Rocky Mountain Horseback Culture

Wild horses running freely are not only a part of the Alberta’s eastern slopes landscape, they are a part of its culture and its distinctive history. An article from Alberta’s Archaeological Survey indicated that fossilized horse bones dating back ten thousand years have been found north of Willmore Wilderness Park. A 700,000-year-old horse skull found in the permafrost of a Yukon gold mine has yielded a complete genetic profile breaking scientific records and revealing many new insights about the evolution of the horse. Is it any wonder then, that horse and man came together to explore the Canadian Rocky Mountain passes and find the route to the Pacific Ocean during the early 1700s? Horses have been a part of the Rocky Mountain landscape for time immemorial.

The Willmore Wilderness Foundation is fostering the history, traditions and culture so that future generations can enjoy the horseback way of life. The traditions of a mountain horseback culture are in jeopardy of being lost. Since it’s formation in 2002, the Willmore Wilderness Foundation has been focused on educating youth, or anyone else who wants to learn, traditional mountain skills.

The Willmore Wilderness Foundation has promoted mountain horsemanship clinics, as well as starting colts, right up to the finished horse. This clinic will educate people how to start young colts from horseback. Old techniques that were used in ancient Greece in 350 BC are being resurrected and used today. Xenophon’s “On Horsemanship” is one of the oldest surviving Western works detailing the principles involved in training the horse in a manner that is non-abusive. Participants are taught how to work horses in a mountain environment with no stress. These programs help develop the mountain culture and traditions for our unique backcountry industry—and keep them alive for future generations.