Highlights

cute calf usa ranch

Trip Highlights

  • Riding a horse through incredible scenery and wide-open sagebrush valleys, along streams and into the mountains.
  • Being part of a real working ranch – learning to lasso, fix a fence, pitch hay, gather cows on horseback and watching farriers at work.
  • Camping overnight, seeing amazing wildlife – deer, antelope, and elk – and hearing coyotes sing every night.
  • Taking an evening horseback ride after dinner while the moon is rising and the sun is going down – you really will ride into the sunset!
  • Exploring Yellowstone country and canyons, geysers and waterfalls (and seeing herds of buffalo) during a weekend off the ranch. (At an additional cost)
  • Immersion in Natural Horsemanship techniques in a Western ranch environment

Trip Summary

Experience life to the full volunteering on a real working ranch in the American Rocky Mountain West. During this unique three week volunteer project, you will bond with a horse that is matched to your experience and abilities, ride through incredible scenery and wide-open spaces straight out of the big screen.

You will also learn to be a real ranch hand with other volunteers - fix fences, pitch hay, gather cows, wrangle horses and be part of life on a ranch where every day is an adventure. There will be plenty of time to relax around the campfire, enjoy home-cooked meals in a spacious Western dining room, view wildlife and explore the gorgeous Yellowstone country.  

Interested and want to find out more? Download more trip information and detailed itinerary HERE!

Trip itinerary

You will be based on the working ranch for the duration of your trip. You will be involved in hands-on activities including participation in chores, trail riding, horse wrangling, cattle gathering, branding and cattle drives. You will be carefully matched with a horse based on your riding experience and your goals for your 3-week project. The project will be tailored to your riding ability and interests as often as possible.

Volunteer tasks and activities may include:

  • Learning how a working ranch is run by getting involved in daily ranch chores
  • Looking after the horses and equipment - feeding, watering and cleaning
  • Practicing Natural Horsemanship and join-up techniques with a variety of horses.
  • Cattle work such as checking the health of the herd, moving cattle when needed (on horseback), and fixing fences
  • Short trail rides
  • Long trail rides with lunch and overnight camping for 2/3 day rides
  • Wrangling between 40 and 80 head of horses
  • Barrel racing
  • Team-penning (cattle work)
  • Basic roping lessons (on the ground)

The ranch occasionally has one day sessions for groups of children (under 12) to teach them about horses. Volunteers are welcome to get involved in these sessions when they occur as the kids love to meet the people with the funny accents!

You will have the amazing opportunity to ride and bond with your horse each day on the ranch. In your free time you may be able to visit local attractions including Yellowstone National Park, hot springs, historical centres, and rodeos. During your 3-week placement you will truly get to experience the Western lifestyle and country from the back of a horse.

A typical itinerary could look similar to; 

6.30am Wranglers bring in the horses
7am Morning feeding
7.30am Breakfast
8am Horse assignment, grooming and tacking
8.30-9am Morning riding commences (arena/trail ride/all day ride/specialist activity)
12.30-1pm Lunch begins
1-30pm to 2.30pm One hour rest time if schedule allows
2.30- 3pm Afternoon activity - i.e. re-tacking horses for riding
6.30-7pm Supper begins
8pm Evening walk/games/down-time until bed time

Please note that this is an example of an itinerary and activities and timings will vary. The work at the ranch changes depending on the season and the current needs of the ranch. 

Destination Information

There isn’t a person out there that hasn’t dreamed of taking off on the ultimate American road trip with a bunch of mates! Cruising down the open road, tunes cranked, wind in your hair not a care in the world; getting off the beaten track with a whole continent to discover.

The United States is a country of incredible diversity. The nation is home to dynamic cities and small towns that vary dramatically from region to region, and the awe-inspiring National Parks are unparalleled for their beauty and diversity. Eastern energy, slow-paced deep southern charm and a laid back west coast lifestyle, combine to create an incredible culture of virtually everything. 

Trip Notes

What's Included

  • Airport Transfer
  • Orientation on arrival
  • All Accommodation
  • All Meals
  • Instruction by ranch staff
  • Tack
  • Use of the horses
  • Support and assistance from the coordinator
  • Buddy list
  • Emergency 24 hour support number

What's Not Included

  • Flights
  • Travel Insurance - must cover horseback riding
  • Email or phone charges
  • Any excursions not in itinerary

Additional Information & FAQ's

Minimum Age & Eligibility

Minimum 18 years, maximum decided on potential participants’ health. Please note that the age range of volunteers at the ranch may differ, so please be prepared to work alongside other volunteers of different age ranges.

