The Highline Blog
June 16, 2018 – Volume 13 – Issue 24
Another stellar week at the ranch has come to a close. This week we had a smaller group of guests, which gave us plenty of opportunities to ride and learn with each individual and approach them no matter their level of experience. While this is always something we strive to do I believe it went particularly well this week.
Last week we moved all of the cattle from Shayne’s Mountain over to the Ferguson pasture. During the week Jessica, Greg, Sue, and I went on Shayne’s mountain hunting for one steer it appears we may have misplaced. Although many possibilities exist to explain what happened to the mysterious missing steer, we had by the end of our day’s search decided that of the possibilities that existed to explain what happened, there were four that were the most plausible. They were: 1) The steer was outside the fence 2) The steer was still in the pasture (likely feeling rather satisfied with himself) 3) the original count from last week was off by one, or 4) Bigfoot had taken the steer. We were all in mutual agreement that option 4 seemed like our best bet. We even thought we might have heard some grunting in the bushes by one of the water tanks. Our search continues…
It seems a great deal of having cattle involves either keeping them in where they’re supposed to be or getting them out of where they aren’t. On Friday, Phil, Greg, and Jeanette went out with Nathan and I to bring in three steers that had escaped the Ferguson pasture. Though they were outside the fence, they stayed close knowing that mineral, water, and other cattle were just on the other side of the wire.
This week roping was a popular activity during the evenings for both wranglers and guests. Kevin led roping lessons with guests Chris, Joe, and Phil. Often people don’t realize how many steps are involved in roping besides simply swinging a loop. Between handling your coils and building a loop there’s a lot to learn before you’re even ready to try catching a cow. Luckily all of this week’s ropers were quick studies and were up and swinging in no time. It’s always a delight to see the look of shock and excitement on someone’s face the first time they catch with their rope.
On Thursday, I took Joe and Jeanette on a horsemanship trail ride up to the lookout. During our ride we practiced hills, soft feels, and leg yields. Often we find that riders are not taught the proper way to ascend and descend hills often being told to go down at an angle or to lean far forward or back. Knowing how to correctly go up and down hills is vital to keeping you and your horse safe and comfortable, which is especially important given how much of the terrain when riding out is not flat. By sitting straight up in the saddle, directing the horse straight down hill, and asking for a soft feel we can keep our horses balanced and reduce the potential for falling.
Jeanette had the pleasure of riding Omar for most of the week and often remarked that she was impressed with his athleticism and responsiveness. As such a large horse one might think that he would crash through the woods mowing down anything in his way. Quite the contrary, Omar has the ability to creep through the foliage as stealthily as any of the other horses on the ranch. This ability is a testament to what balance, feeling, and timing can offer a horse no matter their breed and size.
On Friday, interns, wranglers, and guests got a lesson on how perspective can make a huge difference in handling your horse. In the daily hustle and bustle of getting horses ready for the day sometimes one forgets to truly take into account the horse’s feelings. Its easy to approach the horse like you’re just there to do a job and you may get it done but if your horse doesn’t like it you may be making it harder for the next time. When one changes their perspective and works to become their horse’s friend something unpleasant like applying smelly sunscreen to their noses can be made into something they crave. It’s not always about what can be done with a horse as much as how they feel about it. It’s important to take time to make interactions with your horse positive because, as Shayne says, “if you don’t have the time to do it right the first time how the heck do you think you’ll have time to do it the second time?” Often changing your perspective can lead to better outcomes and happier horses.
This week we had to say goodbye to Manfred and Jessica who have been guests with us for the last two weeks. They rode Twizzle and Benny during most of their stay and it was obvious that both horses were quite happy with their riders. From horsemanship to checking mineral tubs to hunting for and driving cattle they were up for anything we threw at them and were always eager to help. We look forward to seeing them again in the future.
As I bring this week’s Highline to a close I just wanted to share how excited I am to be back at the ranch working and riding with everyone. We have an awesome crew this year and there’s nowhere I’d rather spend this summer than with all of you, near and far.
