The Highline Blog

The Highline: On to Davis Mountain

August 11, 2018 – Volume 13 – Issue 31


Scott and Yellowhair demonstrating how to ask a horse to back up.

Another great (and hot!) week at McGinnis Meadows has come to a close. We had a diverse group of guests that helped make this week a blast. From the East Coast we had Chuck, Susan, and Liz and from the West came Ross, Samantha, and Jen, Catherine, Peg, and Kyla. The South was represented by Holly and Tony as well. On the international front we had Genna from Germany and GG from France. Al doesn’t really fit in any of these groups because it seems he’s from just about everywhere! By the end of the week everyone was friends and it was delightful to be part of the camaraderie of the week.

L-R: Holly and Levi, Tony and Amigo, Kyla and Roanie

Throughout the week we worked to move the cattle from the McKillop pasture through Elk Creek holding pasture to Davis Mountain. Davis is their last stop of the season and they will reside there until the fall when we gather them and bring them back to the ranch. Since the temperatures were in the 95 – 100 degree range we started early in the morning, driving groups out to graze to move cattle before the heat of the afternoon. This was our first week of the season trailering to Graze and it was fascinating to see what goes into preparing the vehicles and loading the riders and horses. There is a fine art to knowing the order in which the horses should be loaded and it is important to know how to place them correctly in order to maintain tranquility in the trailer. It is my opinion there are few things as exciting as hauling out early in the morning to search for cattle.

Samantha and Scotch

One of the challenges we had on Friday was moving a blind steer to the corral at McKillop. Once in the corral (with a buddy of course), he was brought back to the ranch. He should regain some sight and is currently wearing an eye patch. Genna has named him Jack Sparrow and he will be kept at the ranch until he is ready to go back with his friends on Davis Mountain. Until then, we have the pleasure of having Jack in the scale house pen and seeing him every day.

Cathrine and Boone

On both Thursday and Friday we beat the heat by taking large groups to the lake. Everyone paddled and swam their hearts out. We also got the rare treat of having Roby accompany us to the lake, bringing along some of his own lake goodies. Roby’s immense lake arsenal includes not only a paddleboard and a Kayak but also a giant, purple, winged unicorn named “Magic”. Magic was a big hit, especially with Genna and Kyla who rode along being towed by Brenda. A lot of watermelon was consumed and fun was had.

Nemo bringing out his inner flower child.

In horsemanship, groups worked on riding with the reins in one hand. Although this is not often done in the course of a typical horsemanship session it is important as we prepare to be able to advance our horses to the bridle and to do everyday jobs on the ranch. From flagging horses, roping, and opening gates, it definitely let everyone know where they were depending on their reins rather than their seat and legs to direct the horse. It was a challenging exercise but also extremely enlightening.

As frequently happens here at the ranch we had to say a few goodbyes this week. Anna went home to start her final year of college and Vanessa went home to prepare for the start of the school year. Their positivity and enthusiasm will be missed, however, both will be back next summer – we can’t wait!

That’s all for this week,


Tony and Holly (And Trouble)

Samantha, Ross, and Jen

Genna and Dunny

Happy Birthday Janice!

Gathering the Herd

The Highline: Opportunities Abound

August 4, 2018 – Volume 13 – Issue 30

Catherine and Brumby

Last weekend’s Buck clinic in Kalispell seemed like a family reunion with so many familiar faces (equine and human!). This week the reunion continued with the return of several repeat guests and some former staff. Betty, Susanne, and Catherine have all been to the ranch many times and came back to better their horsemanship. They’re always good students and we were glad to see them back. Eden and Stephanie both brought personal horses and they were a joy to ride with again. It is so fun to see where they are with their lives and their horsemanship.

