The Heroes and Horses program is a designed as a seven day, intensive, instructional and inclusive stay at the Mantle Ranch, a working horse ranch on the Missouri River near Bozeman, Montana and home of Montana Horses, Inc .- a large scale recreational horse leasing operation.
Eight soldiers during each Ranch Week are taught horse handling, horsemanship, riding, backcountry horse packing, backcountry camp setup, and mountain trail skills. The progression of instruction and knowledge is ultimately utilized during an overnight backcountry pack trip into the nearby Rocky Mountains.
Instruction takes place on the Mantle Ranch and the White-Hollingsworth adjacent Medicine Ranch. Both ranches and surrounding lands offer miles of riding trails and recreational opportunities which include fishing, floating, hiking, hunting, and other outdoor activities.
The Week especially utilizes "The Ultimate Horse Course" - a permanent backcountry trail challenge course offering thirty trail challenges utilized for training mountain trail horses, trail riders and backcountry hunters, and as a forum for extreme cowboy races.
Soldiers bunk in cabins, take meals together at the ranch, and are instructed in small groups in morning and afternoon sessions led by highly accomplished professionals in the equine, ranching, and outfitting industries.
A typical day during a Ranch Week starts at 8am with breakfast, followed by gathering and sorting horses to be used during the day. Soldiers participate in all aspects of horse handling and ranch work, as they become proficient with the necessary skills. Each morning includes a three-hour session in the corrals, on the trail, or on the Course learning horsemanship/horse handling, riding , or in a pack school. We break for lunch in the afternoon, then spend another three to five hours in an afternoon session. Dinner is taken as a group in the clubhouse, with the cowboy staff. The evening is spent around the fire, on the decks or lawns, down at the river or ponds, participating in ranch or community activities, and enjoying and befitting from the camaraderie that this cohesive group of soldiers provides.
The last two days are spent in the mountains. We pack up and head for the hills where soldiers get the opportunity to put their skills to the test. We load the trailer, haul to the trailhead, and ride to a high mountain lake for an overnight re-creation of all we have learned about horses and backcountry packing and riding.
When soldiers leave the ranch, the Heroes and Horses program will have equipped them with the necessary skills to ably conduct their own backcountry trip into the mountains with their friends and family , to enjoy the country and the freedom for which they have fought, and perhaps with the thirst for more horseback experience and an eye to a new way of life.
NEXT RANCH WEEK:
June 23 - 29, 2011
Upon completion of a Heroes and Horses Ranch Week, each participant will be equipped with the skills to conduct their own self-guided trip into the backcountry with horses. Subsequent trips will increase the soldiers level of knowledge - with an eye toward a career in the outfitting, hunting, ranching, tourism, or equine industries.
A second week-long session entails a full seven day backcountry pack trip, where participants learn more in depth outfitting, packing, and riding skills.
A third week at the Mantle Ranch is spent in Wrangler School, which is a training ground for commercial equine guides, both in summer guest ranches and in fall outfitting camps. Participants will become certified and placed in equine and outfitting operations as professional guides.
With the desire, a soldier can move from recreational rider to professional guide, earning a living and even operating their own business.
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Mike McNulty USMC on Horse Course
M Seavey US Army on Horse Course
Soldiers Learning Horsemanship