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The Last Horse Drive

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Reuters photographer Jim Urquhart recently captured these scenes from a fading culture, as he followed Montana ranchers on their final horse drive, moving more than 300 horses down from their winter range. Every spring the Mantle family, along with with a group of wranglers, drives the herd north over 35 miles and three days, through the small town of Three Forks to their ranch. After decades of supplying and tending to horses, the Mantles, citing financial challenges, now plan to sell off their herd and shift to raising beef cattle. Take a moment to travel with the Mantle family through big sky country, on a journey once so familiar and iconic, now fading into memory with the rest of cowboy culture. [27 photos]

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Wrangler Shad Boardman rides into a pasture during Montana Horses' final horse drive outside Three Forks, Montana, on May 6, 2012. The Mantle family, who own Montana Horses, held their last horse drive where they rounded up approximately 300 horses and drove the herd 35 miles from their winter range to the Mantle ranch. The horses will be picked up by leasers to be used as pack and trail horses at dude ranches and national parks. (Reuters/Jim Urquhart)
Wrangler Shad Boardman rides into a pasture during Montana Horses' final horse drive outside Three Forks, Montana, on May 6, 2012. The Mantle family, who own Montana Horses, held their last horse drive where they rounded up approximately 300 horses and drove the herd 35 miles from their winter range to the Mantle ranch. The horses will be picked up by leasers to be used as pack and trail horses at dude ranches and national parks. (Reuters/Jim Urquhart)
A view of the 500 acre Mantle ranch outside Three Forks, Montana, on May 3, 2012. (Reuters/Jim Urquhart) #
Renee Mantle rides in a truck on her way to the wrangler camp before Montana Horses' last annual horse drive, on May 3, 2012. (Reuters/Jim Urquhart) #
Kail Mantle give instructions to wranglers before the horse drive on May 4, 2012. Kail, a former rodeo champion, and his wife Renee have been operating Montana Horses off a plot of land north of Three Forks since 1995. (Reuters/Jim Urquhart) #
Renee Mantle checks the hoof and shoes of a horse during Montana Horses' annual horse drive on May 3, 2012. (Reuters/Jim Urquhart) #
Wrangler Lori Young readies her horse before the start of the horse drive, on May 4, 2012. (Reuters/Jim Urquhart) #
Wranglers ride along railroad tracks during Montana Horses' last horse drive, on May 6, 2012. (Reuters/Jim Urquhart) #
Wranglers gather a herd of horses off the winter range south of Three Forks, Montana, on May 4, 2012. (Reuters/Jim Urquhart) #
Horses cross a river during Montana Horses' annual horse drive, on May 4, 2012. (Reuters/Jim Urquhart) #
Wranglers work to gather horses outside Three Forks, on May 4, 2012. (Reuters/Jim Urquhart) #
Wrangler Shad Boardman rides his horse through a river on May 4, 2012. The drive is not without dangers -- over the years, a number of wranglers have suffered minor injuries, from head injuries to broken bones. (Reuters/Jim Urquhart) #
Wranglers gather at camp outside Three Forks, Montana, on May 3, 2012. (Reuters/Jim Urquhart) #
A spur on a wrangler's boot during Montana Horses' last horse drive outside Three Forks, Montana, May 6, 2012. (Reuters/Jim Urquhart) #
Wranglers visit beside a campfire under a moonlit sky on May 3, 2012. (Reuters/Jim Urquhart) #
Wrangler Denise Boyd laughs by the campfire on May 4, 2012. (Reuters/Jim Urquhart) #
The last of the daylight fades over the wrangler's camp outside Three Forks, Montana, on May 3, 2012. (Reuters/Jim Urquhart) #
The belt buckle of wrangler Sara Tharp, seen before Montana Horses' last horse drive on May 4, 2012. (Reuters/Jim Urquhart) #
Renee Mantle chases a horse trying to break away on May 6, 2012. (Reuters/Jim Urquhart) #
Horses run to the corrals during Montana Horses' last horse drive in central Montana, on May 4, 2012. (Reuters/Jim Urquhart) #
Wranglers from lead a herd of horses down a paved road on May 6, 2012. (Reuters/Jim Urquhart) #
A horse shakes itself off after the second day of Montana Horses' last horse drive on May 5, 2012. (Reuters/Jim Urquhart) #
Wranglers lead a herd of horses outside Three Forks, Montana, on May 6, 2012. (Reuters/Jim Urquhart) #
Renee Mantle sorts a herd of horses in a corral on May 5, 2012. The Mantles know each of their 300-plus horses by name. (Reuters/Jim Urquhart) #
A wrangler's hand rests on a saddle horn during a horse drive on May 6, 2012. (Reuters/Jim Urquhart) #
Wranglers lead a herd of horses during Montana Horses' last horse drive on May 5, 2012. (Reuters/Jim Urquhart) #
After the drive, Renee Mantle enjoys a moment in the pasture with her horses as they vie for attention, on May 6, 2012. (Reuters/Jim Urquhart) #
Wrangler Nate Cummins takes the opportunity to ride by moonlight, the night before the "Super Moon" during Montana Horses' final horse drive outside Three Forks, Montana, on May 4, 2012. (Reuters/Jim Urquhart) #

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