Montana: Hell's-A-Roarin' Horse Drive

Getting ready at the rodeo grounds.

Every Memorial Day weekend in Gardiner, Montana, Hell's-A-Roarin' Outfitters and the town of Gardiner put the annual Hell's-A-Roarin' Horse Drive. This day you can see upwards of 200 horses and mules driven through the town of Gardiner, from the rodeo grounds then up into the mountains along Jardine Road to Hell's-A-Roarin' Ranch, a well known area outfitter (leader of hunting and fishing expeditions in the Yellowstone area).

The day also includes a BBQ dinner, cowboy poetry readings, live music and dancing and a silent auction. I have never figured out who they were raising money for, though.

Love a nice riding mule.

Traveler Thirteen and I went up to Jardine Road to check out the area and figure out where we wanted to park later and took a short hike on a trail that leads back to Yellowstone, crossing Bear Creek. We then went into Gardiner itself. We ate lunch at Wild West Corral, which is the second place in two days I've eaten at called Wild West.

After refueling our stomachs we headed to the rodeo grounds. On the way we came upon a white-tailed deer doe with twin fauns that were standing in the incredibly small front yard of the house next to the Post Office. The doe jumped the fence surrounding the yard and wandered through the Post Office parking lot. Eventually her fauns figured out how to jump the fence and sauntered after her. It was a strange sight in the middle of the day in a busy area of town.

Do you get the idea there's some sort of stand off going on here? 

When we got to the rodeo grounds we checked out the horses and mules. One mule in particular, a Mr. Mule with very dainty hooves, took a liking to me. He gave me and Thirteen a good looking over and decided I should be feeding him treats. I didn't have anything for him. Despite some encouragement one of the riders to leave us alone Mr. Mule didn't want to. I swear had I had a horse trailer with me I'd have bought him right there and then. We approved of each other. It was with great reluctance that I left him standing forlornly at the gate, watching us walk away from him. Or perhaps I was the one who walked away forlorn at the prospect of leaving my new soul mate.

We headed back up into the hills above town to find a good spot along Jardine Road to photograph the horses and mules coming up into the hills, which also put us in place to be able to get to the area where they rest the horses and mules before taking them the final miles to the ranch.

Soon outriders were seen coming up over the hills and then the clatter of hooves and there they were around 150 equines trotting up the road. It was quite a sight. And the best part was Mr. Mule recognized us. He made a beeline for us and then began grazing right where we stood. He got hustled farther up the hill pretty quickly though.

Outriders coming up over the hill.

Leading the way.

And here they come!

And there he is. Mr. Mule. The bay looking over toward where we were standing.

The rear guard.

Catching up to the rest of the crowd.

We followed them up the hill to the wide field where they rested. The mules and horses milling about and rolling happily in the grass. Soon it was time for them to head farther into the mountains. Now, I'm not 100% positive that it was Mr. Mule who made a break for it, but a mule who looked suspiciously like him, with the same dainty little hooves, led a merry chase in the opposite direction from where he was supposed to go.  I swear we made eye contact, this mule with a mind of his own and I. He had three riders after him. The rest of the herd disappeared into the hills. Rebel Mr. Mule exerted himself just enough to stay out of rope range and would graze, with one eye and ear on his pursuers, mocking their efforts. They finally got him with a bucket of grain and lead rope gently draped over his neck. They led him to a trailer. As Thirteen pointed out: that mule was no fool. He got a meal and a ride up the rest of the way to the ranch.

The view from where many of the photographers were hanging out.

Rest stop.

Cowboys come in all sizes.

A horse of a different color getting a different perspective on the proceedings (on right).

While the horses and mules rested the humans socialized. 

Heading out again.

The rebel.


  1. I really enjoyed this shoulda brought the mule home ;)
    thank you, PJ for yet an another amazing blog read.


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