The Highline Blog
What a fabulous month it has been! I had the opportunity to travel from NY back to the ranch to help out with the Buck Brannaman clinics during July. While Buck’s clinics were the focal point for staff and guests, it was equally fun for me to see friends and guests that I have come to know over the years, to meet new ones, and to spend time at the ranch in this beautiful part of Northwest Montana.
Three of the four clinics were held at the ranch, and one in Kalispell at Majestic Valley Arena.
It was a full house for the ranch clinics, with Horsemanship 1 in the mornings and Cow Working in the afternoons. Even after 40+ years of teaching clinics, Buck continues to evolve his horsemanship and his teaching methods. Each year I think how light and soft and balanced his horses look, but he still continues to refine every movement in his horses while keeping a nice soft expression. He also finds ways new and innovative ways to explain movements to help riders understand and apply the info.
The Kalispell clinic at Majestic had full classes for both AM and PM, and a string of 10 MMR horses attending, it kept Jenna, Michelli and myself busy. Plus, we got to ride in the afternoon class with Buck! This is always the highest educational experience, and I am grateful to take part in it whenever the opportunity arises. It was a fabulous group this year, with a mix of returning riders and people looking to gain first time exposure to Buck’s teachings.
Now, back to the ranch for the first ever Invitational clinic held at the ranch! This is the only clinic in the country that Buck teaches in this format, and the first time that we had auditors attending . For two days Buck focused on advanced horsemanship with Des, Shayne, Ty Heth, and Joel Connor. Roping played a big part in this clinic and it was really fun to watch these riders and their horses operate in such a fast paced and dynamic environment.
Following on the heels of the H2 clinic was the final ranch clinic. The riders worked on everything from perfecting balance in their horses with circles and short serpentines, to jumping them out with promptness, and getting them soft and timely. By the end of the clinic both horses and riders were doing a great job on the cutting flag and with the cattle- the improvements were impressive!
We sadly said bye for now to Buck at the end of the clinics, but the guests were not done yet!
The final day was a cattle drive to find and move steers from the state piece to McKillop. The guests were super excited to experience this aspect of the ranch. Small groups headed out to different parts of the state piece and started the hunt for cattle. These allotments are not typical cattle country—there are many steep draws that horse and rider need to negotiate. For some it was the first time they had ever ridden through country like this. When all was said and done they moved 50 head and came back to the ranch exhilarated at what they had accomplished.
It was a blast being back at MMR and I look forward to my next visit. In the meantime, I will be working hard at putting to use all of the good feedback I received to help my journey with my horses.
All for now,
Our hay crew has been busting their butts working on putting up a bumper hay crop this year! We are soooo thankful!
Volume 17, Issue 20
This week at the ranch has been a busy one in preparation for all the excitement coming up this month!
All last week, Kevin and Scott got the entire herd trimmed and reset with new shoes. Tommy was there to help and teach everyone along the way.
The crew got to spend some time together for the 4th of July, and some of us even rode out in hopes of getting a location on the last of our cattle up on Shayne’s Mountain. It was a fun day wrapped up with an all-American dinner of burgers and fries prepared by our brilliant chef, Holly.
Come Tuesday, it was back to the hustle of getting the ranch tidied up and ready for our guests. We knocked out our quarterly arena deep clean in two and a half days! The arena is smelling fresh and looks brand new.
Now we are finishing up some of the little tasks that keep this ranch in the best of shape. From weeding pathways around the lodge to replacing broken washers, this team does it all. We are excited for all the learning that will take place this month with Buck here and cannot wait to share along the way. Until next time! Jenna.
We just got finished up with our June 10 Day this past week. What a fun group to ride with! We couldn’t have asked for more perfect weather with daytime highs in the 70s and nighttime lows down into the 40s.
We practiced horsemanship in the arena with Shayne and Des,
gathered cattle that were scattered on the mountain and pushed them to greener pastures,
picked colorful wildflowers to decorate our hats,
watched newborn fawns play in the tall green grass on wobbly legs,
played in the cool mountain water and breathed in the fresh air,
and explored breathtaking views on the mountaintops.
We even celebrated guests Neal and Aga’s 24th wedding anniversary with a special private ride!
We love it when we have guests here at the ranch!
Days are long here this time of year with the sun rising around 5:40 a.m. and setting at almost 10 p.m. It’s almost 11 p.m. before the last rays of sunlight slip behind the blue mountains. My eyes have never seen anything quite so beautiful as Montana in summer. All the colors that appear in the warm sunlight and the abundant wildlife that dance in the meadows among the tall grass is nothing short of magical. The hours of daylight will only start to get shorter with each passing day now. A lot of work can get done between those hours and there is always plenty to do!