Suzanne and Breezy

Because of the large number of personal horses brought this week we received lots of demonstrations of how new horses react to our training methods. When horses react differently it provides new opportunities to see how Shayne, Roby, and Des make fine adjustments to what they do to get through to the horse. Since more and more of our ranch horses have spent most of their lives being worked with in this style of horsemanship, it’s interesting to get to see the change as things resolved that were not addressed in previous training. From groundwork in the round pen to working at the hitching rail we learned a lot from these horses.

Jason on Concho and Jackson on Gunner

In horsemanship, we continued the work done by Buck in his clinics.The week began with practicing short serpentines both in the open and through a series of cones. This helps define the pattern and gives us a reference point from which to perform the movement in order to be more particular about how it is executed. Later in the week we worked on preparing our horses to get their leads. It at first seems daunting to think that one can know for sure if a horse will get his leads before they attempt it. When we better understand what goes into setting the horse up for the correct lead and what dry work assures they will catch it, it’s easier to predict if the horse will pick it up right away or have trouble. If the dry work isn’t good and you get the correct lead it may be that the horse is accomplishing it in spite of you rather than because of you.

Jackson feeding with Dave and I

Several days this week we went to check on the cattle on McKillop. Brenda, Sue and Scott took the lead on this and were assisted by Jackson who came with his Dad and Grandma. Jackson was a great help and was eager to do anything he was asked. In addition to riding on the mountain, Jackson got to learn to rope this week and even helped us feed one day. It is so fun to see what the youngest of our guests are able to accomplish with their horses because they are able to ride in a way that isn’t restricted by overthinking. They just go and their horses seem all the happier for it.

John and Trump

One of the neatest parts about riding at the ranch is the sheer number of equine teachers you get to learn from. I have found that the things I struggle with on some horses come easily on others and vice versa. Riding different horses helps us get exposure about how movements are supposed to feel versus how they happen to feel on a given day with a specific horse. If I can feel a united circle on one horse I can ride another horse with that feeling held in my mind as an ideal to strive for. After all, the measure of a good horseman is being able to make all of their horses, diverse as they may be, look the same all while having a good expression. As this week comes to a close, I find myself particularly thankful for both the horses that allow us to feel the things for which we strive and those who make us work to replicate that feeling.

Have a great week everyone and be sure to check back for next week’s installment of The Highline.

– Jessie

Twizzle shares a drink with some curious cattle.

Janice and Malone

Stephanie and Cody


Steers about to release their next hit single.

“Hey, can we have a bite of that sandwich?”





The Highline: Buck Week #2

July 28, 2018 – Volume 13 – Issue 29

Hi Everyone,

Buck and Eddie

What a week! This week was the second Buck week and boy did we learn a lot! It’s been incredible to get to watch Buck’s horses improve over the last two weeks. Just when you think his horse is as soft as he can be, he unlocks another dimension. It is both inspiring and moving to see an example of what we all aspire to achieve in our own riding and we appreciate Buck for giving us that opportunity.

Kureha and Mighty on the cutting ball.

Although the guests started the clinic right away instead of riding with us a couple of days before it started, everyone got dialed in quickly and were working in the rodeer and on the cutting ball the very first day of the clinic. It’s so cool to see how fast everyone catches on to how to make their horses work. Being oriented toward a task – like cutting a steer from the rodeer – also helps everyone get focused on a common goal. On Wednesday Buck left for Kalispell and although we were sad to see him go we’re excited to see how far his horses get before we see them again.

McGoo, Jesse, and Romeo, the White Horse Trio.

During the clinics Sue, Brenda and Jessie went to the state section to continue pushing the remaining cattle over to the McKillop. When we move cattle to a new pasture it is always important to take them to a water source, which in this case was one of two water tanks. We spent time making sure both were running well and were full. This entails checking the spring boxes that fill them and making sure the valves and hoses are clear of silt. In the upper tank we found that a bear had used one of the floats used to fill the tank as a chew toy. We replaced it, thinking that the new one would last for a while before the bears came back. The next day, we went back to the same tank and found that the bears had already returned! We had to replace the float again and hope the bears have had enough fun for a while.

