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The month of May is drawing to a close and spring has come to the Montana mountain country — and it’s easy to see where the state got its Big Sky Country nickname.
Snow had disappeared from all but the highest peaks in the Garnet Mountain range, an hour or so east of Missoula by car. Meadows and pasture lands have come to life. At the Montana guest ranches scattered through this area, that means the summer season’s guests will soon be arriving — and when they arrive, they’ll want to ride horses.
That means there’s a lot of horseshoeing that’s going to need to be done in a hurry. Many horses on these ranches spend the winter months going barefoot. And between the end of the winter and the arrival of guests, there isn’t a lot of time to see to the horses’ footcare needs.
One guest ranch in the area has come up with a program that gets its horses shod in time for guests and also provides an educational “practicum” for students at a horseshoeing school.
The ranch has about 120 horses that have just spent the winter running free on the range — free, but kept close to home by some fencing as well as natural boundaries formed by steep hills and ravines and the attraction of feed and hay put out for them during the cold months when natural forage is buried under snow. But their winter “vacation” is over. They’ve been rounded up…