At Home in Montana

Two years in a row now we have vacationed in Montana. Last year it was an RV road trip through Yellowstone National Park, on up to Missoula, Montana and then over to Spokane, Washington to see Sam Mazzola and the Rockin’ B Ranch. Sad news, The Rockin’ B is doing its last season. I highly recommend you get up there and see it.

This year three fourths of the family (the daughter didn’t think a dude ranch was for her) went to the Lazy E-L Guest Ranch in Roscoe, Montana. I have had a life long love of horses, ranches and cowboy culture. I decided I wanted to try the cowboy life on for size. My own personal City Slickers experience. What an awesome experience it was. First off, I totally missed my calling. I definitely should have been a cattle rancher, or at least a cowboy.

Before we got to Lazy E-L, we spent a day in Cody, Wyoming, supposed capital of the cowboy world. While there were some cool shops, it was mostly tourist central. We had lunch in the Irma Hotel, named after William F Cody’s daughter. It was a fun experience but now that I have done it, I probably would not go back for the food. The hotel has gotten a number of good reviews so I might try spending a night there, again largely for the experience of it. There is a rodeo in Cody every night during the summer months. It was fun but a little expensive for the calibre of cowboy that competed. All in all, I am glad we went to see Cody but now that I have seen it, I probably will not make any special effort to go back. I do recommend The Proud Cut steak house. Good food and service, reasonable price. Next year, we will be stopping at Sheridan, Wyoming, the next on my list of American West locations.

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We arrived at Lazy E-L at 1400 on Sunday as instructed. We were shown to our cabin and told to be in the cookhouse at 1500 for orientation dressed to ride horses. After about a half hour briefing on food service, basic rules and facilities on the ranch, we were led out to meet our horses. The Lazy E-L wrangler staff starts out with instruction on how they would like horses brushed and saddled. Once the horse is saddled and bridled, you mount up and move off to the arena. Walk around the arena, trot around the arena, the wranglers are looking to see who is comfortable on a horse and gauging the riding ability of the guests. Once they have a basic idea and are sure everyone is going to be able to stay in the saddle outside the arena, the wranglers lead off on a trail ride. That first day at Lazy E-L is the first and only trail ride we did during our stay. The next five days we rode on cattle every day.

Russell Cabin, Lazy EL Guest Ranch

We stayed in the Russell cabin. I love rustic, cozy feel of the cabin. The cabin is a single room with a bathroom. A queen bed and one twin. It is filled with lots of items from the era when the ranch was founded which creates the ambiance that I really appreciated. The Russell cabin really feels like you are on a ranch, even transporting you back a few decades. The cabin is very comfortable, the shower is large, modern and really a pleasure. The drawbacks of the Russell cabin are its size and amenities. No kitchen, no frig, no laundry. The cookhouse is right next door where all three are available. Russell cabin is perfect for a couple.

Our week at Lazy EL was exactly what we were looking for. Most days we were up at 0600 in order to have horses saddles before breakfast. When things worked right we were on horses and riding out to the day’s work before 0800. Most days cattle work kept us out until lunch time. Three days we had lunch brought out to us because the cattle work was scheduled to take a little longer. The latest we came back to the ranch was 1530. There was cattle work every day. Participation in moving cattle depended on your ability in the saddle. I got to ride a lot of the more difficult terrain, going after cattle that had gotten into the woods. The biggest challenge for me was keeping up with the wranglers on the longer transits. Trotting is the favored gait of the cowboy because it is easy on the horse, hard on the cowboy. Monday I got ridden into the dirt. By midweek, I was able to keep up in most cases.

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The remuda at Lazy EL is excellent. These are some of the best trained and well behaved horses I ridden in a very long time. All of the horses I rode did test me to see if I was really willing to be in control. Once that aspect of the relationship was established the horses responded wonderfully. I did have one horse that had an injury the previous season. He was still behaving like he expected some things to hurt him. It was a challenge to push him through things so that he began to see that he was OK, which was a good way to expand my own riding skills. All the riding is under the watchful eye of the wranglers. While they are a young crew, they are very talented horseman. They provided the guidance and oversight to make sure horse and rider did not get into more than they could handle while at the same time pushing riders to improve.

I guess the best review of Lazy El Guest Ranch is this. We have already booked our vacation for next year. We did look at some other options but in the end, we really has such a good time at the Lazy EL that we decided to go back again.

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