L – R: Shelly and Chalky, Terri and Dandy, Brenda and Paco, and Sam and Jasper

On Thursday and Friday Sam, Shelly, Brenda, Jenna, and I looked for the remaining few steers. We found the final eight on a side hill below a logging road. There were too many sticks and logs to ride to where we could get below the cattle so Shelly and Brenda volunteered to push them up on foot. Everything seems closer until you look down the hill and see how small everyone has suddenly gotten. They got the cattle on the road and mounted back up to drive them up the mountain. Dessert was certainly earned for that hike!

Joe and Twizzle

During our search for cattle I really gained an appreciation for how much I had learned about the country, where to look for cattle, and how to get to water in the six days we wranglers have spent rounding up the cattle. As long as you know where you are you don’t have to follow the exact trail you did last time. Each trip was a little bit different and everyone had a great time. As Randy said, every day outside is new no matter how much time you spend out there.

Federico and Hunk

The haying crew continued their work and finally finished on Thursday. The hay sheds are overflowing and we should be more than ready for winter. Since the meadows were mowed, Roby got to teach horsemanship there on Friday. It’s exciting to get to ride through the open meadows and we’ll be doing it a lot in the coming weeks! The haying crew all got a well deserved day off on Friday – which most spent at the Buck clinic in Kalispell. I’ve never met a group of individuals that worked so hard and yet were so eager to take advantage of every opportunity to learn. The rest of us have plans to go to the clinic this weekend to audit and support our fellow staff and interns riding in the clinic. It’s sure to be a great time!

Until next week,


Traci and Chief

Mollie and Boone

Stash keeping a careful eye on the cattle.




What more could you ask for?

Buck working on positioning for flying lead changes

This week was a flurry of activity as we prepared for Buck’s arrival mid week. Shayne, Roby and Des got everyone started off with horsemanship on Monday and Tuesday. The guests were working hard to get familiar with their horses and have a refresher on the tools we utilize while riding. We are so fortunate here at MMR that we get to study and learn this style of horsemanship every day- and when Buck is here it adds another level from which to learn, not to mention the excitement of having him here! We get to see the progress he has made with all of his horses since his last visit, and all the things he is working on.  I usually have to pinch myself to make sure I am not dreaming- am I really this lucky to be living this life??

We had 19 guests participating in the clinic as well as several interns. Wranglers were able to watch and observe much of it and boy that really gives you a chance to watch closely and see what Buck works on even while he is seemingly standing “still” as he teaches his students. He is riding Big Swede in the Bridle, Eddie in the snaffle and we got see him ride Finn, his newest colt as well. For the little amount of time he has ridden Finn, it is amazing how soft and

Des working on getting softness with client horse Romeo

far along the horse is already.  Buck’s consistency with how he asks for something each and every time, is a study in and of itself. After watching him for 3 days, this is first and foremost on my mind every time I ride. Buck told us ” if you are asking the same way every day and every moment ( with seat and body position), the horse cannot help but learn what you are asking”, as opposed to him trying to second guess what it is you are asking of him.

Des had some great observations from this week: She talked about how much refinement he had on this same colt (and of course on his more finished horses), and how crisp all the movements are. The coolest thing with Eddie’s rides that she noticed was throughout all of the leg yields and haunches in that Buck asked for, the rhythm and cadence never changed from one movement to the next– and he never lost the softness.

Guests were advanced enough to work cattle on the first afternoon of the clinic and they learned a bunch about a proper stop, back up and turnaround- all necessary elements for working cattle. On day two, Buck had them practice holding the rodeer and cantering circles around it with attention on how to position the horse properly to get the correct lead.

By the third and final day, everyone had success with sorting out a steer, driving it away from the herd and then cutting with cow turns to keep it out there. It was so fun to watch the progress! All week they also had time to work with Shayne and Roby on the cutting ball. This is a perfect environment to dial in the movements of working a cow in a controlled setting.

