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2012 News Releases

Graduating senior to start career as wrangler at Wyoming dude ranch

May 9, 2012

Laura Lash at a stable with her horse

Laura Lash is living proof that business majors don't have to, as she said, "put on a suit and go to an office every day." The Longwood University graduating senior will begin her career in the saddle, decked out in Western duds, on a Wyoming dude ranch.

Lash, a lifelong horse lover whose internship last summer was managing an equestrian business, lassoed a job as a wrangler at Goosewing Ranch in Jackson Hole, Wyo. Less than two weeks after graduating this May, she'll begin working as a "tour guide on horseback" at Goosewing, a kind of combination dude ranch and upscale resort.

"My philosophy as a business major is that your job doesn't have to be behind a desk," said Lash, whose double concentration is in management information systems assurance and management. "I don't want a desk job, at least not for now. I'm going to chase something different for a while."

Lash is equally comfortable in the saddle, in the classroom and in a leadership role for a student organization. A four-year member of the equestrian team, she was a regional champion in intercollegiate competition in spring 2011. She was president this year, and treasurer last year, of the Sport Club Council, which allocates about $60,000 annually to the 19 sport clubs that compete intercollegiately at the club level. She has visited Thailand in one class and Yellowstone National Park in another.

In her next trip, Lash will fly from Dulles Airport to Jackson Hole on May 23. Guests will start arriving at Goosewing on June 3, most of them booked for a weeklong stay. The ranch accommodates 35 guests at a time, and the season runs through Sept. 23.

"Along with six or seven other wranglers-that's my title-I will lead guests all through the Gros Ventre River Valley," said Lash. "Because I'll be in the open instead of in a ring, which I'm used to, I'm a little nervous. There are miles and miles of valley and mountain. Also I'll be with people who probably have no idea what they're doing on a horse, though I've worked with beginners before.

"I'll have to dress Western-plaid shirt, cowboy boots and cowboy hat-and eat meals with the guests. I'll have to learn about the area-the plants, the animals, the history-and I'll have to take guests to the rodeo on Wednesday and Saturday nights."

In addition to the "people" part of her job, Lash will be responsible for taking care of two of the ranch's herd of 50 horses.

Lash was encouraged to apply for work at dude ranches by a cousin who stayed at one last summer and told her about it over winter break. While still on break, Lash did some online research and applied for summer work with at least a dozen ranches in Montana, Wyoming and Arizona.

After getting zero response to her initial inquiries, Lash tried Goosewing.

"I emailed in my application to Goosewing at midnight, and at 9 the next morning-7 out there-I got an email from their general manager, Amy Worster, who wanted to know my dates of availability and asked for an interview, which took place a week later. It was interesting that in the next week or two, I heard from three or four more places."

The job is the latest chapter in her equestrian career. Lash began riding at age 8. In her internship last summer at Cornerstone Equestrian Inc. in Spotsylvania, not far from her Fredericksburg home, Lash gave tours, set up scheduling and gave lessons. She also worked that summer and during other breaks since 2008 as a trainer's personal assistant at Whitestone Farm in Fredericksburg.

As a competitor on Longwood's equestrian team, Lash finished in first place in spring 2011 in advanced walk-trot canter in the Zone 4 Region 2 finals of the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association, held at the University of Virginia. She then finished fourth in the zone finals at Bridgewater College.

She's not sure how riding will figure into the rest of her life, but she's definitely looking forward to her time at Goosewing.

"I don't want to be a wrangler the rest of my life," Lash said. "It's nice to do right out of college, it's a good way to have fun. I like being outdoors, and I don't mind being a nomad for a while. This is a different path from your typical business major. I'm excited."