometimes taxing physical demands of their job. Virtually all of their time is spent outdoors and they must be able to carry heavy equipment.

Employment Prospects

Dude Wranglers have a lot of job opportunities. This is frequently a seasonal job that is ideal for college students. Dude ranches look for Dude Wranglers during the summer season, which can last from May to October (with the busiest months being June, July, and August). Hiring for peak season can begin as early as January and February. However, some ranches operate year-round and hire all year.

Hiring is serious business as many ranches are family- owned operations. Ranchers want to hire Dude Wranglers who will fit in and take their job seriously. The best opportunities are for those with prior experience with horses and who are very personable. Since in person interviews are often not possible with ranches being in isolated areas, some employers may require potential Dude Wranglers to send in videos stating their qualifications and selling themselves, or photographs at the very least. During interviews, prospective Dude Wranglers should expect to answer specific questions about horses to demonstrate their knowledge.   

Advancement Prospects

Dude Wranglers may advance in different ways, depending on their career goals. Some Dude Wranglers are college students looking for an adventurous way to spend the summer and plan to pursue totally different career paths. Other Dude Wranglers plan to stay in the field, advancing to become head wranglers with management responsibility. Additionally, others might aspire to run or own their own ranch one day.   

Education and Training

There is no specific educational background required of Dude Wranglers, since some may be right out of high school and others are college students or graduates. While prior experience with horses is necessary, much of the training occurs on the job at an orientation before the season. Ranches that are members of the Dude Ranchers’ Association expect Dude Wranglers to successfully complete a standard wrangler safety course during the orientation.   

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Dude Wranglers should be very customer-service oriented, with excellent communication skills. They spend extensive time working with people and must be friendly and genuinely enjoy the contact they have, including playing with children, talking to the elderly, and everything in between. A sense of humor and a positive attitude enables them to entertain guests as well as enjoy their work. 

Furthermore, Dude Wranglers need to be comfortable with working under difficult physical demands. Often, ranches are in areas with high altitudes and weather conditions can vary from extreme heat to bitter cold. Dude Wranglers need to be able to withstand the elements and be outdoors, carrying heavy equipment. A love for horses and experience in riding and animal care is also needed.   

A valid driver’s license may be required to escort guests off property. The minimum age requirement for Dude Wranglers ranges between 18 and 21 years old. Dude Wranglers may also need to be CPR and first aid certified.