Until next time!
Volume 17, Issue 18
Howdy everyone! How are y’all doing?!
We have been very busy at the ranch, Everyone has been going in many directions and lending a helping hand a little bit of everywhere to prepare the ranch for the next 10 day so that our guests can have an amazing time riding and practicing the style of horsemanship we teach here at the ranch!
Scott and Kevin have been working on the fence on the Ferguson piece. They are doing a really good job getting it put in and solid for the routes it has to be on. I have seen them do fencing work before, and they are very good at navigating in the wilderness to establish a well made fence.
Jenna and Micheli have been taking care of the hospital horses checking on them and making sure they are healing up well. They have also been doing a lot of riding with Des to develop and further their horsemanship and they are doing an excellent job at it. They recently went out to drive cattle with Shayne. Our recent intern, Daniel was a part of this cattle drive on his last day here. He has done an excellent job with the time that he was here at the ranch. We already miss him dearly. Their 5 person crew did a really good job driving the cattle to where they needed to go to and it was a good learning experience for everyone on that drive.
There has been much cleaning in the horse and cattle pastures to make sure that they are all clean, smooth, and open for the horses to move around and relax.
Holly has been making a lot of delicious food lately with some new recipes she has been utilizing in the kitchen. We all love her cooking and baking, She works very hard to make sure everyone is well fed with delicious and nutritious meals during the day. I have been helping in the kitchen learning the kitchen/restaurant process, and it is a very good learning experience to see how meticulous someone as culinarily seasoned as Holly can be to make sure a kitchen is as ship shape as possible.
Dani Has been doing much housekeeping to take care of all the cabins so that they are always warm, cozy, and vibrant for every guest that comes here to experience what we do. Dani is very detail oriented when it comes to making sure a cabin is at its coziest, and shining best!
One of my projects has been to mow and weed eat the Belgarde bungalow yards and the shop equipment yards to make sure the grassy yards are as clean and crisp as possible. After much work on them, they are now cleaner, and more open for everyone to go do any type of work that needs to be done on them.
It has been a collective effort to making sure that things are ran as efficiently, effectively, and as smoothly as possible here. We always work hard and as a team to complete every project and do every job with total teamwork, communication, and fine attention to detail. Everyone has done an amazing job!
Until next time…
Volume 17, Issue 18
We started our May 10 day and let me tell you it was a blast with these guests from all over North America.
We started off by teaching our seat, management of reins, learning about soft feels and using your body to help the horse.
It was great group going through the progressions of riding and eventually we even had some nice days out so we rode outside.
We did our first 3/4 day ride up to pier for a day and had a good lunch in a different spot and did some trail rides. We even moved some cattle to different pastures.
At the end we cut on the flag, cattle and the y did Des’s canter exercise in the round pen a couple times.
Happy trails and memorial weekend!
Til next time!
May in Montana, to me, is an exceptional month. Rich, nutritious green has returned and with it follow the sights and sounds of wildness coming alive. When I was checking our newly branded cattle a few days ago, it occurred to me how fortunate I was at that very moment to ride a horse and check cattle in the middle of a bright spring day without hunger, fear of gunfire or fear of airplanes flying overhead to destroy this very thing that I deeply enjoy.
May in Montana and around our country is a time when people pause to remember those soldiers who have given their lives to keep the United States of America the United States. Some decorate the graves of the fallen with flowers or flags, while others take off their caps, bow their heads in humble gratitude. Here on the ranch, there are no graves of the fallen to place flags or flowers upon, but there are flags hung in each arena- the old and the new- as well outside the dining room. I am really proud of that.
I spend a great deal of time in the old indoor (for that is where the horse hospital is located). Most evenings before I turn off the lights, I look up and gaze at our country’s flag hanging in its glory. I pause, give thanks and often times tear up (as I am now). I know that behind that flag is great deal of sacrifice and selflessness. Being able to work and breathe and live on a ranch in the green of Montana is a blessing given to me by those that chose to protect my way of life now and before I was born. Yes, Montana is a truly special please, this ranch is a special place, but without those that have given their live to protect this land, I would not be walking or riding on its soil. -Brenda
It’s branding week here on the ranch. We received 188 steers last week and had some help come in to get them all tagged, branded and checked for nuts.
