The Cowboys Are Out There

Unless you’re lucky enough to catch a glimpse of a guy in spurs filling up his 4x4 before heading off into the sunset, the only cowboy hat you’ll see in most parts of our tourism-laden locale will probably be on the head of your valet. For a more certain sighting of the true Montana cowboy, that breed of locals who work hard and long at jobs not many people want, you must experience one of the few events that allows them “time off.” One of these is the annual Livingston Roundup, a three-day affair over the extended Fourth of July weekend. Ranchers from the area come to see competitors from all over the nation vie for prizes in calf roping, barrel racing, and, of course, the perilous bucking bronco ride. These aren’t just the professional guys, either; the crowd of elderly ranch hands and rowdy cowgirls cheer the loudest for the regular appearance of one of their own.

Earlier in the day a parade comprised of community groups and veterans ride through town, complete with men on mules carrying more antlers than you’ll ever see outside a luxury resort’s lobby chandelier. These guys used to be the ones performing the evening’s main attractions: team calf-roping, where two guys ride out of a gate so fast they must have gotten started in the next county and try to quickly rope and tie a running calf (how do they practice for something like this?); bucking bronc riding; and of course, the finale of the attempted eight-second bull ride, complete with clowns to distract the half-wild animals.

If you’re fortunate enough to land a seat in the special “reserved” section—a bleacher-style stadium bench under a metal canopy—you may find someone kind enough to explain to you that calves aren’t usually this ornery; most are “snipped” when they’re young and it keeps ‘em docile. And don’t think that it’s going to be an old cowpoke telling you this—around Livingston, it’s often a woman’s job to dispose of the manly apparatus. Other than explaining relations between hormones and active behavior, women don’t participate much in the Roundup except for the barrel racing and the Miss Roundup competition. Another interesting fact, this one gleaned from a sweet little old lady, is that the girls in these pageants wear their jeans so tight and high out of necessity, not fashion: it keeps them from riding up in the saddle. No words of explanation have been found on the reasoning behind the large hair except that it looks better under the large hats.

The Livingston Roundup is an incredibly satisfying experience for anyone who feels like seeing what Montana would look like if it didn’t have so many perfect ski hills, pristine fisheries, and scenic vistas. The rodeo is one place where the cowboys feel free to take a break, so it must be worth experiencing at least once for the rest of us. However, the Roundup is not perfect—a man once tried to propose to a girl during the rodeo and drove his “Will you marry me?” sign around her for a couple laps before realizing she didn’t know what the fuss was about since the sign was only written on the outside. And it’s not for the faint of heart, as the animals and smells are real.

But the experience is genuine. Have fun, don’t forget to bring your own hat, and remember that there’s only one kind that will fit in around here.

If you still need some convincing on the best way to spend your Fourth of July, contact the Livingston Roundup Association at (406) 222-6787 or (406) 222-3199 and they’ll talk you into buying a couple of the $11 (general admission) or $20 (reserved seating) tickets. The events are held at the Livingston Fairgrounds on July 2-4 beginning at 8:00 each night, and starts on the 2nd with a parade through the downtown area.

Rodeo Roundup

In our chaotic day and age, the time-tested traditions of the American West offer a welcome respite from the daily grind. Don your chaps and saddle ‘em up—it’s rodeo season!

Big Timber NRA Rodeo—Big Timber
Friday & Saturday, June 24-25

Livingston Roundup Rodeo—Livingston
Saturday to Monday, July 2-4

Ennis 4th of July Rodeo—Ennis
Sunday & Monday, July 3-4

Big Sky Rodeo—Big Sky
Monday & Tuesday, July 4-5

Butte Vigilante Rodeo—Butte
Friday & Saturday, July 8-9

Three Forks NRA Rodeo—Three Forks
Friday & Saturday, July 15-16

Bozeman Roundup Rodeo—Bozeman
Saturday, July 23

Broadwater County Fair and NRA Rodeo—Townsend
Thursday to Sunday August 4-7

Wild West Yellowstone Rodeo—West Yellowstone
July 14-16, 22-23, 28-30
August 11-12, 19-20

-Ryan Minton

America's First Natural Horsemanship Degree

The University of Montana-Western in Dillon has partnered with nearby La Cense Montana to offer America’s first four-year degree in natural horsemanship. La Cense’s 88,000 acres make it an ideal learning ground for a variety of riding environments including open range and trail riding. It’s also a working cattle ranch, a benefit for ranchers looking to purchase a trained horse. The new program starts in the fall of 2005.

La Cense is the only ranch in the U.S. that has Pat Parelli’s endorsement. Pat is considered the leading expert in natural horsemanship; his methods are nationally and internationally recognized. Natural horsemanship is a way of communicating with a horse and modifying its behavior through a psychological understanding of equine sensitivities. Rather than “breaking them,” a rider builds a relationship through mutual respect. The Parelli method is based on changing the attitude of the rider rather than the horse.

How the launching of the program will change the future of horsemanship is yet to be determined, but speculation says not only will it appeal to an older generation of riders both nationally and internationally, but it will increase the success of both recreational riding and ranching, by creating a safer riding environment and allowing riders to complete their tasks easier. For more information, visit and

-Kathleen Pliney