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Losing a friend to a good cause. So long Luke.

Release Date: 6/18/2013

A few October updates from Ben's blog.
Read the entire blog by clicking here.


September 30, 2013 -- Losing a best friend -- for a good cause.

"Last night I auctioned off Luke, my Paint Mustang, at the Mustang Million contest in Ft. Worth, Texas!  The O’Brien family of Tulsa, Oklahoma, purchased Luke for $25,000, all proceeds will go to the Mustang Heritage Foundation to promote more mustang adoptions. I knew Luke would sell high but $25,000 blew away all expectations.  Now more than 12 hours later, with Luke in the hands of his new owner, I’m trying to figure out why in the world I gave away a horse that I deeply cared for. I know the answer but I still miss my horse."


September 11, 2013 -- A retrospect on the last 100 miles.

"The last 100 miles of the trip was the most dangerous terrain of the route. Glacier National Park is notorious for early snowfall, constant rain, icy passes, vertical cliffs and steep narrow trails. It’s the type of place that you’re wary of in the best of weather and terrified of as soon as the rocks get iced over. The passes in Glacier are where the Mountain Goats live, above the Bighorn, where you can look down at 10,000-year-old glaciers nearly 2,000 feet in elevation below you. Mirror lakes surrounded by vertical cliffs are found at the headwaters of the different drainages. We saw bald eagles, huge bull moose, bugling elk, Rocky Mountain Bighorn, deer, grizzly and black bears, and dozens of Mountain Goats."

"Our first obstacle of the day, Pitimakan Pass, looked impossible and would have been so if the Park Service hadn’t cut a trail into the rock. As we rounded the first switchback, we saw a Park Ranger and after a moment of conversation learned that she had never heard of horses going over Pitimakan Pass. What a reassurance."








September 5, 2013 -- Almost there.

The crew is closer and closer to Canada and the end. The excitement is clear in this entry found on Ben's Western Horseman blog.

"We’re currently five days and about 100 miles from the Canadian Border. Excited is an understatement! All that remains of our journey are seven 9,000-foot passes, 100 miles of cliff face switchbacks exposed to the forecasted afternoon thunderstorms, and possibly the most incredible scenery in the Lower 48, Glacier National Park. The Canadian Border has been a vague dream of ours for the past six months and as we get closer reality has begun to set in that the adventure will be drawing to a close. It’s a bittersweet feeling, I’m ready to get to that border, but it’ll be a hard transition from such a carefree way of living."

The rest of this blog entry is particularly interesting and a bit nostalgic. It has been a great ride for all of us following the riders and the mustangs for all these months. Be sure to read this one: http://blogs.westernhorseman.com/unbranded/

August 21, 2013 -- Best things in life? "Exploring on horseback and fly fishing." More from Ben, on his birthday.

About all the news we get from Ben and the crew these days is from his blog on Western Horseman. But we all can sense that the end is coming into view. And although some of us were very worried when the guys passed by Browning last June, it does appear that they will make it to Canada before the worst of the high country fall weather arrives. But they can probably still count on a bit of snow and hard frost as they near the border. Here's an excerpt from the latest entry in Ben's blog as entered by Kate Bradley.

"On my birthday, August 8, we traveled about 18 miles of mountain passes, meadows, and cliffs in the Madison Range East of Ennis, Montana, to a high mountain lake reflecting snow-clad peaks above. One of those mountain lakes where you can attempt to describe its beauty or take a representative picture but you just can’t do it justice. We broke camp quickly because trout were jumping out of the water across the glass lake with a layer of bustling bugs just above the surface. Keep it classic, size-16 Parachute Adams fly. "The fishing was easy and the trout were hungry. My picket horse, Luke, was dirty and watching us catch one trout after another . . . "

Read more on his blog updated on the 21st at: http://blogs.westernhorseman.com/unbranded/

August 13, 2013 -- Another blog update from Ben.

In addition to taking some time for some horse-fly fishing, this is an excerpt from Ben's report: ". . . we traveled through some gorgeous but gnarly country in the Gallatin and Madison mountain ranges. We rode up the raging Gallatin River for a mile and a half to avoid the highway, crossed multiple passes over 10,000 feet in elevation, looked at Bighorn Sheep below us, and got rained on every afternoon." Read more at http://blogs.westernhorseman.com/unbranded/

August 7, 2013 -- Ben Masters just posted this entry on his blog. Incredible.

