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« The Wild West - part 2 | Main | Debi's Birthday Wish »

The Wild West—part 1

My friend SuzAnne invited me to photograph a horseback trip in eastern Montana, complete with a cattle herding clinic and a side trip to the world famous Bucking Horse Sale in Miles City. How could I resist? Here was my chance to redeem myself after falling off my horse twice the last trip I photographed for her. Time to get back in the saddle. I dusted off my boots and got my camera holster ready.

 When I arrived at Dunrovin Ranch in Lolo, Montana, the weather was ideal. A few puffy white clouds in the big sapphire blue sky.

 Despite skies like these, weather forecasts were predicting nearly a 100% likelihood of heavy rains in coming days.

Adjacent to the ranch the riparian corridor of the Bitterroot River looked like the Louisiana Bayou.

The day after I arrived, SuzAnne took me on a beautiful trail ride. Of course, I thought the weather gods were on our side. Looking at a sky like this who could imagine what was ahead of us?

Later that afternoon kids had come for the Pony Club. The three year olds in the club have much better balance on their horses than I do.

And much cooler boots.

Early the next morning I met the women going on the trip, and we loaded the horses and gear in the trailer. SuzAnne revved up Ms. Dixie and turned her wheels east.

 With a six foot horse trailer in tow you hang with the big boys at the truck stops. But that doesn't mean you have to eat there. I'm sure this glove would have some great big rig stories to tell if it could.

Our first “rest” stop was a walk at Arrow Stone Park,

adjacent to one of the five largest Montana timber mills still in operation.

That evening we stopped  in Roundup and took our first ride. Annette rode side saddle.


I didn't even fall off of this horse.

SuzAnne just couldn't wait to get her pony going.

The horses were fed...

and the humans. Nice homemade pies at the Busy Bee Cafe.

Just to give you a peek at what’s to come, here’s the Busy Bee Cafe five days later.

It was about 8pm that evening when we arrived at our final destination that day, Runamuk Ranch. 

By now the rain had arrived and mucky it was.

We were scheduled to ride the next morning, but by then it was a downpour and we decided not to take the horses on a slip and slide. So instead we headed out early for the Miles City Bucking Horse Sale.

And when we arrived it was WET.

And just a little WILD.

Even the young mutton busters riding the sheep

came face to face with the mud.

Some of the viewers grabbed front row seats.

And if you're a boy, six years old, and live in Miles City, you better wear a cowboy hat.

Ditto, if you're a girl!!

Some were clownin' around—but all the mud was no joke.

And some are seriously cool—mud and all.

 The last event of the evening was the wild horse race where teams of three have to capture... 

and saddle their designated horse...


and then attempt to ride it around the track once.


Miles City nearly doubles its population the weekend of the Bucking Horse Sale. This year, due to the rain, there were only a few dancing in the street at this typically packed event. After a very wet day we hung our dusters up to dry and hit the hay. I'll meet you in the mornin' at the Range Rider’s Museum for a pancake breakfast!


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Reader Comments (6)

Whoa ! Horseback riding and phtographing, again ? The second time around 's always different, isn't it ? Enjoy the sky.

June 17, 2011 | Unregistered Commentery suz

Great story, voice, and images — all roiling together like that horse-dance above. Have you sent a link to this to your photography workshop friends?

June 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterChris

Great images! Thanks for sharing Debi. You ladies managed to have a good time regardless of the weather. I just came back from Yellowstone and these problems still persist (6/17) in eastern Montana.

June 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSterling

Your picture stories are breathtaking. I've been checking in almost daily to catch a glimpse of the RIDE. What a show :)

June 17, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterschweetiecakes

Going through links on the "Make it Missoula" Facebook post, I found this story with the great pictures. I live in Granbury, Texas, and we are experiencing almost 2 months without rain, and the temperatures have been over 100 degrees for about the same amount of time. The drought here is serious business, so viewing these pictures of rain and mud made me believe that it won't always be like this. Just going on this trip with you through the pictures and comments gave me a "living through your eyes" experience. Thank you so much. For us ladies, I don't think there's anything much better than a "girls trip" doing those things we enjoy together. Ya'll all look like great ladies and great friends. Thanks, again. -Glenna-

August 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGlenna M. Huber

Hi Glenna,

Thank you for your comment. I wish you lots of rain soon, the heat and dryness must be so oppressive. You should come on one of the Dunrovin trips, you would love them. Beautiful places and fun adventures, not to mention a great group of women. Hope to meet you on one of the trips.

All best wishes.

August 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDebi

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