Our livestock is our livelihood! We couldn’t get as deep into the backcountry nearly as comfortably without them.
All of our horses are selected with the calm disposition and athletic ability necessary for horseback riding in the mountains. In the horses, you’ll see mostly quarter horses and paints but don’t be surprised to see some draft blood in the mix too.
See an “SMR” on their left hip? That’s our brand, it stands for Swan Mountain Ranch. It helps us identify members of our herd if they ever get lost or stolen. Instead of the pink and scarred skin seen in traditional branding, in which a red-hot branding iron is pressed to the skin, you’ll see white hairs in the brands on our stock. This is caused by freeze branding. The branding iron is dipped in liquid nitrogen instead of fire. The extreme cold causes permanent pigment loss in the hair follicle. Freeze branding is much less painful and faster healing than burn branding.
Notice some long ears and “mohawks”?
Those belong to our mules! A mule is hybrid: it has a horse for a mother and a donkey for a father. Folks often wonder what’s with the mohawks on the mules. Trimming (roaching) the manes of mules is traditional, but it serves practical purposes too. Think of it like members of the military keeping a short haircut. Many of our mules are broke to both ride and pack. Being exceptionally intelligent and sure-footed makes them excellent pack animals. Our mules will haul in all of the gear on your wilderness trip. On hunts, they’ll pack out your harvest too.
At the start of your Montana horseback ride, pack trip, or hunting or fishing
trip utilizing these animals, you will receive instruction in the basics of horsemanship. Our guides will pair you with a mount that suits your size, skill level, and personality. Our stock are very gentle and very good at their jobs, but they are living, breathing animals and therefore inherently risky. Your safety and wellbeing is our primary concern, so instruction will not only cover riding skills, but also precautions specific to wilderness riding.
The horses and mules are the heart and soul of our company and it’s easy to fall in love with them. Whether you are a novice or experienced rider, we feel sure you’ll make a new four legged friend on your trip.
Horses grazing in the wilderness. Big yawn! Group photo!