The Highline Blog
May 23, 2020, Volume 15, Issue 20
Another week under our belts and another week closer to summer!
While the rain and chilly weather has still plagued the valley for the past days, we have had to postpone the completion of our branding. But, Lord knows there are plenty of other projects and jobs to be done around the ranch while we wait for the skies to clear.
This week we were able to allocate time towards the beautification of the Kit Arena- otherwise known as Roby’s Arena. We were all in there sweeping the floors, washing the rails, and wiping down the walls to freshen up the whole place; and now its lookin’ good 🙂
We also have been keeping a close eye on our herd of steers; on Friday we moved them all to the West Piece where they have plenty of grass and a nice grove of Aspens to relax beneath. Our crew is getting a lot of great experience and fun out of caring for these beasties- one of the main objectives when moving cattle is to always know how many you have. When moving groups from pasture to pasture, you always have to have an accurate count to ensure none are ever missing or lost (we also have a couple this season who relish the opportunity to escape and break through the fence). So, the other day when we were moving the steers we counted them four times. Usually, as well, there was more than one person counting- for us it was often two or even three people! But we got all our counts and all steers are accounted for.
There is another important practice when moving cattle and Shayne asked me this questions just the other day as we were preparing to head out: he asked, “What is the first thing you do when you move cattle to a new piece?” My response: “Put them on water” (I got it right!). Another important thing: make sure all of your gates are closed behind you (remember that escapee steer?).
We are one week closer to summer and one week closer to welcoming our friends back to the ranch. Stay safe, everyone! We miss you. But we’ll get to ride with you again soon.
May 16, 2020, Volume 15, Issue 19
Wet wet wet wet wet wet wet. Have I made my point clear enough? It has been raining all week long. Getting in the way of plans to continue branding, our downpour has made us move on to other projects for the time being. On Monday, when the water works began, while out checking on cattle, it actually started to snow! Seriously, Montana? It’s May!
Needless to say, we are all doing our best to stay dry in the midst of the rain. In fact, when riding out to move or check on cattle, I have taken to wearing two coats! It’s mostly a precaution- because there are few things I dislike more in this world than being wet and cold.
In other news, of our branded 125 steers, we moved 122 of them to our Joann Wallace piece which is located directly next to the Davis House and the shop. Its so much fun to look out in the morning and see them all standing outside, grazing or perusing the mineral tubs. Sometimes its almost a little weird, because when you come to the window to watch them, they will often watch you right back!
Our horsemanship study continues- we have been working a lot on groundwork lately! It’s been a blast and real learning experience as we get the chance to watch Des demo on her personal horses and our ranch horses. One day, for almost the entirety of our afternoon ride, we spent moving up and down the length of the arena on foot practicing hind and front in our groundwork. It started as a bit of a competition but then turned into much more as we all started to find a rhythm, learn to reach more and more for our horse, and see the positive results. Shayne also demonstrated for us how to use not one but two flags in our groundwork. The key is to stay quiet and remain consistent.
We are quickly seeing more and more bird species descend onto the ranch! For the past weeks, we have been hosting a number of bald eagles- yesterday while checking on the cattle in Shayne’s pasture, they were perched almost over our heads in the blossoming trees. Their size and majesty is a sight to behold.
As we wait for quarantine to be over, we are constantly hoping the best for our friends and loved ones that are far away. Know that you are in our thoughts and prayers as we are all striving to return to normalcy.
May 9, 2020, Volume 15, Issue 18
Another week under our belts!
Branding is going smoothly thus far- when the weather is good in the afternoons we pull 25 head out of their pasture in front of Randy’s house and bring them over to Shayne’s outdoor arena for a time all participants will certainly remember. So far we have completed 125 head!
Once the steers have received their brand, vaccination, and new ear tag, we set them free to graze in Shayne’s pasture where they have the chance to peacefully rest amidst plentiful grazing and water.
Its been a really great opportunity to be a part of the branding this year- since so many of our usual roping team has been unable to join us during quarantine a few of us have been given the chance to practice our shots and be a part of the ride! While having been on ground crew before, I have never been on horseback during branding, holding feet and setting shots, and let me tell you, its been a blast! Such a learning experience! I am definitely grateful to be surrounded by teachers and friends while thrust into this new environment- whenever I make a mistake, they are there to help me remember my training and keep everything straight.
And, as always, we love our ground crew during branding! They are doing such a fabulous job on keeping the whole process efficient and smooth.
We have also been working on a lot of projects around the ranch- fore mostly we have been cleaning up the yard- McGinnis Meadows landscaping crew has been deployed with a mission to make the grounds around the lodge and cabins as pristine as possible. As it turns out, this was no small task after a winter of fallen branches, pinecones, and needles. But, with the help of so many hands and a couple days worth of time, the place is lookin’ good 🙂
Well, that’s our week! A good week- one where at the end, the Sunday rest is all the more precious.
And, of course we could never forget! We would like to take a moment to wish a very happy birthday to our dear friend, Bernie Ziegner! We’ll miss having you at the ranch with us this year, Bernie; have a blessed day and year and we’ll see you very soon!
Be well, friends, and happy trails!
May 3, 2020, Volume 15, Issue 17
Welcome back to another edition of The Highline!
