The Buck Starts Here

If Bozeman gets a little too “big city” for you this spring, or if you’re just looking for a damn good time, think about heading east. May 19-21 is the annual Miles City Bucking Horse Sale and it is guaranteed to entertain. A tradition in Miles City since 1950, the Bucking Horse Sale is a three-day party, affectionately dubbed the “Cowboy Mardi Gras.” People come from all over the United States to partake in the festivities. The actual bucking horse sale starts on Saturday afternoon, but the events before and after are just as relevant to this Western celebration. The town literally comes alive during these three days.

If you’re wondering why you should drive six hours to Miles City, I’ll tell you: there is nothing else in the world quite like the Miles City Bucking Horse Sale, and nothing around Bozeman that even comes close. Besides the sale, the weekend events include a rodeo complete with bull and bronc riding, a parade, a street dance on Friday and Saturday, and wild-horse racing. At times you really feel as if you have stepped back into the Old West, awash in a sea of cowboy hats, tight Wranglers, and Western hospitality.

Watching cowboys try to ride the wildest horses in the West is about as entertaining as it gets. For many riders, this is a long-awaited initiation into bronc-riding and many of the participating cowboys go on to enjoy long careers in rodeo. Listening to the locals tell their many stories told about Bucking Horse Sales of yesteryear is just as entertaining. Of course, you’ll wake each morning with a beer (or maybe a Bloody Mary), and this makes for a great three-day party. The bars downtown are packed on Friday and Saturday, reminiscent of Butte over Saint Patrick’s Day.

Being an eastern Montana native (Circle) I, of course, knew about the Miles City Bucking Horse Sale at a very young age and I have attended quite a few. It is marked on the calendar in households all over eastern Montana because it is a time to celebrate and enjoy everything that makes Montana unique, especially today. Eastern Montana, though part of the same state that Bozemanites inhabit, is another world altogether, and if you haven’t experienced it, it’s time. The Bucking Horse Sale is just the place to do that, although you will get mixed reactions when you mention where you are from, as many people firmly believe that Bozeman is comprised of nothing but rich yuppies. If you don’t have a cowboy hat, perhaps purchasing one would be in your best interest; although not mandatory, the hat will only make the weekend that much wilder and may help debunk that myth about Bozemanites. Show up and prove to everyone that most Bozeman folks are still down-to-earth, hard-partying Westerners like them.

The motels fill up well in advance for this event, so book now. Tickets are $10 for general admission and $15 for reserved seating. For more information contact the Miles City Chamber of Commerce at (406) 234-2890 or e-mail [email protected]

Bucking Horse Sale Tentative Schedule

Thursday May 18
5:00 pm Steak fry at Eastern Montana Fairgrounds
7:00 pm Little Texas concert at Eastern Montana Fairgrounds

Friday May 19
10:00 am to 4:00 pm Craft show at Ursuline Convent
10:00 am to 2:00 pm Cowboy beef luncheon
4:00 pm Trade show opens at fairgrounds
5:30 pm Grand entry
5:50 pm Bull riding rodeo
8:30 pm Street dance downtown

Saturday May 20
6:00 am Range Riders breakfast at the museum
9:30 am Parade down Main street
10:00 am Craft Show at Ursuline Convent
10:30 am Quick-draw art in the park
10:30 am Methodist ice cream Social
11:00 am Kiddies Corral at Ursuline Convent
11:00 am Kiwanis BBQ at Riverside Park
11:00 am Trade show at fairgrounds
1:00 pm Post time for the first race
1:15 pm Grand entry
1:25 pm Bucking Horse Sale begins
6:00 pm Wild-horse race
8:30 pm Street dance downtown

Sunday May 21
9:30 am Custer County Art Center artist reception
10:30 am Cowboy Church
11:00 am Trade show opens
1:00 pm Post time for first race
1:15 pm Grand entry
1:30 pm Calcutta
2:00 pm Matched bronc ride
6:00 pm Wild-horse race

Montana Horses Spring Roundup

If you’re looking for a dose of real Old-West adventure this spring, head to Three Forks for the third annual Spring Roundup and Horse Drive, hosted by Kail and Renee Mantle of Montana Horses. Starting on Friday, April 28, the three-day event begins in the hills south of Willow Creek, where hundreds of lease horses have spent the winter roaming the rugged landscape of their 7,000-acre off-season pasture. Cagey and lean after several months with little, if any, human contact, the half-wild horses test the stamina and riding skills of both guests and staff. Once the entire herd is safely rounded up and corralled, the group spends the night on the banks of Willow Creek for some well-deserved rest and a hearty chuckwagon supper. The campfire roars as stories are swapped and the day’s riding experiences relived. The long drive north begins Saturday morning, and after another hard day’s ride the troop rolls into Three Forks to great fanfare. Watching 400 horses charge through downtown, dozens of riders flanking the mile-long equine stream, is a sight to behold. Onlookers line the streets from one end of town to the other, waving and snapping photographs of the once-a-year spectacle. Saturday night the Montana Horses crew hosts one of the best parties of the year, with dinner, a live band, and spirited country dancing at the historic Sacajawea Inn. Sunday morning comes early as riders assemble for the final and most difficult stretch: the 10-mile ride to Trident, along the banks of the mighty Missouri River. Obstacles abound and escape routes for the horses are everywhere; riders must be at their best to get the herd to the Mantle Ranch safely and in one piece. To date, not a single horse has been lost in the three-day drive, which is a testament to the vigilance and riding skills of staff and guests alike. For more information or to sign up for the drive, call 406-285-3541, or visit
-Mike England