The Final Run
A Montana family of ranchers holds its last annual horse drive
TOP: The 35-mile run takes the horses about three days.
MIDDLE: Wranglers help handle and care for the horses.
BOTTOM: Kail Mantle (pictured) and his wife are selling their horse ranch.
Last week saw the end of a community tradition in Three Forks, Montana. The Mantles, a local family that raises horses, held their last annual horse drive. The extended Mantle family has been in the horse business for more than a century.
For the past 11 years, the Mantles have rounded up 300 horses and driven them from their winter range to the 500-acre Mantle Ranch. There, the horses are sold or leased (rented) as trail horses for parks and dude ranches. The journey covers 35 miles and takes about three days.
The Three Forks community came together each year to see the event. Some even participated in the drive as wranglers, or horse handlers. People from around the country also went to watch this tradition honoring the Old West.
“Most people can't live with their neighbors in the world,” Kail Mantle tells NBC News Montana. “We can't live without ours.”
END OF AN ERA
In the Old West, or the American frontier in the 1800s, horses were important for transportation and farm work. But in the modern world, the business of raising horses often costs more money than it earns. That’s why the Mantle family is shutting down its company and selling its ranch.
Kail Mantle and his wife, Renee, started their own company, Montana Horses, in 1995 with 14 horses. The Mantles supplied horses to Yellowstone National Park and numerous dude ranches in the area.
Many of the Mantles’ horses will be sold to their former customers. Kail and Renee now plan to raise cattle and perhaps go on a sailing trip around the world.
People in Three Forks will miss the horse drive. They see this last run as the end of an era. Other dude ranches and horse farms in the area are closing as well. Al Carr, who has participated in the Mantles’ drive for the past 10 years, tells the Reuters news agency, “The Old West is disappearing right before our eyes.”