Accomodation & Meals

Your accommodation will be a 12 x 12' fully-carpeted log cabin, with full electricity, nightstand and lamp, in Western style, with old-fashioned curtains in each of the four windows. Each cabin is fully heated and has an electric thermostat and a ceiling fan attached to the overhead light. All of the cabins have shaded front porches with chairs, old-style horse-shoe hooks mounted on exterior walls for hanging and drying outdoor gear and clothing, and charming old-time cowboy porch lights. There are no bathrooms or running water in the cabins, these are located in a separate building. During your stay it will be your responsibility to make sure that your room is kept clean. Cleaning materials are provided.

Close to the guest cabins is the Hub, which has a full professional kitchen, spacious dining room with heavy log tables and benches for family-style dining with a panoramic view of the surrounding countryside. There is a specially-designated area just for interns and guests with two big comfy couches for reading and relaxing, a CD player/radio, and a telephone. There are lots of board games, cards, books, a piano keyboard, guitar and banjo. There is no television on the ranch, but occasionally, movies may be watched on one of the ranch laptops.

There is an open kitchen, plenty of snacks and three full meals a day. These are sometimes prepared for you, however you may be asked to assist in the preparation of meals from time to time.

FAQs

Is Previous Horse Riding Experience Essential To Join The Programme?

No previous experience is necessary as the Ranch offers instruction. Rides are tailored to all levels of horsemanship experience and disciplines of riders. Riders are matched to appropriate horses for their abilities, so the beginners are comfortable and the advanced not held back. A unique feature of our programme is that riders also have the option to stay with one horse or learn from the experience of riding several horses during their stay.

Are Riding Helmets Provided?

Please bring your own riding helmet to the Ranch. We strongly recommend that you wear a riding helmet at all times whilst riding.

How Much Spending Money Should I Take?

There are plenty of activities that you can do in your spare time including renting a car and driving to Yellowstone. We recommend that you take approximately $500 spending money to cover activities off the ranch in your free time.

Extra Notes

Visa Information

Your passport should be valid for the proposed duration of your stay. You don’t need any additional period of validity on your passport beyond this.

UK passport holders

Visa Waiver Programme (VWP) The US Visa Waiver Programme (VWP) allows most British Citizen passport holders to visit the US for up to 90 days. The types of journey that are permissible under the VWP include tourism, certain types of business visit and transit to another country. If you have a British passport that describes your nationality as something other than ‘British Citizen’ you will need to get a visa.

All those travelling under the Visa Waiver Programme arriving by air or sea should provide details online at least 72 hours before travel. This is known as an Electronic System for Travel Authorisation or ESTA. If you don’t have an ESTA you’ll be refused travel to the USA. For more information, and to apply online, visit the official ESTA website; https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta/

Non UK passport holders

You should consult your relevant embassy to check requirements for visiting the USA.

Visa courier service

If you prefer to use a specialist visa courier service to apply for your visa on your behalf, we recommend Visa Central who can offer you assistance and advice, making your visa application straight forward.

To investigate costs for this service click here to select the country or countries that you wish to travel to.

Reviews

Overall Rating: (9/10)

13 Reviews

I've done this trip

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Phil Smith

How would you rate your overall experience?

Please rate the service received from our team before departure

Please rate the service provided by the team in country

How do you rate your arrival overseas and orientation (if applicable)?

How worthwhile was any volunteering in your trip (only if applicable)?

Please rate the accommodation during your stay

Would you recommend Real Gap Experience?

Yes

What were the highlights of your trip?

Scenery, wildlife, riding and meeting like minded people and working with others to achieve and get things done and the host of the ranch was great to work with and very knowledgeable .

Is there anything else you would have liked to have added to your itinerary?

Not really, Loved it all!

Tips for other travellers?

Pack warm clothes as weather is very extreme at times Take out good insurance to cover any medical conditions or treatment needed.

Any other comments?

This was a real ranch expierience, as close to the Wild West as you could be, the team was great and we all worked well together. It's a real life experience and learnt alot about myself and working together with others.

Sam McAvoy

How would you rate your overall experience?

Please rate the service received from our team before departure

Please rate the service provided by the team in country

How do you rate your arrival overseas and orientation (if applicable)?

Please rate the accommodation during your stay

What were the highlights of your trip?