Ty Heth came in from the Bitterroot, a long time cowboy friend of Shayne’s. Randy came over on his faithful horse Chip Des and Shayne rode their bridle horses and some younger ones in their string, and Scott and I got to ride some really nice ranch horses like King, Mad Max, and Sprocket.
We had some new riders in the pen this year holding feet and helping set shots. Kim rode Trump and Scotch, Daniel rode Dandy, Jenna on Cheech and Micheli rode Fancy Pants.
While we roped and held down steers the ground crew worked smooth, hard and efficiently with Brenda leading the charge.
We had a good time and finished in four days and the steers are out on green grass with some supplemental hay.
While we were getting through the cattle Bird and Kolten were hard at work keeping the rest of the ranch running, changing out mattresses, feeding the livestock, making sure all the gates were fine tuned, working on equipment, and much much more.
We wrapped up the week with a short visit from our friends at the Seattle mounted police and a few days of horsemanship.
Until next time, Kevin.
Volume 17, Issue 17
Hi everyone, Kim here!
Last week was a whirlwind! Early in the week, we still had guests from our first ten day clinic. I cannot believe how much progress they made in just ten days. What an amazing group of people! I’m so thankful to have the opportunity to meet so many interesting people here and look forward to meeting the other guests who are booked throughout the season.
The interns are also making progress in their riding. Their dedication, great attitude, and hard work is very much appreciated around here. Jenna and Chavo even helped teach guests! Micheli had the opportunity to help check cattle on horseback this week during her first week here!
Wednesday and Thursday, we received three loads of black angus steers. All together, we had 188 delivered. We pushed them to the pasture just below Randy and Dori’s house. I love the cattle being here because all of us wranglers get to ride through and check them and the fences each day. I love having a job to do on horseback. All of the work in the arena this winter really pays off when there is a job to be done.
Today we got everything ready for branding and practiced roping on ugly, our roping dummy sled. We all took turns pulling him around and roping him. We’re pretty excited to get started branding this week!
Until next time!
Volume 17, Issue 16
Hey everyone, Des here!
We have officially kickstarted our season and are in the middle of our first 10-day ranch experience!
Getting everything ship shape before we opened up was a mini-marathon for the crew. There were cabins to clean, we had to re-open our saddling barn, get it cleaned, put up the tent, clean our red sheds, deep clean and repaint the lodge and kitchen, and rake up the grounds. Our gift shop got a face lift as did the Gameroom. We had a new Vulcan stove installed, and we got a new commercial dishwasher too!
The weather definitely took a strange turn on the very first night of the 10-day. It started snowing and snowing and snowing. It turned into a full-on blizzard and it didn’t stop until the ranch was covered in a fresh layer of snow about 3 inches thick! Definitely NOT expected, especially since we had been having mild temps in the high 50s just the week prior (which is more typical for April weather).
The sky has gotten bluer and the sun has been shining but boy it’s still been chilly. We hope we can get outside during the second half of this session but in the meantime, we are keeping things interesting in the arena. Our guests have all made great strides in their horsemanship since day 1.
We made a point this 10-day (and we plan on doing this for each one this season) to take videos of everyone riding on the first day so that we have a comparison as the days carry on. Kim and the crew have been diligent about taking videos and every night at dinner the crew and the guests get to watch each other during our riding patterns to see how many improvements have been made and to get some tips on what to focus on more for the next day. It’s a wonderful learning tool!
We’ve been working on refining posting the trot, our stops, cow turns, leg yields, a press off, trotting serpentines, backing arcs, reaching feet and just a little bit of cantering. We are really going to bear down on cantering for the rest of the time. Today the guests had a roping session in the morning. In the afternoon they were able to watch a colt starting demo with Kev, Scott and I with Shayne helping/coaching.
We also had a new intern named Micheli start this week, as well as two new ranch employees named Dani and Kolton. Our heavy equipment operator extraordinare, Willy, will be here any day. We are just waiting on Alex to show up in another week and a half (you guys might remember him as one of our interns from last year) and then our crew for the summer season and officially complete.
I think I speak for everyone in that I am so happy to have our guests back again. Things just get to humdrum around here without you guys!
With much love, Des
Volume 17, Issue 15
Today, we started our first ten day but while we are getting ready for that we started cleaning our spring cleaning outside around the ranch. Working on cleaning up yards as the days are as nice as they can be with spring weather sometimes trying to beat the rain.
The horses are happy being able to finally explore a bigger pasture with some grass here and there but they still have their other furry companions hanging around almost like they are part of the herd still.
Those elk are looking for that last bite to eat from the hay before their feed on the mountain starts growing and they disappear only to be seen on the mountains.
Til next week!