"The best two-week pack trip I can think of? Easy: Through the Teton Wilderness, into Yellowstone Park and then on to the Absaroka-Beartooths. If you’re looking for a great backcountry trek, here’s a step-by-step, or destination-by-destination, guide to some of the most beautiful land we’ve seen. Unlike most wilderness areas that contain little more than rocks and ice, this stretch had huge grass-filled valleys, large rivers and lower elevations, and goes through the largest intact ecosystem in the Lower 48. We saw bears, bison, bald eagles, elk, deer and a variety of terrain. If I had two weeks to go on a pack trip this is the route that I would take . . . "

Read the rest of the update by going to his blog on Western Horseman: http://blogs.westernhorseman.com/unbranded/


August 3, 2013 -- As of last week the UNBRANDED riders were well into Yellowstone National Park. We expect to hear any moment that they have crossed over into Montana and are out of the park. Ben and the crew recently posted some photos which we reposted here. He promises to update his blog at http://blogs.westernhorseman.com/unbranded/ as soon as he can.



In this short video "The Browning Guy" wraps up the visit to Browning by the UNBRANDED riders. Watch it here.



The Ride. The Mission. The documentary UNBRANDED follows the story of Ben Masters, Thomas Glover, Jonny Fitzsimons, and Ben Thamer as they travel 3,000 miles through the deepest backcountry in the American West from the Mexican border to the Canadian border. The pack trip will take over six months through Arizona, Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana in famously rugged country such as Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, and the Bob Marshall Wilderness. Mustangs, born and raised in the wild, will be taking them on their journey. This is a story of the partnership between horse and rider, a testament to the hardiness of mustangs, and a tribute to the early explorers whose spirit remains today. Luckily for us, this adventure just happened to pass by Browning. You'll want to watch this teaser for their upcoming documentary.


"There's not enough quit in any of us."

The crew set up camp at the Browning corrals and sheds. We offered the use of our company showers and hot meals in the Browning cafateria during their stay. Plus, they joined in on the fun at Browning's annuual summer employee party. 

JULY  UPDATE. The riders spent the 4th near Jackson Hole Wyoming, and even attended a rodeo there. Horses (and burro) were given a few days of rest after the push up from Browning. Now the riders and their mustangs have headed north again into the wild country approaching Two Ocean Pass along the continental divide.

This is one of the most unique and rugged areas of North America. Inside and outside of the two parks is famous elk country. Once the UNBRANDED riders cross the pass they will head up along the Yellowstone plateau and skirt Yellowstone lake. Plenty of fish for dinner, if they have the time. Lots of water (cold and hot), volcanic rock  and possibly bears. Where they are going they will not likely see many tourists. Or roads.



INTO THE MOUNTAINS. UPDATE. On Saturday morning the UNBRANDED riders loaded their mustangs and headed north from Browning over the old Trapper's Loop trail. Saturday they camped at the mouth of the South Fork of the Ogden River. Sunday morning they met up with members of the Weber County Search and Rescue who guided them up past Red Rock, past the entrance to the Camp Browning Boy Scout camp, past Causey Reservoir and onto the "Skinto Trail." The trail then took them way up to their camp near a small spring. By now they are out on the high, flat desert near Ant Flats. From there it is north to Bear Lake where they will traverse around the lake on the west side, way up on the ridge on the Highline trail.

Browning extends a special thanks to Allen Melle of the Weber County Search and Rescue and Jeff Jones, rancher and friend of Browning for helping make the stop-over of the UNBRANDED riders come together successfully.


DAY FOUR. The UNBRANDED riders, their mustangs and their mascot burro have left Browning heading north over the old Trapper's Loop trail toward the upper Ogden Valley.  This is the same trail followed by trapper Peter Skeen Ogden in 1824 as he came south from Idaho. Ogden eventually trapped the upper Ogden Valley then came over into Mountain Green and camped near where the UNBRANDED riders camped for their stay the past four days.

Our time with the UNBRANDED riders will always be special to all of us at Browning and we wish them the best on their quest north to the Canada border. We will try to post some updates on any news or events along the way.

