A fascination with the cowboy lifestyle is something that many kids, grown ups and city slickers share. But whether you’ve always harboured the desire to head out on the range, don a cowboy hat, and herd cattle, or you’re simply looking for an adventurous holiday that challenges you and teaches you new skills – howdy, partners, and welcome to Cowboy College.
Found near Phoenix, the Cowboy College is an Arizona institution, having taught legions of keen and curious cowboy wannabes since it opened its doors in the late “˜80s. The dream of fourth generation cowboy, the late Lloyd Bridwell, who ran the College from 1989 to 2000, the Cowboy College is today in the talented hands of Lloyd’s indomitable wife, Lori.
Lloyd was determined to put people back in the saddle, believing that being a cowboy was a dying art. And so the instructors at the College pass along what they know; how to take care of their horses, how to rope cattle, and the ins and outs of horsemanship. In short: they take the tenderfoot and turn them into a bonafide cowboy.
There are plenty of different courses and camps to choose from, depending on what you want to learn; whether you want a private, tailored class, or you’re happy to muck in with strangers, whether you want to spend a day on the ranch, or a week. There are kids riding camps, too, during the summer months, so even little buckaroos can learn the basics, from riding styles to driving a mini cart.
But at the end of the day, this is a working ranch. This is not the place to come for cowboy hat selfies, however fetching you may look, or giggling through lasso lessons. This is a place for work and learning and earning that deep, satisfying sense of a day well spent. And, of course, fun. After all – where else in the world can you learn to be a cowboy?
According to Lori Bridwell, “people who come to the Cowboy College should be prepared to have a great time, to work hard and do a little roughing it. After all, we may be sleeping outside without a tent or have to go for a few days without a shower, if need be.”
There are just three members of staff at the College so Lori is no stranger to hard work herself, what with 50 horses, plenty of cows, chickens and other animals to take care of, as well as teaching. But she loves what she does.
“There’s never time to be bored, and I love that. And meeting new people is a great thing. I’m truly passionate about my job; I share all of this with other people in hope that they will love it as much as we do.”
Lori’s also a big believer in the power of hard work to create a pervasive feeling of fulfilment. “They learn that when you live on a ranch, just like in real life, when something needs doing, you just do whatever it takes to get it done before the day’s end. People leave the Cowboy College with a sense of pride and a new outlook on life.”
And that, in a nutshell, is what makes the Cowboy College such a unique experience; anyone can lie on a beach on their holiday, but how many people get to learn the increasingly lost art of being a cowboy? But, the most important thing? Don’t forget your cowboy hat. Not only will you look and feel the part, but you’re sure to be mighty glad of it when working under the strong Arizona sun, wiping the prairie dust from your brow. Yee haw! It’s time to head west.
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Have you been to Arizona’s Cowboy College? What did you think of the courses you took? Tell us in the comments section below.
Written by Giverny Tattersfield