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Mantle family continues work with mustangs

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

The Mantle Ranch is a family-based operation consisting of Steve Mantle, his two sons Bryan and Nick and their respective wives and children Katie and Eastwood and Kayla, Kyah, Charly and Holt. 

The family has over 30 years of experience working with mustangs through the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to help gentle, train and adopt them out to loving homes. 

In 2021, the BLM celebrated 23 years of working with the Mantle family. 

Each year, the Mantles care for and work with approximately 200 head of mixed-age and gender horses. 

Getting started 

Steve started working with wild horses in the 1980s after helping his dad and uncle on the Western Slope of Colorado near Meeker and Craig when his family started the Sombrero Horse Stables.

Steve recalls helping at the stable through high school and starting colts every spring. 

“We had about 1,500 head of horses at the stable at one time. Every spring, we would start a bunch of colts,” he explains. “We would ride between 800 to 1,000 head of horses before they would get shipped out to stables throughout the country.”  

Over the course of 60 years, Sombrero expanded from the stable in Estes Park, Colo. – which was opened in 1959 by Rex Ross Walker, Walker’s brother-in-law Pat Mantle and the late Keith Hagler – to many other locations. 

He notes his involvement with the stable is what led to his passion for the wild mustang, and in the 1980s, Steve started incorporating mustangs into the stable business. He notes they were some of the best horses they had – the backbone of the operation. 

After moving to Wheatland in 1996 and establishing his family ranch, Steve’s sons wanted to start getting involved. 

So, Steve went to a BLM auction to buy some untouched colts for them to work with when they were roughly 13 and 15 years old. 

After talking to an individual from BLM who did helicopter gathers, Steve got set up as a BLM contractor to gentle some six- to 10-year-old mustangs, and it didn’t take long before he was hired for the job. 

In 1998, Steve was awarded a six-month contract from the BLM and has maintained his contract to this day. 

Current operations 

After working with the six- to 10-year-olds, Steve started working with two-year-old horses instead and found working with younger horses set them up for better success. 

Today, Bryan, Katie, Nick and Kayla work with roughly 20 horses at a time, only bringing in a few new ones every once in a while. Their training methods involve simple safety, patience and consistency as top priorities. 

The Mantles focus on teaching mustangs the basics of training – to ride, stop, turn around, backup, lead and load onto a trailer. One of their goals is to provide a gentle horse an average person can take home to further the horse’s training.

After working them in a larger arena, Steve says they will take horses to a round pen and work on pressure and release in a smaller space. Then, they begin adding in work with a halter, touch and loading and unloading into a trailer.  

“Training any horse takes time, and a person only gets back what they put in,” Steve says. “They can revert back to being wild very quickly. Less can be more at times, so taking time and earning trust is crucial. At the end of the day, time is what makes the difference.” 

He adds, “Bottom line, patience, consistency and kindness is what allows for success when working with a mustang.” 

Steve explains they have horses ranging in age from yearlings to five-year-olds, and through the BLM contract, once they turn six, they are branded and shipped to long-term holding pastures. 

Today, the facility offers on-site and in-person adoptions by appointment, and Bryan says when adopting a mustang, it’s important to note the amount of work and effort it takes to further their training. 

Passing on the tradition 

Steve explains he helps on the ranch when needed but has passed a lot of the operation down to both of his sons and their families. Nick does most of the work with domestic horses and boarding and Bryan and Katie deal with the mustangs.  

“We come from a long history of being involved with the mustang,” says Nick. “While growing up, it was my brother and I’s job to work with the wild horses. We’ve kind of had to figure it out as we went, but we come from a long line of horsemanship cowboys.” 

For Bryan, taking over the business means taking on the responsibility of continuing to provide quality mustangs. 

“We are able to provide quality mustangs to people who cherish their strengths and abilities, along with maintaining a close relationship with the BLM,” shares Bryan. “We were recently able to expand our training program to incorporate some different branches of the government.” 

He adds, “This gives us the opportunity to ride horses for extended periods of time to prepare them for their new careers in various programs such as law enforcement, border patrol and the U.S. Forest Service. We’re excited and grateful for the opportunity to work with these different organizations and provide them well-trained mustangs that fit their needs.”

Wild horse adoptions

For the past eight years, the Mantle family has taken horses to the Cheyenne Frontier Days Wild Horse and Burro Adoption, held annually in July. During the event, they do demonstrations with the horses and then auction them off at the end of the week. 

“I’m committed to about 10 to 15 horses a year,” says Nick. “But, at any time I can go out to my dad’s and pick up a few horses, pending their temperament.” 

The event features roughly 15 to 20 halter- and saddle-started wild horses and burros, trained at the Mantle Adoption and Training Facility. A minimum of a $125 fee for trained horses is required, but horses at the event can range between $2,000 to $5,000 for riding horses and between $700 to $800 for halter-started yearlings.

In addition, Bryan and Katie will be hosting an all-around mustang horse show in conjunction with the Wyoming Mustang Association at their ranch on Sept. 23. 

“This gives us an opportunity to get some of our available mustangs in the show ring prior to their adoption, expanding their exposure as well as offering a yearly event for those who have adopted a mustang in the past from any facility or location,” says Bryan. 

The BLM conducts numerous wild horse and burro adoptions all over the country. Information on upcoming adoptions, adoption applications and a list of animals available for adoption can be found on the BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Online Corral at  

For more information, visit Mantle’s Wild Horses on Facebook or

Brittany Gunn is a corresponding writer for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to

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