Until next week,
June 9, 2018 – Volume 13 – Issue 23
Last night as Shayne and Nathan and I were leaving the lodge after dinner, Nathan commented that this was some of the most fun he’d had with a group of guests this season. Shayne and I couldn’t agree more!
It seems like some weeks, everyone in the groups seems to fit so well together. Not only did everyone have great camaraderie, all guests participated in all aspects of the program this week. Everyone did some horsemanship in the arena, in the mountains with Shayne and everyone worked their booties off the ride around Shayne’s mountain to try and gather as many steers as possible and get them moved to our Ferguson pasture.
Our Canadian girls, Susan, Brenda and Kate spent some extra time with me learning about riding colts/young horses/troubled horses so that they would have more tools to take home with them to their own horses. They really gained a lot of confidence this week
Diana would have won the award for “most improved” rider this week. She came here on Monday, never having ridden before in her life! By Friday she knew how to ride with her legs only and no reins at the walk, she could post the trot, canter, and she was climbing up and down mountains with us helping to gather and drive cattle. I was very impressed!
Manfred, Jessica and Sandra came here from Europe and have had quite a bit of formal riding experience. But they did not come here hoping to show us what they knew—they came humble and eager to learn as much as possible. Their riding this week really came along! Manfred and Jessica will continue with us next week. Sandra is hoping to come back as an intern next summer
Bob, Bernie and Scott really put every bit of their energy into helping us get as many cattle gathered and moved as possible. They rode out with the cattle more than anyone and had some hard-earned miles under their belts! Despite the many miles, on Friday, they were still sitting tall in the saddle—and ready for some cold beers of course!
Shayne made a point this week to get his arena horsemanship folks outside one afternoon to show them proper ways to ride up and down steep inclines (we have a handy hill of sand on his mountain that is PERFECT for this!) He also worked with guests and interns on how to work on herdbound and uncertainty in a horse outside—without looking as if you are working at it. I won’t divulge all the secrets—you’ll have to come out and experience it yourself. It was certainly a different way of doing things than we’ve done before and involved drawing the horse to comfort. In fact, you might not have even known there was a lesson involved it all seemed so nonchalant! But several horses who were a little bit bothered outside got as good as we’ve seen them. Shayne was on his first ride outside on his horse Julio and you would never have guessed it!
Shayne also made a point to head out with interns and wranglers and train them on how he would hunt for/gather/move cattle. There are so many nuances involved in stockmanship—it truly is an art form in itself! And these steers can be REALLY touchy and flighty if pushed too hard or allowed to challenge the rider—just slight movements from the rider can make all the changes for the better. It’s like driving a car—small corrections will keep you between the lines—big ones and you probably won’t be on the road anymore!
On the non-riding end of things, the ranch is really coming along. This year we have really tried to get lots of “wish list” projects done. And there’s been TONS of improvements so far! Although most of the ranch has really clean 3-strand electric fence around it, there are still spots where we have barbed wire and it has been our long-term goal to replace it. So far this year, we are about 60% done and it’s been replaced in all areas where horses and cattle will be heading to in the coming weeks.
Pasture clean-up was a big project. We created a new “dry lot” for our horses during the daytime with tons of trees and shade. The entire pasture was limbed, drug and cleaned up to where it looks like a park! We’ve added new water lines and tanks and the horses are quite content.
Each pasture is being cleaned extensively of branches and downfall. It’s a constant process, especially after the winter and some of the wind storms we’ve had of late. But things are about as clean cut as ever right now.
We have really spruced up the game room, gift shop, and cabins. Our covered tent area is getting a facelift from our housekeeping and kitchen crews because we plan to use it much more for outdoor dining this summer. By the way, have I mentioned that the kitchen is in the best shape ever? It sparkles and Miriam and Jenna are putting out the best food the guests have ever had! Those are their words and I couldn’t agree more. We all joke that we will not be making it out of our “winter pants” at all this summer—the food is just too dang good. But…I’ve gotten off-subject!