Gail and Kathleen, both repeat participants

Behind the scenes, Jessie, Sue and Kevin were out in the State piece gathering cattle and moving them to the next pasture we call McKillop. This coming week the remainder of the steers will be pushed through to McKillop as well, the last stop before summer graze on Davis Mountain. Speaking of Kevin, he left for home yesterday to continue his schooling and we will miss him greatly. He sure is turning into a handy horseman and nice young man. He’ll be back next summer though, and we look forward to hearing about the progress he is making with his new colt!

We are looking forward to absorbing as much as possible this coming week with Buck and then at the end of the week many will be heading to Kalispell for the next clinic at Majestic Valley Arena.  Until then, have fun with your horses and we’ll catch up again next week!   Janice

We had great weather this week!

Kevin- Always smiling!

Buck wants his horses to stand quiet unless asked.

Stormy with Husband Marcus in background, gives Omar some love with a back rub 🙂


Laurie and Pattie


Stephanie made nice progress with Roanie

The Highline: Horses, Haying, and Hospitality

July 14th, 2018 – Volume 13 – Issue 27

Hi everyone!

What a whirlwind this week has been! The excitement and temperatures have been rising as preparations for the Buck clinics have tilted into full swing. This week we had a wonderful and diverse group of guests with whom we were able to share the ranch, horsemanship and beautiful country.

Vivian and Dunny

Janice, Kevin, and Scott took Ben, Erica, Shannon, Ali, and both Julies out on a couple of ¾ day trips into the state section to check cattle. When we check cattle we are sure to observe as many groups as possible making sure they’re behaving normally, are uninjured, don’t have runny eyes, and often we will drive them to a water source in order to assess whether they are moving correctly and that none are lame. We did have one steer that looked a little off so it was important that the groups going out checked his progress daily – by the end of the week he was looking much better. Later the groups rode to the top of the mountain and stopped for lunch, dining with a picturesque view of the Cabinet mountains.

Julie B. and Jenga

Horsemanship started the week in the arena and on several occasions moved to the shade of the trees in the elk pasture.. This was largely due to the new footing that has been being added to Shayne’s arena to prepare for the Buck clinics. There has been a steady stream of dump trucks in and out. It will be exciting to ride on it when it’s done. The elk pasture is a really neat place to ride and everyone had a great time.

Meadows ready for harvest.

Haying season has officially begun at the ranch! On Thursday Randy, Dave, and Anna began haying in the meadows. It’s interesting to hear the conversations coming over the radio about bale density, mowers, rakes, and making sure vehicles are in their proper locations. Haying will continue during the next two weeks as the crew works to get hay put up for the winter. I can’t wait until the hay sheds are full and the meadows are open for riding. Until then we all get to enjoy the delightful smell of fresh cut grass and the hum of tractors in the background.

L – R: Kate, Ben, and Zoe

Since the temperatures this week have been mostly in the upper 80s and mid 90s a trip to the lake was in order. Janice, Brenda, and Vanessa took Ben, Kate, Zoe, Kathy, Cody, Erica, and Julie C. to the lake which was a refreshing break after a hot week of riding. Kate, a professional bass fisherwoman, observed that the clearness of the water was far different from that of the lakes back in South Carolina. The group kayaked and paddle boarded all afternoon, convening in the middle of the lake to enjoy fresh melons and other fruit. Not a bad way to end a great week!

This week Julie B. remarked on how amazing it was to be served by staff that are so efficient in their jobs but so kind and happy to help where they can. It’s something I notice with everyone I have the pleasure of working with here and something I’d like to discuss in more detail as it is something of which we are all extremely proud.