The UNBRANDED riders take some time out at Browning to do another thing they love.
We can assure you that they have shot before. A lot.

DAY THREE. The four cowboys on their amazing  Mexico to Canada UNBRANDED wild mustang adventure are still camped out down at the old Browning farm. These are not first class accommodations for sure. But these trail-worn, hardened guys don't seem to mind. They are taking a few days to rest their horses here at Browning. Plus it is a good time to take a break since they are about half way through their adventure and need a bit of R&R. 1,500 out of 3,000 miles have gone under foot (acutally under hoof).

Today they are waiting for an expert horseshoer (officially called a farrier) to arrive. He has been shoeing their horses along way. Word is he may not get here until tomorrow.

The trail has been grueling. A mix of rocky high country trails along with a few gravelly shoulders and hard asphalt. A special type of horseshoe is used that can take it. Their farrier uses three metals welded together -- starting with tungsten. The other metals, apparently, are a secret.

Browning is at a crossroads, so luckily a few of their support team was able to catch up with them today. The riders and the film crew all dropped by at lunchtime for a home cooked, hot meal in the Browning cafeteria. 

Keep reading to get the entire UNBRANDED story and be sure to "like" them on Facebook if you get a chance.

Photo art right: Looking north from the mountains between Salt Lake and Park City. Behind two rows of mountains further north is Browning's headquarters. Taken June 14th.

DAY TWO. Four young Texas cowboys, their faces burned red and brushy beards beached by an unrelenting summer sun are on the trail, riding 14 wild mustangs up from Mexico to Canada. In planning for the last three years, the adventure will take all summer as they chase the receding winter snows northward on a journey – a ride through history.

Adopted from the BLM’s wild horse round-ups, their sturdy mustangs are ideal for this journey. Descended from the wild horses that have roamed the American West for centuries, these animals are sure-footed, boot-leather tough and don’t break down even after weeks of hard riding, unlike their well-bred modern counterparts.

The four horsemen from the Lone Star State are, admittedly, a modern throwback to a simpler time - a time when young men much like themselves, living and working on horseback tamed an entire continent.

Today they are sitting down for their first hot meal in several days, a lunch at the Browning offices in the brushy foothills of Northern Utah. We took a moment to ask two of them, Ben Masters, 24, of Amarillo, and Thomas Glover, 23, of Houston, to share some thoughts after being on the trail for about two months and some 1500 miles.

One can instantly tell by their posture that, even with the strength of youth the last several weeks have taken a physical toll. Backs become stiff, limbs become cramped and the term ‘saddle sore’ takes on a harsh and personal reality that mere flatlanders and city folks can’t fully appreciate.

Sitting quietly at a dark wood table, their aches and pains are dulled for the moment as the fire of adventure burns brightly in their eyes – eyes that have squinted into the setting sun and taken in the grand vistas of today’s American West.

“I’m amazed at how big the West really is, and how much land is still untouched and undeveloped,” noted Masters between enthusiastic bites of a hot roast beef sandwich. “We don’t see that much any more, even in Texas.”

“And how simple this life can be,” chimed in Glover “You do come to appreciate things like air conditioning, turning on a tap and getting hot water, but being out on the trail helps reduce the noise of modern life.”

While their mustang horses are holding up well, not all has been smooth sailing thus far. “The worst was the shear terror of watching all 14 horses spook at once and scatter,” said Masters “We were on foot for two days rounding them all up. We were wondering if we’d ever get them back.”

After a few days of rest here at Browning, their trip will take them from the rugged deserts of Arizona and Utah into the even more rugged mountains of Wyoming, Idaho and Montana.

“We’re excited,” agreed Masters and Glover. “We’ll be getting into the real back country now. It the past we’ve only been a few days from a paved road or a town. Now we’ll be a week or more away from civilization.”

As they returned to their meal, a thought strikes you and resonates deep within. These are four fine young men, filled with a pure sense of awe and adventure. They are dedicated and determined to succeed in their grand quest. They are proud of the miles behind them and yet are looking forward to the trail ahead.

They are very embodiment of what our nation once was, and hopefully, what, somewhere deep inside, we still are. As John Steinbeck once said “A man on a horse is spiritually as well as physically bigger than a man on foot.” These are four young giants on the trail into history.

