Montana Horses trail drive |

Montana Horses trail drive

My father-in-law was a lifelong horseman with many exciting tales to tell. I’ll never forget the look in his eye each time he told about seeing some 1,000 head of solid-colored Army remount horses being gathered from a pasture down the creek and driven to the corrals at Fort Robinson, NE. He was a young man at the time, there to deliver some horses just sold to the Army. He counted that scene among the finest he’d ever laid eyes on… and I’m sure anyone who’s seen that many horses moving together would think the same.

We can’t bring back to that era, but if you’ll show up at Three Forks, MT on April 25th you can thrill to the thunder of hooves as several hundred colorful horses are brought right down Main Street on the Montana Horses annual trail drive. These horses, owned by the Kail Mantle family business Montana Horses, Inc., are on a 35-mile trail from winter range to the home ranch, where they’ll be leased out and sent to various summer jobs at guest ranches, kids camps, trail rides, outfitters and other horse recreation venues. Thousands of people from around the world gather in tiny Three Forks to watch the horses trail through town. Marking the official opening of tourist season, activities coinciding with the trail drive include a high school rodeo, stagecoach rides, a pig roast, and a free cowboy concert and dance.

Riders participating on the 2009 horse drive are from as far away as Portugal and the United Kingdom, with other riders coming from Massachusetts, California, and Oklahoma to round out the crew of some 30 cowboys, cowgirls and horsemen making the three-day trail. The arrival in Three Forks marks the end of the second day’s drive, and an evening of celebration is in store there before they head out northward Sunday morning, through the headwaters and along the Missouri River en route to the Mantle Ranch. See or call the Mantle Ranch at (406) 285-3541 for more information.

A swarm of flying ants buzzed around the lighted windows of our house yesterday evening! It’s way too early for such pests to be out and I’m hoping the coming cold and snow will freeze ’em all to death… but it’s a rude reminder that flying, stinging, biting, crawling critters will soon be everywhere as warmer days settle in. With that in mind, here’s a tip on some good stuff to relieve your horses from biting flies. Bare Skin Barrier by Nature’s Balance Care is a kid safe, animal safe and earth friendly product for insect control, natural fly control and itchy skin problems. Made in the USA, Bare Skin Barrier received the BEST CHOICE rating from HORSE JOURNAL in the March 2009 issue. They say it’s the “best choice for raw, sore areas” as those the bugs create on a horse’s belly, with a mixture of oils promoting healing while repelling insects. It’s proven non-irritating even around the edges of an open sore. Nature’s Balance Care also has a repellent Face Formula for horses and dogs. Check it out at

Unfortunately Montana’s Governor did not cooperate in signing that state’s bill regarding horse processing. The president of the Montana Quarter Horse Association, Stan Weaver of Big Sandy, recently made some wise comments on the conflict surrounding that issue. Saying that “battle lines are certainly drawn and the personal attacks continue,” Weaver is not happy with the hate mail animal activists are flinging his way.

He says, “But this whole thing is so typical of their far left liberal agenda. First, they seek a controversy, condemn you for your side, and if they can’t convert you then they begin personal attacks… There is a movement in this country – it is very well-funded and these people have all the time that is needed to spend on their agenda. If you think it will stop at horse processing, you are wrong. Next it will be the hogs, then sheep and cattle.”

I believe Mr. Weaver is correct in that assessment, and in sounding a clarion call to arms. If we you care about our way of life we need to heed his words.

He warns, “We all need to get involved and do what we can to stop or at least slow the process of this movement. We must get involved to protect our personal rights and the rights of personal property. If we should lose these rights, they will be gone forever. They will not be won back. Become active in your own way!”

Wyoming congressional Representative Sue Wallis of Campbell County is one who has done just that. She says, “I am continually heartened by the support and enthusiasm of agriculture and horse people. More and more of us are beginning to realize just what a threat that the animal rights movement is to our traditional livelihoods is – and are looking for ways to fight back.” Sue notes that the opposition has strong backing, saying, “HSUS alone has a budget of more than $100 Million, pays their top executives six figure salaries, and employs hundreds, if not thousands, of people.”

I believe Sue is heading for Illinois to support Representative Jim Sacia who’s pressing legislation there to allow the Cavel plant to re-open. She may also spend a few days in Indiana where Representative Bill Friend is working with legislation similar to the resolution she helped get enacted in Wyoming.

“I’m also going to spend some time with David Howell,” Sue said, “who is the Chair of the Indiana Horse Council who is pushing the American Horse Council to an ultimatum… either take a stand, or step aside.”

That’s another issue I am happy to see brought up. It has amazed me that the AHC is not in the forefront of the crusade to reinstate processing plants which would allow old, sick, unwanted horses to die humanely rather than being consigned to untold suffering when they’re abandoned without feed, water or shelter.

Looks like we’ve come to the end of this ol’ lariat rope once more… get behind your neighbors like Sue and Stan, and be sure to call your Governor if you live in Montana.

© 2009 rhonda stearns

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