Alie and Shannon

It all comes down to leadership. Doing ranch work requires a special and important brand of leadership. When most people envision leadership they think of offices held, teams captained, and employees supervised. Here, each staff member and intern is a leader taking initiative to see what needs to be done or fixed, communicate with those around them, and insist on quality at all times. At the ranch there is very little hierarchy, which allows each of us to work autonomously enough that we don’t need constant direction but can also see the whole picture as to who should be where and what they should be doing while they’re there. For example, when handling the horses each person is responsible for each horse they lay eyes upon and needs to check that all the shoes are on and firmly placed, no one is off, any doctoring is taken care of, and all tack and gear is fitted properly and in good repair.

Kevin enjoying a well earned lunch break.

The brand of leadership cultivated at McGinnis Meadows is why we’re all so eager to help, teach and accommodate. It is because we endeavor to see problems before they arise and know that each of us makes such a difference in the experience for the guests and the horses. Each of us knows we have the agency to make something better and strive to do so. By studying horsemanship we seek to be kinder and better human beings and this shows in our everyday interactions with each other and those around us. As Buck says “Horses and life, its all the same to me”.

Until next week,



L-R: Erica, Alie, Julie C.


Zoe, Gunner, and Jasper


The Highline: Horsemanship, Cattle, and Independence Day

July 7, 2018 – Volume 13 – Issue 27

Hi Everyone,

Anna on Brumby and Roxy on Benny searching for cattle in the Ferguson

This week presented the perfect blend of friends, horsemanship, and cattle. Anything scheduled for the interns, the guests got the experience as well. All of our guests were here to improve their horsemanship and studied hard making great improvements throughout the week.

Tuesday began somewhat challengingly as Kevin, Anna, Nathan, Lauren, Ryan, and I attempted to move the final two steers from the Ferguson. While most might think that larger groups of cattle are harder to move, lately it seems that small groups have been the most mischievous. By afternoon, however, we had contained them and moved them onto new pasture.

Roby and Dickens

The Fourth of July is always a really special celebration at the ranch and this year was no different. The day’s festivities began with Roby jingling in the horses with the American Flag. The horses trotting up the driveway in the morning mist followed by Roby riding Dickens straight up in the bridle with the stars and stripes waving was truly moving. After a full day of riding guests, staff, and interns came together to share in each other’s company. Dinner was a magnificent spread, from Erin’s mom’s special baked beans to burgers served between Miriam’s homemade brioche buns. We ate outside, eager not to pass up the opportunity on such a picturesque evening. Each year I am reminded that I would be hard pressed to find a better way to celebrate American independence than living and learning here at the ranch.

Madi and Roanie

This week we were reminded how easily things can come if you don’t overthink what you’re doing. This year we had 10 year old Madi visit with her parents Ryan and Lauren. Though usually spotted riding her pony Norman, Madi spent most of the week on Roanie. They got along famously and even though Madi’s legs hardly reached the middle of Roanie’s belly she had him as soft as could be, executing maneuvers like leg yields and canter departs without a change of rate. It just goes to show that when you don’t overthink, you can communicate better with your horse and stay out of his way.

This week we brought cattle down to Shayne’s arena and practiced cutting out of the rodeer. This experience provided several different opportunities for learning. First, Shayne demonstrated all of the drywork that can be completed while holding the rodeer, from practicing cow turns as a steer runs by to getting life in your horse and shifting his weight in preparation for turning. The more of this dry work that can be completed while waiting your turn to cut means more time cutting once you ride into the rodeer.

Penny and Bandit in the rodeer

The rodeer also presents the perfect opportunity for practicing rate and transitions with your horse. As Shayne sent groups of riders in to ride around the rodeer we were challenged to fill any gaps that might arise where the cattle could escape. For some this meant transitioning down from a higher gait with quality and for others this meant riding their horse faster without overtaking or blowing by the rider in front of them.

Finally, cutting in the rodeer reminds us how important it is to be able to maintain correct flexion. Without it the horse cannot make his cow turns and you might lose the steer or even trip your horse by pulling him off balance.

