BI: The Wrangler Manifesto

The Wrangler ManifestoDitch the word “dude” and buck up.  It’s time for wranglers to get back to their roots.

I’ve been a “dude” wrangler for 10 years.  In Western circles, that’s not something you’re supposed to admit.  It’s like confessing that you enjoy working with mules – or worse, that you liked the movie All the Pretty Horses (which I’ll also admit to).

Perhaps this perception is because wranglers are viewed as a joke, a shadow of a once-glorious past.  But it’s time to set that misconception straight.  Wranglers need a manifesto, a mission statement to get our profession back on track.  Get ready to take some notes.

  • Wrangling is a profession, not a summer job.   The learning curve is so steep that it isn’t worth the effort of a one-year commitment.  Considering all you need to know — your string of horses, people skills, the country you guide and the judgement to handle tough situations — two- and three-year contracts should be the norm.  Sure, a crew can have a first-year wrangler; that’s evidence of a vibrant and growing business.  But the heart and foundation of a team should be veterans and mentors.
  • Let California surfers have the word “dude.”   It implies only disdain for the customers, who are the reason we’re here.  Objectifying guests as dudes is a sign of someone who is insecure about his or her job.
  • In a way, wranglers are saddle-bound psychologists.   Some say the universal reason for travel is to gain insight into your experience at home.  Guests love to tell their stories and ask questions, but many wranglers are too busy talking about the time they got bucked off, encountered a bear or had an altercation involving a firearm that they don’t listen.
  • Get smart.   If a guest can afford an expensive vacation Out West, they’re probably well-educated, business folks.  Be prepared for ‘ology questions, such as about geology, ecology and anthropology.  A good wrangler knows the trail he’s on passes through a subalpine forest of Douglas fir and whitebark pine, in a glacially carved mountain  canyon, next to  a stream named Moose Creek because an 1880s homesteader once shot a moose there, and — oh look — there’s a track from a snowshoe hare.
  • Buck up: It’s exhausting work.  In the heat of a hard day, when you have a long list of places you’d rather be, remember that your horse is working harder than you.  In a couple of hours, you’ll both be back at the barn.  You’ll pull the saddle, brush down his sweaty back and turn him out.  And witnessing his exuberant return to the herd, with a soundtrack of rumbling hooves, is an experience reserved for those of the wrangling profession.


2 thoughts on “BI: The Wrangler Manifesto

  1. Thank you, so much for this amazingly informative article. I read it about a month ago and recommended it to a friend that is a Wrangler. Not many people realize how hard the work is for a Wrangler.

  2. I don’t believe you are going to see many two year contracts . I think the high turnover rate and low pay attract a workforce that do the job so that they can be in the mountains on horseback and eat at the same time. Dude ranches are the fast food industry of horse world.

    I believe that this leads to the objectification of guests (this and the guest’s personality).

    I don’t believe I will ever meet a young man or woman who has spent their entire life developing horsemanship and back country skills who also happens to have an untamed desire for the hospitality industry or customer service. You might as well try to get horses not to fart when someone is behind them.

    Wranglers put up with guests because it is one of the few ways left to make a living on horseback in wild country.

    I seriously doubt many wranglers are about to start taking shit from some pasty-faced, moron whose very existence denotes the end of any kind of life they would ever have wanted to live.

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