Getting to know the amazing people working on the ranch day in day out. Riding in a beautiful area of the world and experiencing the "wide open spaces" Wyoming is famous for. Learning about real ranch life and authentic Western riding. Working with responsive and rewarding horses, whilst taking us to places that were inaccessible any other way. Trips to the Cody Night Rodeo and meeting real Rodeo cowboys. Being fortunate enough to attend the Annual Bluegrass Festival in Worland. Spending a memorable two days in Yellowstone National Park. Seeing the sights and sounds of all it had to offer and even seeing a bear!

Is there anything else you would have liked to have added to your itinerary?

Maybe another three weeks! We had an amazing time and am looking forward to going back.

Tips for other travellers?

Take a warm sleeping bag as the nights can get cold. Have plenty of sun-cream as you will spend most of the day outside in the sun. If travelling from outside the USA, allow plenty of time for American immigration.

Any other comments?

Planning to go back next summer but definitely for longer.

annie findlay

How would you rate your overall experience?

Please rate the service received from our team before departure

Please rate the service provided by the team in country

How do you rate your arrival overseas and orientation (if applicable)?

Please rate the accommodation during your stay

What were the highlights of your trip?

Swimming with the horses, Nate and MaeCile's fabulous hospitality (especially MaeCile's cooking!) and visiting a Rodeo.

Is there anything else you would have liked to have added to your itinerary?

No - had a fabulous time.

Tips for other travellers?

Be prepared for all weather conditions - it can be snowing one day and sunny the next.

Yasmin Jones

How would you rate your overall experience?

Please rate the service received from our team before departure

Please rate the service provided by the team in country

How do you rate your arrival overseas and orientation (if applicable)?

Please rate the accommodation during your stay

What were the highlights of your trip?

Everything! Even moving hay bails became fun! Wrangling the horses was amazing and taking the horses from the ranch to Prospect was such a wonderful experience (we moved loose horses whilst on horseback to another place by becoming part of their herd- it was so fast and pushed us all out of our comfort zone and is an unforgettable experience). We had to search for a very young calf at one point also, as it was thought to potentially be in trouble, that is the amazing thing about this trip, you will NEVER be bored (and this is coming from someone with ADHD). It is not just a "horsey" experience though, it makes you re-evaluate your life, your values and your goals, for instance, you'll realise that all the little troubles that we think are so huge, the mole hills that we turn into mountains, are so unimportant in the grand scheme of things. ALL the people here are wonderful also; Nate and MaeCile Brown, the staff, the other interns, everyone I met from outside the ranch also, these people are all a HUGE part of what makes this wonderful place so utterly wonderful. Yellowstone National Park was amazing too, I have never seen such beauty in all my life and the scenery was absolutely breath-taking.

Is there anything else you would have liked to have added to your itinerary?

I would have liked to have spent much more time at Yellowstone National Park, this shall be one of my greatest reasons to return as a single day there was simply not enough.

Tips for other travellers?

1. Take a very thick sleeping bag, the nights can get very chilly! 2. Don't be disheartened if you're struggling with something, just try your best and you'll get there in the end :) 3. Take strong gloves with you, they will come in handy!

Any other comments?

Thankyou so much Nate, MaeCile and everyone else who made this experience one of the best of my life.

faye craigie

How would you rate your overall experience?

Please rate the service received from our team before departure

Please rate the service provided by the team in country

How do you rate your arrival overseas and orientation (if applicable)?

Please rate the accommodation during your stay

What were the highlights of your trip?

The unexpected team building with everyone else on the trip. Of course it goes without saying the riding was fantastic. MaeCile and Nate were the loveliest people to have been with, and I have never felt so at home with people I knew so little.

Is there anything else you would have liked to have added to your itinerary?

I would have liked to have gone to the night rodeo, but as it happens, it finished labour day, so we were out of luck in September!

Tips for other travellers?

Take your ipad/phone. Make sure you've got lots of downtime clothing- the weather might prevent you riding! Get in that saddle at every opportunity, and don't whinge, that's what your there for :]

I Hocking

How would you rate your overall experience?

Please rate the service received from our team before departure

Please rate the service provided by the team in country

How do you rate your arrival overseas and orientation (if applicable)?

Please rate the accommodation during your stay

What were the highlights of your trip?

The beautiful Wyoming countryside, trip to the rodeo, trip to Yellowstone and real life cowboys (especially Ray!). Also the barrel racing we did in the last week was good fun, and I loved my horse. It was good to have the choice between staying with one horse or trying different ones.