Lauren and Mighty separating the cattle

On Friday, we got to observe Roby, Shayne, and Des roping and doctoring two lame steers. Roping is perhaps the ultimate example of how good horsemanship can keep a necessary ranch task from becoming a serious wreck. In their capable hands 800lb steers were laid down gently and held so that Kevin and Scott could administer necessary treatments.

As this week comes to a close I find myself reflecting on the opportunities each day presents and how vital it is that we use them to their full potential. Days need not be defined by their perfectness but by their goodness. The sort of goodness that comes from learning from a forgiving horse, from receiving advice from a capable teacher, and from the satisfaction of getting a job done. That is the most wholesome kind of goodness that exists.

Until next week,


Amigo after a fulfilling day’s ride


Madi and Roanie cutting on their steer


Penny and Boone

The Highline: Ranch Family Old and New

June 30, 2018 – Volume 13 – Issue 26

As one of the more long-standing staff members at the ranch, I have seen quite a few faces come through the McGinnis Meadows archway. I remember in my first couple of years how shy, green and timid I was of those around me! I’m not sure how big of an impression I could have made!

Jane and Terry driving cattle on Twizzle and Amigo

Regardless though, many individuals made quite the impression on me. A few of those guests were with us this week. Jane and Terry were a big deal when I first met them! After all, they had been coming to the ranch since 2002 and (as of this week) had 24 ranch trips under their belts! Shayne and I were thrilled to find out they had booked for this week because the ranch has made so many changes since their last visit. The coolest part of this week for us? Jane and Terry expressed how impressed they were with how soft and responsive the horses were this trip, the “best ever” they said! As longtime guests and friends, it meant a lot to us to hear how much they enjoyed the new-ness of the internship program, the new horses in the guest string, the grazing allotment and how well the crew worked with one another. Oh and of course, the FOOD. EVERY GUEST could not stop raving about the food!

Deb and Emmett

Deb is another guest who was here my first year. Deb has been riding with Buck and with Shayne for many years. The first time I met her, I thought she was such a study and worked so hard at her horsemanship that she was a lot like Shayne—just a female version! I knew she coached volleyball in Washington and was known to be a pretty strong woman. Over the years, I have been fortunate to get to know her more and can call her a friend. What a treat to get to ride with her and her handsome horse Emmett this week!

Joy visiting the ponies



We were graced by several members of Carolyn’s group, who have joined us now for the second year in a row (Carolyn herself joins us for multiple visits each year!) The group consisted of Carolyn, Kara and Carol. This year she was joined by two other friends, Cookie and her husband Steve! This is such a fun group to teach. The women all bring their own horses to work with and they are super sporty—working on as much horsemanship in as many varied environments as possible! Some of the things worked on this week included gathering cattle, working on the cutting ball, advanced groundwork, flying changes in the arena and SOOOO much more.

Joy joined us for her first week of 5 this summer. Joy can lovingly be referred to as a “fart in a skillet.” She never stops! Somehow between running her businesses back home, she manages to be out early with her horses, stay late to work them, and ride her butt off every second in-between. She has three personal horses at the ranch to work with—Hidalgo, Cisco and Angel, who has been in training with us for awhile.

Penny and Joy’s mare, Angel

Three new guests joined us this week and quickly became part of the family. Art and Heidi who have been visiting guest ranches for 20 years and decided to see what we were about, and Penny, who came here to join us all the way from Australia! They were all so wonderful to work with. Art with his silly sense of humor, Heidi with her kind way and big smiles and Penny who became enthralled with the horse/human relationship taught here. (She even decided to stay a second week!)

Art and Bob

I truly enjoyed all of the time I was able to spend with each individual, whether in the arena or at the dinner table. We are so blessed to be able to have so many unique and engaging individuals each week to work with and learn from.

This week we gave a warm farewell to our two-month intern Becca. Becca made some big strides in her horsemanship and got a lot of experience horseback with cattle in the mountains. The internship program is so dynamic though, that even as Becca headed home, we were joined by a new intern named Mollie! And today, we have another new intern named Abbey joining us! We have had so many compliments this year on the quality of the teaching and it seems like everyone enjoys the part that the interns play at the ranch. We absolutely love having them here with us.

