Horse Drive

Buy at
Rounding up the Horses 1930 - The New...
Buy From

A Gift of Adventure for Your Horse Lover
Try a Horse Drive

It may seem ridiculous to say that the difference between a horse drive and a cattle drive is essentially the difference between a cow and a horse. But that comparison does hit the nail on the head, particularly if you're thinking about going on a horse drive or sending your horse lover on one as a gift.

In common between the two is riding on horseback from one place to another, perhaps over a stretch of several days. There's scenery to be enjoyed , fresh air (well maybe not always if you're riding behind the herd), good companionship, and perhaps a little good hard work.

The difference is basically that of speed of travel. In a cattle drive you're apt to spend a good part of the time at a walk, not nose-to-tail like some trail rides, but a walk nevertheless. On a horse drive a good portion of the trip may be done at a trot, puctuated by a canter or gallop now and then. If you've spent a few hours at a trot you understand the necessity of being able to maintain a good seat if you want to be able to walk when a particular stretch of the drive is completed.

In fact, the term "horse drive" is a misnomer. Trying to drive horses (we're not talking about horse and buggy driving here) is a bit like trying to herd cats. Just push them and they'll go every which way. You have to hold horses back as much as trying to make them move forward.

Sounds like work - and fun.

The focus here is on domestic horses, not wild horse roundups. The latter would be an experience in itself but probably best handled by experienced wranglers who have a good handle on what their supposed to be doing.

Experience Level Required - Post the Trot

In short, a horse drive is better suited for the intermediate rider, not the beginner. Some hosts will make it known that they expect a certain degree of riding expertise for thosewanting to participate. Some even recommend that you know how to post the trot.

Posting the trot saves both horse and rider some wear and tear. It used to be that posting the trot was reserved for those riding "english style". You seldom saw the technique used by anyone riding western. Now there are ranch owners/foremen who won't even consider hiring a cowhand who won't post the trot or stand in the stirrups for long stretches saving wear and tear on the horse.

In a horse drive it's usually the wranglers and more experienced guests (who have participated before) at the front with the task of keeping the forward motion of the herd at a controlled pace while riders at the sides (outriders) keep the herd bunched.Others, including the less experienced riders are in the rear (drag riders).

What to Bring Take a look at our page on what to bring to pick and choose what to bring along on a horse drive recognizing that you'll probably be expected to travel light. Here I think a camera and a small pair of binoculars would be a must. I usually recommend bring a good book along on a horse trip but you probably won't have much time for reading as you might on a pack trip.

Where to Go

The answer is " wherever you want", or at least where horse drives are held. No, you're not restricted to "out West" although that's where most are found.

Here's a couple of annual drives held out west and one in Iceland followed by sources listing other ranches that offer cattle or horse drives.


Three Forks Montana Main Street
  • In a recent issue of Western Horseman an article featuring the town of Three Forks caught my attention. Located on I-90 in south-central Montana Three Forks is so named as it's a couple of miles from the confluence of the Jefferson, Gallatin, and Madison rivers - the Headwaters of the Missouri.

    The lead photograph pictured the Sacajawea Hotel ( a fine old establishment - we stay there on occasion) with the herd of horses coming down the main street. The article was about a Horse Drive in which approximately 500 horses were driven from one location to another (including over Interstate-90 - which could be interesting!).

    Each year, Montana Horses hosts a three-day horse-drive in the vicinity of Three Forks. Some riding experience is required. The 2006 Drive is April 28-30. If you'd be interested in participating contact them for particulars. The drive is limited to 20 guest participants so if this is something of interest you'll probably need to contact them up to a year in advance.

  • Going rather far afield, the Icelandic Round-Up has its roots way back in the past when pastures and fields near the farms were very precious and had to be kept for the hay harvest.

    The Roundup, in northwest Iceland occurs in the fall, lasts 4 days, and you can help drive the herd, sorting the horses and celebrate the completion of the round up activity. An outfit called Arctic Experience has the details of this out-of-the-ordinary adventure.

  • Horseback adventures in Montana offers cattle drives, a horse roundup, ranch riding June thru August, in the southwest and central Montana mountains. They promise real work, and real fun! 20 guest limit on the horse roundup. . International guests are welcome and encouraged. You can contact them for information on large group discounts or family discounts.

  • Guest & Working Ranches, Cattle & Horse Drives is a source of over 150 guest and working ranches, riding clinics, wagon trains, cattle & horse drives in the USA and Canada.

    If you participate in a horse drive we'd love to have you share your experience with us.

    Back to
    Horseback Riding Vacations Page