The location itself will probably be the main factor in the planning process. Beyond scheduling arrangements, you will need to coordinate with the facility in order to feed and entertain your guests. In addition to arranging for an experienced guide or instructor for your party, questions to consider include: Will the ranch supply the food? If you bring your own, where can you set it up? How long will the horseback riding activity last? Do guests need to wear particular riding gear? Remember to review the rules and safety regulations so that parents of your guests may be informed ahead of time about any specific requirements for their children. You should also arrange for experienced ranch hands (in addition to your guide) to be available to you on the day of your event. It may be a good idea to also require parents to accompany children of certain ages.
Western, horse or cowboy themed invitations may be found in a party supply store, but there are also several options for homemade dude ranch party invitations. Cowboy coloring pages, for instance, may serve as invitations on their own, or can be used as templates to make cardstock cutouts. Simply cut out the image from the coloring page, trace the outline onto cardstock and then cut the shape out of the cardstock. Use this method to make invitations in the shape of a cowboy hat, horse or cowboy boot. Once the invitations are shaped, write the party details on one side and let the birthday child decorate the other side.
One of the bonuses of hosting a party at a dude ranch is that there is no need to decorate. The location provides a backdrop that naturally suits your theme, so additional items aren’t really needed. There are a few pieces of attire, however, that you can provide to the kids to add some cowboy fun and help them fit into the scene. Ask guests to come dressed in flannel shirts, and give them each a cowboy hat and bandana to wear for the party. These accessories may also serve as the party favors.
Naturally, horseback riding will be the main source of party entertainment. A riding lesson or guided ride may fill most of your schedule, but if you have additional time to spend at the ranch, other activities that can be included in the day’s events include:
- A tour of the stables
- A horse grooming demonstration
- A game of horseshoes
- A hayride
- Clothespin horse craft
- A campfire weenie and marshmallow roast
If you go with a weenie and marshmallow roast as a party activity, you can just schedule this event at the party’s main mealtime. Add a fire-roasted kettle of baked beans and a few simple sides like chips or trail mix.
Of course, not every riding stable or ranch may be able to provide a campfire cookout. Portable, charcoal grills are another option, or you can eliminate the need to cook at all with a picnic lunch of sandwiches and lemonade, served at a picnic table or on a blanket spread over the ground. Cut the sandwiches into the shapes of horseshoes, cowboy hats or cowboy boots and pour the lemonade from a metal pail, into tin cups. Another cute idea is to serve items such as chips and trail mix from metal pails or overturned cowboy hats.
Round out the dude ranch party menu with a cowboy boot birthday cake.
The cowboy hats you provide to guests to wear for the party make the perfect favor for a dude ranch theme. Additional party favor ideas include:
- Small metal buckets filled with trail mix
- Horseshoe keychains
- Western star badges
- Horse figurines
- Cowboy or horse themed coloring books