Becca and Quick


That’s last week in a nutshell for ya!

Next week we have a whole lot of neat stuff going on—it is an “internship-style” guest week for one. For another, we’ll be working on a brand-new ranch video for the website! We are pretty excited about it!

Till next time,



Kara and Carol at the lookout


L-R: Carolyn on Harley and Cookie on Gus


The horses grazing peacefully in the Elk Pasture

June 23, 2018 Volume 13, Issue 25

June 23 2018 – Volume 13 – Issue 25

Hey everyone,

 This was a pretty special week at the ranch! We had 17 guests who came as a group, consisting of family and close friends. The Klipsch family, Steve, Lisa, Leo and Zach, have been coming to the ranch since 2003. In 2006, Lisa brought her friend Alison with them and that started the ball rolling.  When kids Zach and Leo arrived, Lisa’s mom Rita, came along to enjoy the scenery, the peace and quiet, and to help take care of them. Three years ago Lisa’s family was visiting during a week where the Krabach family also happened to be here. Their kids Jeremy and Brandon got along famously with Leo and Zach, and the tradition was born- they have visited together ever since.

 This year the reunion not only continued, it grew!  Lisa’s good friends Rosi and Suzanne joined her and Rosi also brought along her family, including two of her children Graham and Rhi, Graham’s girlfriend Alexis and Rosi’s sister Emmie. Rhi brought her friend Helen too! It didn’t take us long to figure out the family tree and get to know everyone. Lisa, Suzanne and Rosi all met through their love of horses. Rosi didn’t ride yet in 2015 when she and Lisa first met at Legacy of Legends, but she was a quick study. Suzanne has known Lisa since 2004 and they were thrilled to be able to spend the week together here improving their horsemanship.

 While there was a lot of diversity this week in the activities that everyone participated in, the thing that is most inspiring was watching the growth in each person and how it all transpired. We had experienced riders, some newer to the experience,  and also a couple who have never been on a horse before.  The progression that Shayne is using in horsemanship these days is incredibly effective for all levels of riders, to help them gain confidence, and learn and improve the skills they need to do all of the things we do here on the ranch with horses.

Zach And Boone in the wide open spaces

Prior to the ranch, Graham, Emmi and Alexis have had limited to no riding experience and as we have seen before with beginner riders, they all made huge strides through the week. Alexis had never been on a horse before and yet rode accurately enough by Friday to be a part of the winning team for cattle games.  She worked through the fear she had in the beginning and with the support of Shayne, Des, and staff, she pushed herself to achieve things on a horse that she never thought possible

How does this happen? Shayne started everyone out in arena horsemanship learning the basics. Very quickly he had everyone outside in the ‘playground’. There is a rather large sand dune in the back pasture behind Shayne’s arena from some leftover arena fill. Shayne has made this a first destination for people to learn the proper way to travel up and down steep hills. In a controlled setting like this, guests went from being fearful about the task at hand, to wanting to try it again and again. This method of directing the horse down a hill really keeps them working off of their hind end and therefore, they are level on the way down. In a soft feel, one step at a time and feeling where their rib cage is, everyone, even beginner riders, got it! This makes a big difference in keeping horses from getting sore backs, as well as giving a rider confidence that they can control each step.  It quickly became a favorite place to stop and practice and we had to practically drag Rosi and Bandit off the hill to move on to the next station!

 Shayne also showed everyone how he helps a horse that is troubled by herd bound-ness. Every horse’s natural instinct is to be a little bit herd bound-safety in numbers-  but there are ways to help them be comfortable with being alone or out of sight of other horses. This is especially important when riding out in country like at Graze or on some of our mountains surrounding the ranch. He went through the progressions and we could easily see how to help the horse and end up with a very pleasant ride.

