Article & Photography by Mark Bedor
A pair of massive buffalo bulls grunt and snort, preparing to battle amid an unspoiled grassy meadow inside Yellowstone National Park. It’s a rare and potentially dangerous experience for the horseback riders observing the ritual, but Bob Lantis has seen this thrilling sight up close many times throughout his 50 years of leading pack trips into the backcountry of the legendary park. While trotting by the bulls aboard his Paint Horse “Bo” one bright August morning, Bob nonchalantly chirps that experiencing Yellowstone on horseback is an adventure that never gets old.
“Just being here is the best part,” he chimed.
Bob led his first string of packhorses and guests into Yellowstone in 1968, and he hasn’t missed a summer since—even now at age 83. Growing up in Sioux City, Iowa, Bob was riding a Shetland pony by the time he was 5. He and his brother grew up riding bareback in the vacant lots near their home.
“My dad bought horses that weren’t broke, and we learned to ride on them,” Bob recalled. “Ormaybe you could say we taught the horses how to be ridden.”
On his first trip to the Black Hills of South Dakota as a 12-year-old, Bob discovered the love of his life; home to the historic town of Deadwood, Mount Rushmore and a thundering herd of wild buffalo in Custer State Park, South Dakota—and everything it encompassed—enthralled Bob. After college and a stint in the army, Bob and his wife, Julie, raised their four children in Rapid City, South Dakota, just outside the Black Hills—and horses have always been part of the family.
Bob was usually gone during the weekdays, driving 100,000 miles a year as a traveling salesman. In the warm months of the year, his horses joined him for treks across his sales territory of Montana, Wyoming and the Dakotas—states with lots of open space to roam on horseback at the end of his on-the-road work days.
“I would have three or four hours with nothing to do and lots of places to ride,” Bob recalled. “I’d just get on my horse and away we’d go.”
This is an excerpt from the full article—get the whole story in the Winter 2019 Chrome magazine, which is sent to all current APHA members. Not a member? Join or renew at apha.com/join.