We at Browning understand the undying spirit of adventure that drives these young men. We wish them well, and we’ll continue to report on their progress.

Written by Browning Staff Writer Scott Engen

DAY ONE. On a patch of ground just West of the Browning offices on Browning land is a corral and a pasture. It has seen its share of cattle over the years, but tonight it will have some very unique visitors -- four young college men on a journey of adventure -- riding wild mustangs from the Mexican border up through the wilderness and backroads of the West all the way to Canada. Their experience, along with a message about the value of wild mustangs, will be featured in an upcoming film. On this day their journey brings them to Browning. Photos below show them coming into camp late in the evening.

These photos show the UNBRANDED riders and their mustangs as the head up out of the South Fork of the Ogden river, past Red Rock and up onto the high desert mountains northeast of Browning. Several Weber County Search and Rescue riders guided them up past Causy Reservoir up onto a trail often called the "Skinto Tral." They continued up until they arrived at Causey Spring, where they camped for the night.

Causey reservoir's north branch is a creek called Wheatgrass. Up a small drainage to the north -- right where the UNBRANDED riders crossed Wheatgrass -- is Camp Browning. Camp Browning is a summer camp operated by the Trapper Trails Council of the Boy Scouts of America. It is a high adventure camp for the older 14-18 year-old scouts and it's primary activity is, of course, shooting.












A Synopsis from Unbrandedthefilm.com. 3000 miles, 12 horses, 5 states, 4 men, 1 goal: to complete a 6-­-month journey that was once a reality for the western frontiersman and still stirs in the human spirit. UNBRANDED follows four young men as they take on a monumental challenge that will change them forever.

Having recently graduated from Texas A&M, Ben Masters, Jonny Fitzsimons, Ben Thamer and Thomas Glover are delaying their entry into the job market to embark on the adventure of a lifetime. Ben Masters’ dream is to ride horses through the great American West from Mexico to Canada. It took no time to convince his college buddies to go along with him. Each one begins the adventure with his own dreams to fulfill, knowing full well that hardships and hazards come with the territory. They'll face unrelenting heat, freezing temperatures, hail and lightning storms, rattlesnakes, Grizzly bears, raging river crossings and high mountain passes buried in snow. We will travel with them as they blaze a trail through Arizona, Utah, Idaho, Wyoming and Montana. The backdrop for this incredible journey will be our majestic public lands, including the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, and the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex.

But one more x-­-factor has been added to the journey of these young explorers. For their trail horses, they’ve chosen wild mustangs. After hundreds of years of natural selection while roaming the rocky terrain of the West, this breed is perfect for the UNBRANDED team. The film will follow the nerve-­wracking process of adopting mustangs, which have only known fear of humans, and watch as that fear is transformed into hard-­won trust. These spirited animals were also brought onboard to raise awareness of the plight of thousands of mustangs that are in holding facilities across the United States. A century ago, there were 2 million mustangs living in the wild. Today, there are approximately 37,000 roaming free in the U.S. with more than 43,000 living in holding pens. They await a horse adopter who rarely comes, but with new adoption programs in place from the Mustang Heritage Foundation, we are given hope.

UNBRANDED is a rite-­of-­passage story like no other. Traveling with these four adventurers will immerse us in the beauty and romance of the Wild West, and show us why these lands are so vital to the history and future of America. We’ll be front and center as our foursome communes and clashes with Mother Nature on a pilgrimage of exploration, exaltation and exhaustion. They symbolize the true American spirit, choosing to follow their hearts into open country before they cross the threshold into the "real world" of demand and responsibility. In joining them, the viewer will be transported and inspired to reflect on the wild hopes and dreams that perhaps still burn in their own hearts. One thing is certain, these men are living their dream -­- undaunted, untethered, UNBRANDED.

Click here to go to the UNBRANDED Website.


   Follow them on Facebook and Twitter.





Synopsis and video copyright UNBRANDED, 2013. A special thanks to the riders, the entire crew and the supporters of this project for allowing Browning to use this content. Special thanks to Allen Melle of Weber County Search and Rescue for acting as the initial contact with UNBRANDED.

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