Emmie and Bob

Riders then progressed into the round pen and got to work on the cutting machine.  Des worked with individual riders each day in the round pen, having them be able work on their seat position while she directed their horses with a flag. Riders circled at a trot and then a canter, with reins looped over the horn. Here they learn to keep their legs underneath them, to look up where they are headed and get comfortable with the rhythm of the horse without having to think about steering.   Leo and Graham had never cantered before and in short order they were doing laps around the pen in great form! For riders young and older, there is no better way to gain confidence and turn fear into excitement.

The cutting machine is also getting a lot of use this season. Here guests learned how to get their horse hooked on to the ‘cow”, how to do a cow turn properly, and feel the rhythm of the horse with fluidity. Everyone really dialed this in and Shayne said they had some of the best turns he has seen so far! The next step was to be able to use all of these new found skills out riding country, driving cattle and doing cattle games. These skills learned in the horsemanship classes enabled Zach to trot and canter Donald Trump on a loose rein out on a trail ride to Moose Pond. They also had Emmie and Leo learning to stop, backup and turn and then a day later, gathering and driving cattle all over the mountain.  Alexis was someone who on Monday was seriously afraid of the thought of going out to ride with cattle, but once she had the proper horsemanship skills, she expanded her horizons by leaps and bounds. Her team even won the cattle games event at Shayne’s arena!

There were so many highlights this week for both our guests and for staff. Our new guests quickly became our friends and we shared many stories of our time growing up and our different adventures. Rosi commented that she was thrilled that Graham took to this so passionately. He had a bad experience on a ride near his home several years ago and Rosi had tried on several occasions to get him interested in horses again. Graham came to the ranch expecting to simply have a nice vacation. By the time he left, he excitedly stated that he really wants to come back for winter horsemanship. He was taken by the soul of these horses, the mountains and learning how the communication with an animal so big, could be so moving.   Zach and Brandon got a taste of some behind the scenes things and are geared up to come back as interns!

Leo looking for cattle

There were some diverse activities early in the week as well. A cooking class with Miriam, Shoeing Demo with Nathan, A hike up the mountain with Brenda, evening bonfire with s’mores, and lots of roping made for a memorable week.

There were some sad faces yesterday as the week came to a close. Jeremy didn’t want to leave Shadow behind, and Leo was thinking about his buddy Rocket. We assured them that their new found friends would be here waiting for them to return.  Everyone raved about the week’s adventures, Miriam’s cooking, the staff and interns, horsemanship and the entire experience. Plans for the trip back in 2019 are already underway! We hope you have a great week ahead with just as many adventures.


Brandon Roping!

Rosi and Bandit

Horseshoe lake


Leo, Steve and Lisa taking in some country

Hiking on the mountain with Brenda


The Highline: Horsemanship, Roping, and the Search for a Missing Steer

June 16, 2018 – Volume 13 – Issue 24

Greetings everyone,

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.

Bigfoot Bait

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…

Greg and Cheech

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.

Chris makes a catch!


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.

Joe and Brownie at the lookout.

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 and Omar

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.

Roby and Benny demonstrating the best way to bridle.

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.

Manfred, Jessica, and Trouble

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,



Jessie (me) and Jasper

Phil and Donald Trump

L – R: Greg on Rocket, Manfred on Twizzle, Jeanette on Omar, Jessica on Benny, and Phil on Chaos

L – R: Shadow, Romeo, and Thunder


The Highline Volume 13 -Issue 23

June 9, 2018 – Volume 13 – Issue 23

Moving cattle to Ferguson

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.

The boys at the Lookout

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

Kate with Donald Trump

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

Manfred practicing his downhill terrain

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!

Susan, Kate and Brenda

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.

Mountain View

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!

Bob fell in love with cattle work

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

Dori! We will miss you!


Bernie, Trouble and Diana enjoying a cold beer!


Sandra loved Boone


Diana and Rocket