Horse Drives in Montana
Horse Drives became very popular about 15 years ago. For the Dryhead Ranch the idea grew out of a dry no grass year at the ranch. Mares that we had always left on the ranch during the winter did not have winter grass, so Joe Bassett moved them to Wyoming for the winter and found pasture for them. Then the problem was moving 120 head of mares that were not halter broke or trail broke back to the ranch 50 miles away. Our cowboy knew a guy who was good with horses and recommended him for the job, Jake Hahn. So, we advertised our first horse drive for the Dryhead Ranch and found interest in joining us for the ride. The mares followed Jake through cluttered, fenced farm lanes into open bentonite hills and down the Old Sioux trail for three days to their familiar grazing grounds on the Dryhead Ranch. Since then we have had Horse Drives spring and fall. They begin each year with our spring horse drive as we take our horses into the Dryhead Country so we have horses on the ranch to start our cattle drives. We end each guest season with our fall horse drive when we take our horses back to Wyoming to spend the winter.
Spring Horse Drive
Spring for us begins in the middle of April. Calves are being born and in a couple of weeks we will start cattle drives to Montana and our horses need to be in place at the ranch to give our guests something to ride when we get to the ranch with the cows. So, the horse drives are the beginning week of each Dryhead Ranch guest season.
The weather is springtime in Montana. Layers and quite often winter coats and gloves and hats and chaps are the best choice instead of cowboy hats and lighter clothes. It takes us three days to trail the horses to the ranch where we will ride for two more days checking pastures and fences and preparing the gates to hold cows in the coming weeks. We are also looking for mares and fillies that have spent the winter at the ranch and looking to be sure they are looking well and healthy. That 2020 colts will be born in another month and we want to be sure the mares are all looking good.
Mare Band Making – Adding A Stallion
This great horse week is always the first June week. We want our colts born in late April and May, so they are uniform and old enough to wean in October. Most of our mares never leave the ranch. Most are raised on the ranch from birth, some are purchased, all have watching cows as part of their natural breeding and training. They could be considered wild except Jake brakes and rides all the new fillies that he adds to the mare band of 30 or so of Dryhead Ranch )S( mares and 6 of Jake and Jess Hahn’s mares. The blood lines of these colts are a continuous conversation between Jake and Jess all year long. New colts born and how they look and act are shared on the days they see them while riding and working on the ranch all summer long. Colts weaned and taken to Wyoming for the winter are talked about as they are halter broke and their disposition and confirmation and looks are part of each supper time conversation. The kids ride ponies after being home schooled most days while Jess gentles colts and gets some ready to sell and older colts in training as they get them ready to be broke to ride. Their true love of horses shows during this, making mare bands week and many lists and conversations complete this final choice of what mares go with which stallion. If you love horses, you will love this week of hands on horse riding and handling.
Oh, what a site to behold. 30-35 head of mares with obedient colts shimmering through the sunlight plus 40 head of young fillies and horse colts as they move through the creek and down the trail to ranch headquarters. Jake canters ahead of them at times and walks at other times and they sense his every move. Like a choreographed dance across the vistas of amazing grassland meadows. It is hard to choose my favorite horse week, but this comes pretty close. Fall weather, golden colors, crisp mornings and horses kicking up dust in the corral as the sun’s rays rise over the Big Horn Mountains. We have caught glimpses of these mothers and their saucy kids for over four months now. This week we finally get to see them quietly stand in the corral and nip at their new friends they haven’t seen since June and show off their stuff for the cameras. The ohhhs and awwws from the guests and cowboys in appreciation of what they can be one day soon, is proof of the fact that we are all horse lovers to the core. This is what brings us all together from all over the world. Horses. Horses. Horses. Young, old, mares, stallions and the favorite ones we ride. Horses. Horses. Horses.
Fall Horse Drive
You ARE brave or desperate to get away for a week to join our Horse Drive this week. This is not for the faint of adventure. I even wonder what magic will peak or challenge our last week of the guest season. It could be the beautiful weather, (this is the only place I put snow pictures) it could be the amazing variety of guests who join us for this adventure, it could be the promise of a wonderful, full week of a stunning bunch of well trained and well put together horses of all ages. Gods best created beauty and movement. Each year is a collection of Disney like excitement and memories. When you arrive on Sunday evening it is dark. So, Monday morning is the first view of the ranch vistas. With the sunrise coming over the Big Horn Mountains it is almost perfect. The cavvy horses are wrangled into the corral while we are eating breakfast and with the sunrise behind them it is amazing. Monday and Tuesday are days we ride out the north gate to accomplish a few of our normal ranch jobs. Looking for anything we have not found and checking the gathered horses we’ve brought up close so we know we had them for the “head down the trail day”. If they mix for a couple days before the trail day, they seem to stay in a bunch more peacefully. Riding out these first two mornings also gives you a chance to see the vastness of the ranch and gets your riding seat prepared for trailing horses for three days. Our cows are still at the ranch and so we will be checking gates and fences and making sure they are settled for the rest of the week while we are gone. Wednesday morning we put all the different groups of horses together (horse cavvy, young weanling colts, horses in training, older mares, fillies we will sell over the winter) in the main corral so they can get their pecking order established before we go out the Dryhead gate and down the trail. Jake assigns the position you will ride in. It will change each day. You will ride a different horse each day. The horses will move fast and slow and canter easily. There will be horses that push the boundaries and horses that will never leave their favorite position: holding the lead or liking the view from the back. You might be able to take pictures and then again it may be to steady to manage holding still long enough for a couple shots. I normally take a lot of pictures, the light is usually perfect. I have many favorite weeks or favorite days and these are some of them. You will love the ride. Wyoming here we come.