Corrals are scraped and cleaned. Every lawn on the ranch property gets manicured weekly. We have a brand-new Ranch Van and a brand-new Ranch Truck! We also have 6 brand new pipe corrals for incoming horses! So many new and exciting things…I’m sure I’m missing several
A big, big thanks goes to all of our crew that works so often behind the scenes—Randy, Willy, Anna, Dave, and Adrienne
There was just one melancholy part to this great week. After 19 years of hard work, Dori has decided it’s time to retire. She has put her heart and soul into this place and has helped to change the lives of so many who have come to the ranch. As you all might imagine, working at the ranch is not any normal job—it’s more of a life commitment! At this point, Dori has earned some well-deserved time to spend time with her daughter, grandkids and new puppy! She can catch up on her own bucket list now and most of all, I hope she will take some time to just relax. Don’t worry, she is still just around the corner for all of us 🙂 We wish her the very best in retirement!
Have a great weekend everyone! –Des
June 2, 2018 – Volume 13 – Issue 22
We had a beautiful week here at the ranch. Most of it was really nice weather although Friday it felt a bit like late winter. That was short lived though and the coming week looks to be warm and sunny!
There was a lot happening this week! Everyone at the ranch made fantastic progress, be it on horseback or on the ground with special projects. Our group of hard core horsemanship guests rode with Roby all week- Shayne and Des were in Florida for their annual fishing trip, despite being in the middle of the hurricane down there. Can’t say if they caught any fish but knowing the both of them, I’d bet they made the most of it.
Roby had the guests doing many different things that challenged them in several directions. From arena work to riding out, they learned ways to get their horses soft and with them, and by Friday there was not one horse that didn’t “turn loose” for their human. Catherine said that it was the coolest thing to be walking back towards the ranch on a loose rein with Benny doing a slow walk with a feel. “He felt like he was walking on his tip toes he was that light”. This was a bit of a unique week in that it was initially to be a non guest week. That changed and we had a small group of guests who were essentially on the internship program for the week.
Anything that was on the docket for the interns, the guests got to experience as well! Everyone studied very hard to make as much progress in their horsemanship as possible. There were two major staff projects happening on the ground as well. A fencing crew was out each day bright and early to remove all of the old wire fencing surrounding the West and Elk Pastures that border the county road and the meadows in front of the lodge. All of it had to be taken down and replaced with new fencing. Posts holes had to be dug, posts installed, paths cleared and weed wacked all with a crew new to this type of work. They were quick studies and I heard they installed several miles of fence by Friday!
The other project was to complete the saddle and chink cleaning. Dori was heading up this project, and if you know her, then you know how thorough it will be ☺. By weeks end there were 35 saddles cleaned to where they looked like new. The tack room has never looked so good! With everyone having a multitude of other things to get done, Dori went through about 30 of those saddles herself… she was a cleaning machine! She did have some help though in the form of the Bock’s newest family member- a very cute puppy named Bud. He is an Anatolian Shepherd Dog and at only 12 weeks old is already up to Dori’s knees- he is expected to reach about 170 pounds. Their cat wasted no time in letting the pup know who is boss. I think he figures he better get this done before Bud becomes giant!
Adrienne also helped get our guest chinks (chaps) in good order by giving them a good cleaning and oiling and next up will be all of the headstalls. Brenda and Adrienne worked on spring planting and mowing, getting everything really spruced up for the start of our peak season this coming week. The flowers are beautiful- Brenda definitely has a knack for gardening. Nathan continued to get shoes on the herd and guest horses in preparation for riding out in the country. It always amazes me how he can keep this many horses sound with as much riding as they get. Dave continued work cleaning out all of the dry lots that the horses stay in when they are not in the herd, as well as working on the fencing crew each day.
