Montana Horse Roundup Photo Journey

February 17, 2013

A Toronto based photographer heads to the American West to capture cowboy culture during an iconic Montana horse roundup.

by Manuela Stefan

One quiet evening in the fall of last year, I was browsing the Internet looking for places where wild Mustangs run free. Out of the blue and for no apparent reason, I felt like typing in the word Montana. That’s when it happened... a Montana Horses website came up and with it, some exhilarating images. I was blown away, I did not even know something like this still existed in today’s modern world. I kept on reading through and found out that the owners of the Mantle Ranch in the Three Forks area, Renee and Kail Mantle, were announcing something that seemed to be of importance–– their last horse roundup.

Kail Mantle of Mantle Ranch

Kail Mantle of Mantle Ranch catches his horse. The Mantle family had thousands of working horses scattered across a few ranches in the West.

As they had decided to sell their ranch, they announced that the spring of 2012 was going to be the last time when their 300 plus horses were going to be brought back to the ranch from their winter pastures during a huge three day event–– the Montana horse drive.

Montana horse drive

Wranglers pushing the horses during the Montana horse drive.

Still amazed at the novelty of it all, I somehow knew that this would be an experience I could not miss. My love for horses–– watching them run free almost like their Mustang brothers–– combined with my deep passion for exploring new places in this world were just a few of the many reasons why I made the decision to attend the last horse roundup. It did not take me long to make up my mind.

Montana horse drive

The annual Mantle Ranch horse drive.

Ten days after it all came to an end, I felt like one of the most fortunate people on earth. I could probably write pages about everything I had been through visually, emotionally, and spiritually. I will try to summarize it all and conclude. The Montana horse drive was been one of the most rewarding things I have done. Not to mention, one of the best birthday gifts to myself! I met wonderful people in the process, surely made friends for life, got fully immersed in nature and was an organic part of its natural rhythms.

Shad Boardman

Shad Boardman rides the range during the Montana horse drive.

A journey that I am sure does not end here, it has quenched my appetite for more. It has revealed a new portal into a soon to be gone lifestyle. It has enriched my being with sounds and aromas of the West – a place that, as a kid, I only admired in movies. Even then I remember being intrigued with these sunburned and somewhat rough looking mysterious men riding their gracious horses high up into the mountains, confronting unthinkable dangers. Men and even women that were at one with their surroundings, with deep knowledge and power to connect with their partners, their horses, a kind of knowing that goes beyond what we urban people can even imagine.

Shad Boardman crossing water

Shad Boardman crossing water in Montana.

Yes, these ways still exist. This kind of magic is still somewhere out there. I can only be deeply grateful for having had the opportunity to witness it.

Montana horses running home

Montana horses running home.


About the Author: Manuela Stefan is a Toronto based lifestyle and equine photographer with a keen eye for capturing the spirit of the horse in interesting locations worldwide. Her love for travel and horses has brought her to spectacular locations in France, Romania, Canada and the U.S. She has exhibited her large format equine images in Toronto and Collingwood, Ontario and Montana. Her adventures continue. Check out her Equine Blog and find her on Facebook and Twitter @GracefulHorses.

Topics: equine photographer, horse photographer, horse photography, horses photography, Mantle ranch, Manuela Stefan, montana horse round up, montana horse roundup, montana horse roundups, montana horses, montana ranches, montana working ranch, montana working ranches