Is there anything else you would have liked to have added to your itinerary?

Cow wrangling (this is not an option despite it being put in the information here), they in fact only have a couple of calves in a pen which was disappointing as that was something I had been most looking forward to. Similarly, we only wrangled the horses in once. Also some fast riding would have been good as most of the riding was very slow and aimed at beginners, despite there being some experienced riders in the group (although we did have a few canters in the last two weeks).

Tips for other travellers?

1. This trip is not suitable for experienced riders as all rider levels are mixed together meaning you ride at a very slow pace. This was frustrating for the experienced riders who would have liked some long canters across the plains. 2. The cabins are lovely and very comfortable but the bathroom facilities consisted of one toilet with a curtain as a door. Bear this in mind if you're shy! 3. Definitely bring a torch and lots of suncream and lip balm.

Any other comments?

There were not enough riders to supervise - we rode out with 92 year old Nate and the amazing Ray who was wonderful but had injured himself in the first week which limited him a bit despite his best efforts. This made the beginners on our ride feel uncomfortable/unsafe at times - if Ray hadn't arrived last minute to help out who knows how it would have worked. These doubts were shared by most of the group. It was a shame because my last trip with Realgap was amazing.

deborah murcott

How would you rate your overall experience?

Please rate the service received from our team before departure

Please rate the service provided by the team in country

How do you rate your arrival overseas and orientation (if applicable)?

Please rate the accommodation during your stay

What were the highlights of your trip?

Yellowstone NP, learning how to do some Western moves on my horse (including rollbacks and drop-to-trot lead changes), having the farrier teach us how to rope after he'd finished shoeing the horses and also showing us how to tie a calf (we borrowed Winston the goat for this), both Cody and Meeteese rodeos...

Is there anything else you would have liked to have added to your itinerary?

A bit longer to do more of Yellowstone or maybe even get down to the Grand Tetons, go to a proper barn dance and have a go at line dancing, some cattle work

Tips for other travellers?

1. You have to arrange your own trip to Yellowstone - we were lucky and had an American in our group so we didn't have to worry about driving on the 'wrong' side of the road and she was also old enough to hire a minivan. Just something to bear in mind and maybe think about options before you go. 2. It wasn't as cold as I was lead to believe at night (the cabins are quite warm) - so didn't use half of my warm clothes although it's still a good idea to pack a fleece for when you camp out at Prospects or go to the Cody Nite Rodeo 3. If there's anything you'd like to do (e.g drive a tractor, go white water rafting, ride a gaited horse...) just say and they'll do their best to accomodate/arrange it! Don't keep quiet - you'll get more out of your trip.

lauren shearing

How would you rate your overall experience?

Please rate the service received from our team before departure

Please rate the service provided by the team in country

How do you rate your arrival overseas and orientation (if applicable)?

Please rate the accommodation during your stay

What were the highlights of your trip?

The amazing atmospher, friends and staff! Beautiful and well looked after horses with incredible scenery, Loved it!

Any other comments?

Amazing !

Rachel Graham

How would you rate your overall experience?

Please rate the service received from our team before departure

Please rate the service provided by the team in country

How do you rate your arrival overseas and orientation (if applicable)?

Please rate the accommodation during your stay

What were the highlights of your trip?

Early morning wrangling, learning ground work with the horses, breakfast, trips out to Yellowstone, and the ghost town, the rodeo.

Tips for other travellers?

Take lots of suncream. Wrap up warm at night it gets very cold, and remember a torch!

Elizabeth Cook

How would you rate your overall experience?

Please rate the service received from our team before departure

Please rate the service provided by the team in country

How do you rate your arrival overseas and orientation (if applicable)?

Please rate the accommodation during your stay

What were the highlights of your trip?

Riding every day in beautiful settings, wrangling in horses in the morning before everyone else is up. Doing groundwork with the horses was fantastic. This was the trip of a lifetime! Yellowstone Park was awesome too, and so was white-water rafting. Making good friends and having a real laugh!

Is there anything else you would have liked to have added to your itinerary?

Perhaps a visit to the Grand Teton National Park, however this is much further away than Yellowstone I think.

Tips for other travellers?

Bring a LOT of suncream, it is really hot! It gets very cold at night, so make sure you bring warm pyjamas/joggers or something. Throw yourself into everything and you will get the most out of the trip.

When Do I Want To go?

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