The kitchen crew outdid themselves again- Miriam’s dinners this week were simple, but oh so good- southern fried chicken with homemade cole slaw and warm biscuits right out of the oven – I think this was my favorite meal of the week. Jenna flew home to be a bridesmaid in her sister’s wedding so Adrienne stepped in to make breakfast all week, and she did great! Efficient and a good cook too, she kept the guest and staff starting off the day with a good meal.
Many of you will remember Jessie from last year- she started as an intern at the ranch a couple of seasons ago. Last year she came back as a wrangler and helped me in the office. Jessie will be here arriving today and staying through Mid August – she brings enthusiasm and cheerfulness with her and we are excited to have her back!
Lastly, we have a new website! Our old website served a great function for many years, but like all things over time, it needed a bit of an evolution.
After several months of preparation, we have just launched the new design. We’ve worked hard to make it more streamlined, Photo friendly and have all of the pertinent information that you know and love. The biggest change is that our website is now mobile friendly so you can easily keep up with everything going on at MMR!!
Our web address remains the same: https://www.mmgranch.net so be sure to check it out.
That is about it for this week- have a great day!
May 27, 2018 – Volume 13 – Issue 21
Well, the yearling steers are now turned out on Shayne’s mountain enjoying the grass, trees and their freedom. They fared well through the weighing process this week, and really are quite a nice bunch of cattle. We had one of the Charlolais cattle (There are two that came in with this group of steers) that developed an eye infection. He was brought into the chute to be treated and Roby started working on adhering the eye patch that will protect his eye from the sun- he was rubbing the steers face to try and dry it a bit, and before you know it the steer was literally melting his head into Roby’s lap. He was thoroughly enjoying his massage.
In two days we weighed 226 cattle with a lot of help from our guests. Each day they would help us drive in the cattle from Randy’s pasture, put them through the scale one at a time, and then move them out to Shayne’s pasture. There is a lot going on in the weighing process. Once we get them to the corrals, they are sorted off 5-10 at a time and moved into the scale house pen. Then guests would come in to sort them one by one onto the scale. The horse and rider’s movements have to be very subtle and precise in a space as small as this, so as not to get the steers “hot and bothered”. Our goal is to make it as least stressful as possible for them. In addition to working from horseback, there are tag numbers to be called out, two separate scale gates to be worked, and weights to be recorded. Plus, we are always watching for irritated eyes, lameness and anything else that might need some TLC.
We had about half new guests and half returning guests this week. Melissa had been here before and decided it was time again. We also had a few newcomer’s to the ranch: Deb from Washington and Steve, and Mom and daughter-in-law, Joellen and
Anna who were all from California. Everyone put their heart into whatever it was they chose to do on a particular day- whether it be cattle work, arena horsemanship, or relaxing on Horseshoe lake for a fun morning of kayaking and paddle boarding. The lake was a spectacular way to end the week!
We have a bittersweet day today- We will be saying happy trails to Nina as she heads back to NY, after a two month internship. We enjoyed having her here and she made a lot of progress in her riding. Trey, from Texas, joined us this week to start his internship. He is looking to improve his horsemanship while learning more about ranch life.
He always has a smile on his face so it seems that he is pretty happy to be at the ranch!
While many of us were driving and weighing cattle, there were guests and interns studying horsemanship in the arena with Shayne. Hear from Des below all about this…
Hey it’s Des, just throwing in my two cents from the arena end of things this week! We sure seemed to get a LOT done with our guests, interns and with our horses!
Carolyn and Sharon started their second horsemanship week with us and made huge changes in their personal horses. Sharon’s horse continued to let down and got happier with her each day even through the more complicated maneuvers. Carolyn’s horse started getting so much softer and lighter on her feet.
We had a couple other regulars—Catherine who is on her first week and Kathy, who stopped by to visit her horse we have here in training—and then stayed when we convinced her to ride for a few days ☺. Both women were challenged throughout the week but both made huge strides of improvement. Kathy was fortunate to get to watch me work Romeo horseback, get his first set of shoes, watch my second ride on him and watch as Shayne coached me through some really creative ways to get him to overcome some bad bridling experiences from his past history. Just seeing a bridle gets Romeo very unsettled—with Shayne coaching from the sidelines, I had him coming forward to put the bridle on his own head! I’m excited to work with him more until he truly does much of the bridling on his own.
