Yellowstone by horse 🐎

Howard Eaton was one of Yellowstone National Park’s most famous and beloved concessioners who introduced hundreds of tourists to the wonders of Yellowstone between 1883 and 1921. His saddle-horse tours contributed to Yellowstone’s popularity during the park’s formative years.

Eaton’s clients were wealthy, educated Easterners who traveled by railroad to Gardiner, MT, and then spent the next two weeks on horseback with Eaton as their guide. They slept in tents and ate their meals outside —
a Yellowstone experience very different from the more typical one of traveling by stagecoach, sleeping in hotels, and eating in dining rooms.

Howard Eaton’s colorful marketing brochures promised his guests they would be “roughing it with comfort” while enjoying “a harmony of wilderness and civilization” on the trail.

Clients slept in pyramidal tents Eaton designed for their easy set-up and take-down. At every night’s camp, there was a row of white tents for single women, another row of darker tents for single men, and yet another row for married couples. As explained in the promotional material,

“Pyramidal tepee tents of heavy waterproofed canvas with floors of the same material, are provided for every two persons. The bedding, receiving competent care every day, is warm, clean, and comfortable.” If guests needed more room to dress and undress, larger tents served as dressing rooms, and still other tents were provided for sanitary arrangements.”

When Eaton began building his guiding business, the women’s suffrage movement was in its heyday; Eaton positioned himself to benefit from it. His brochures insisted “all ride astride” rather than side-saddle. Eaton reached out to women just as the side-saddle vs. riding-astride debate divided attitudes among women belonging to Eastern equestrian clubs. Generally, women who wanted to ride astride supported women’s suffrage and were the type who might prefer Eaton’s tours over those provided by the railroad companies.

The camp store at the Eaton Brothers’ Ranch carried any number of typical supplies, but not the special split-skirts needed for riding-astride; so Eaton recommended that “Ladies are advised to procure their habit for riding astride” before arriving at the ranch.”

In 1923, one year after Eaton’s death, the National Park Service (NPS) named a newly-completed, 157-mile bridle and hiking trail for him.

The sign reads:

Howard Eaton

Celebrated Western horseman and guide on his favorite mount ‘Danger.’ He conducted over one hundred horseback and camping parties through Yellowstone National Park and other scenic regions of the Rocky Mountains from Canada to Mexico.

Died April 5, 1922.

[Excerpt of article from Yellowstone Science – Volume 26 Issue 1, Archeology in Yellowstone]. Photo of Howard Eaton Trail sign by Yellowstone Heritage and Research Center