Guests also fix barbed wire fencing, tend to giant center-pivot irrigation sprinklers, and learn how modern practices are being fused with classic cowboy traditions to help preserve one of America's greatest assets.
5305 State Highway 150, Mosca, Colo.; open March-October; 719-378-2356; www.zranch.org
McGinnis Meadows Cattle & Guest Ranch (Montana)
Since the 1980s, more and more cowboys have been adopting Natural Horsemanship practices, made famous by the film "The Horse Whisperer."
At McGinnis Meadows in Libby, Montana, horse lovers learn the practices championed by Buck Brannaman. The method works with the natural instincts of the animal, building trust and mutual respect.
After learning how to "whisper," you and your horse will track, pen and drive cattle.
6220 McGinnis Meadows Road, Libby, Mont.; 406-293-5000; www.mmgranch.net
Cowboy Level: True Grit
Doublerafter Cattle Drives (Wyoming)
Legit nomads can ditch the working ranch routine for a real deal cattle drive.
For six days, you can ride through the mountainous rangeland of Wyoming, moving cattle to greener pastures through terrain too rough and restrictive for anything with wheels.
Each night you'll set up 1800s-style canvas wall tents, eat grub cooked in a Dutch oven and entertain each other by the campfire.
The professionals warn guests to expect the unexpected -- from brush fires to stampedes to impromptu rodeos.
After nearly a week in the saddle you'll be ready for a steady seat. And you can enjoy one at the famous cowboy saloon, The Mint Bar, in Sheridan, Wyoming, where most groups spend their last night.
P.O. Box 490, Ranchester, Wyo., 82839; open June-September; 307-655-9539; www.doublerafter.com
Let R Buck (Connecticut)
Working the rangeland can be as gratifying as it is grueling, but for some bronc busters, nothing compares to the adrenaline rush of riding a 2,000-pound beast for eight never-ending seconds of glory.
At Let R Buck bull riding school in North Canaan, Conn., you can learn about the mighty bull, its body language and how to stay on it for about the same amount of time it takes to read this sentence.
After six days of classes, you're ready to ride at a professional rodeo.
210 S. Canaan Road, North Canaan, Conn.; 860-824-7700; www.cnobull2tuff.com