Roby has been riding a client horse named Star who was a former reiner. She has already come a LONG ways in her balance and confidence in the human. Star’s son, Thunder (a 4-year old) is also here in training. Although Thunder has been ridden a little bit previously, he is certainly not gentle. Roby has been working with him on the ground to get
him to hook on, not feel the need to get tight and buck when he feels the cinches coming tight and to turn loose with his feet on the ground. Thunder has never been trimmed before so Roby needs to make sure he’s 100% safe for Nathan the first time he gets under him.
Our guests and interns did LOTS of cantering this week and even worked on some lead changes. Shayne also had some neat exercises where he would pair up an intern with a guest and they would sync up to leg yield one way or another.
Later in the week, Shayne had everyone go back to slow work. He had everyone get their horses in a soft feel, then count out one foot at a time, “left, right, reach” then do the same thing backing. Then everyone had to work on riding a perfect line in “neutral” where the horse was in neither left or right flexion in his head or body but totally straight with every step—this is much harder than you think and takes quite a bit of awareness at the slow walk. We had to do this while backing as well. As you might imagine, the horses LOVED this slow work because we were riding every single step in balance (to the best of our ability!)
With our veterans in mind this weekend, we want to Thank all who have served our
country to help protect our freedom. If you are Active duty or a Military veteran, you’ll receive 10% off of your guest rate if you reserve a 2018 week!
We hope you have a safe and fun week ahead.
Janice & Des
May 19, 2018 – Volume 13 – Issue 20
There was lots more cattle work this week as well as horsemanship, happening at the ranch.
All of the cattle needed to be ear tagged and de-wormed so our guests had plenty of opportunities to sort and gather cattle, and then bring them in to the chutes near the indoor arena. The teamwork quickly developed among the guests, staff, and internships as they worked the many parts like a well-oiled machine!
Barbara, our guest from New Hampshire, fell in love with the ranch and everything
about it. She came here to get her confidence back on a horse and quickly developed an affinity for the cattle work. On any given day you could find her driving the herd, riding flank, sorting the cattle on dry run through the chutes, working the gates, and even ear tagging! There was a job for everyone who wanted one.
Norma –Jean from Washington also really like the cattle work, and took part in some form of it every day. We had Josie visiting for the first time. She hails from Wisconsin and had an interest in horsemanship and cattle- she got along very well with “Pickles”…she thought Peco’s name was Pickles and the name stuck throughout the week! It’s kind of cute actually ☺
We had several returning guests this week as well. Trent, who was such a big help during branding week, was joined by his wife Julie. They are serious about improving their horsemanship and spent every day in class. Trent also got to ride two of his horses—Hoot and Britches—that are here furthering their education.
Carolyn and Sharon came from Canada and were all about the horsemanship too. They brought their personal horses, Scout and Tango who were here last summer for a visit. Laura Lee and Ron also spent the week with us riding their own horses. Both Sparky, a cute black morgan, and Cass a flashy dun mare, were here previously for training. It appeared that all of them had fun working with the cattle and going on an all day trail ride on Friday. Chad, Amy and Mary (our very own Sue’s aunt) were also returning guests and had fun doing all things horse related throughout the week.
This week we also welcomed new staff members Dave and Adrienne. Adrienne was a guest here last season for winter horsemanship, and when the opportunity came up for her and her husband to work at the ranch, they jumped at the chance. They arrived late last night with their two horses and dogs, and are looking forward to joining the team!
Next week our Spring Program ll continues, with horsemanship as the main focus. There will be cattle to look after as well! We may start weighing, and /or moving steers out onto the mountain. If it is warm enough we may even take a trip to the lake to do some kayaking and paddle boarding!