Mild spring weather, snow-capped peaks, and hundreds of hooves pounding dusty roads—these are the sights and sounds of Memorial Day weekend in Gardiner, Montana, where the annual Hell’s A-Roarin’ Horse Drive takes place each year.
The celebrated Horse Drive perfectly embodies the spirit of Gardiner, Montana, and the surrounding areas: connection to the land, traditional western heritage, and small-town community involvement.
“The event honors one of the most beautiful animals ever—the horse,” explains Jean Modesette, Lead Coordinator for the Horse Drive Planning Committee. “There is nothing more amazing than seeing over 100 horses, along with cowboys and cowgirls, making their way up Jardine Road with the sounds of galloping hooves and the sight of flowing manes."
Every year, Hell’s A-Roarin’ Outfitters drives the herd from their winter grazing lands to their summer location in Jardine, Montana, 9 miles north of Gardiner. The drive begins at the Gardiner Rodeo Grounds and continues up Jardine Road until it reaches the Hell’s A-Roarin’ Ranch. A lively BBQ dinner complete with cowboy poetry, a raffle and auction, dancing and live music make up the remainder of the event.
A kickoff to the busy summer tourist season at Yellowstone’s North Entrance, the Horse Drive has been taking place since 1982. In 2013, due to the popularity of the event and its potential to give back to the community, the event became a way to raise funds for nonprofit organizations in the Gardiner area. Past proceeds have benefitted the Gardiner Chamber of Commerce, Gardiner Food Pantry, Park County Sheriff’s K-9 unit, and the Gardiner Rodeo.
“The 2017 Horse Drive was the 4th year as a fundraising event and celebration,” says Jean. “This year we have raised the most proceeds ever, and that makes us all so happy as they will be split between the Montana Raptor Conservation Center and Western Montana Search Dogs.”
The Drive is enjoyed by community members, visitors, and volunteers alike—but putting it together is no easy feat! Hell’s A-Roarin’ Outfitters, Jean, and the rest of the planning committee (made up primarily of volunteers) are responsible for finding sponsors, marketing and advertising, securing food and entertainment for participants, and keeping spectators safe as the horses are driven through the community.
But despite the hard work, passionate volunteers like Jean are proud to ensure the event continues to take place—and is a huge success—each year.
“Our hope is that this event starts off the summer season well in Gardiner by bringing people to our beautiful mountain town at Yellowstone's North Entrance,” she says. “We’re giving people the opportunity to experience a little of the Old West and it makes them smile!”
The Horse Drive is in need of business or individual sponsors, event volunteers, and donations to the raffle and auction. Proceeds from the Drive (minus event expenses) are entirely donated to selected local nonprofit organizations. If you’d like to get involved with next year’s event, please contact Jean Modesette at (406) 220-3135.
All copyrighted photos courtesy of Jean Modesette.