And let me tell you, it has been a glorious week here at the ranch! The weather has finally warmed and sunshine has been abundant. With the arrival of consistently enjoyable weather comes the time we have all been waiting for and highly anticipating: branding!!
Every year, we brand our incoming herd of steers with our backward Z and O brand. This is done with style and tradition in mind. Our ropers are horseback to rope the steer’s head, hind feet, and front feet. Once the little fella is on the ground the ground crew makes sure the ropes are secure and bring in the branding irons as quickly as possible. Once this is all done, the ground crew clears out as quickly as possible and the ropes are loosened allowing the steer to quietly get back to his feet and return to his buddies. In addition to branding this year, we are also administering vaccinations to our steers and ear-tagging them. It’s really a grand production! So much fun! With two afternoons of branding under our belts we’ve already completed 50 head. Though this year, we are missing our ground crew boss, Trent Marquis, who usually is here every year to give us pointers and keep us safe on the ground, we are doing our best to achieve efficiency.
In other news, we got a reminder this week of how wiley and wild our steers can be- when Anna and Emily went to feed the cattle one morning it was discovered that one was all on his lonesome on the other side of the fence from all the other steers. And it was quickly determined that he was not going to allow himself to be retrieved quietly. Shayne and some of the wranglers set out to find him and it was with the utmost precision that we were able to get him back with his buddies- if we had moved too fast or pushed on him too much he was liable to run or even charge at our horses!
Today is sadly the day that we have to say farewell to our intern, Bonnie. She will be traveling all the way back home to England over the next couple of days. She’s always looking for a good laugh and she has also been invaluable to Brenda for the help she gives doctoring the horses. We hope the best for her in her travels and her work with her horses at home.
With another week in the books, we are thankful for the arrival of May and the further presence of spring in our valley. Be well, Friends! We’ll see you soon.
April 25, 2020, Volume 15, Issue 16
What a week!
Jeepers. So much has been going on it’s difficult to know where to start. As you all know by now, our steers are officially settled into life on the ranch. Every morning, Anna and Emily go out and give them their 8 bales of hay spread throughout the pasture in front of Randy’s house. They are content all day long to much and snooze- a routine that a lot of us around here would not mind to adopt for a couple of days.
We are also still hard at work preparing our ranch horses for the season- we’ve been riding out with them and working on exercises that will give them strength and endurance for the coming season. Pro tip: always do transitions. Do you have a horse that overflexes? Do lots of transitions. Have a horse that gets strung out? Transitions. Have a horse that can sometimes get ahead of your leg? Again, I tell you transitions! The movement up and down from gates and rates encourages your horse to engage their hind end. The more they are able to carry themselves using their hind, the less they will push and rush, and the more they will be able to find their balance.
Earlier this week, a bunch of the wranglers got to ride out with Shayne and Des to further learn from them the ins and outs of sorting cattle. It was a blast! At the end, Shayne and Des decided to be very silly versions of themselves and turn the tables on us! They declared that they were now our guests and we had to teach them as if they had no previous ranch experience. Talk about pressure. But it was all so much fun and laughter was never in short supply for the remainder of the afternoon as they dolled out jokes and funny stories for our entertainment as we attempted to ‘teach’ them how to operate their horses.
We are also working on plenty of projects around the ranch. Scott and Kevin are kept plenty busy checking, rechecking, and fixing fences for us! They’re preparing for when the cattle move into various pastures and onto the mountains around the ranch. Anna is honing her skill in the forge, shoeing our multitude of ponies; she is just a delight to have around and the hardest worker you will ever find. And, of course, Emily is keeping us chugging along with her hardy and delicious meals that we look forward to at the end of the day. There is nothing better than having a job well done and sitting down with your friends (for us it is more like family) to a good meal.
We’re thinking of all of our friends that we are missing having with us during these weeks. Keep your chin up- we are doing the same.
April 18, 2020, Volume 15, Issue 16
It has been an absolutely wonderful week here at McGinnis Meadows! The highlights: horsemanship (obviously), beautiful weather, and… drumroll please… cattle! Our steers arrived! Lets dig in.
Starting with horsemanship, we have all been having a marvelous time riding with Shayne and Des in their indoor arena. It has been a great environment to learn and be able to focus on the individual needs of every horse that is ridden. Lately we have all been working on the hind-and-front exercise that is so vital to the balance and education of the horses. Around the perimeter of the arena you will see all of us rolling the hind 180o and then bringing the front end around 180o to result in coming out on a straight line. We are learning how important it is to have straightness through every movement. To have a proper soft feel you need straightness. To have a proper leg-yield, you first need straightness. It’s a beautiful transformation when you achieve the feeling of a horse standing up under saddle with straightness and balance.
In our groundwork department, Janice and Bonnie have been hard at work! Every morning you can find them in the Kit arena going over the fundamentals of proper groundwork. Bonnie says she is having a wonderful time 🙂
On Wednesday of this week we welcomed the arrival of most anticipated additions to the ranch: the steers. These tiny little guys are settling in nicely to their new pastures. Early on Thursday morning, Shayne and a bunch of the wranglers rode out to sort out any sick cattle so that they can be sure to be doctored and returned to their former health. It was a blast! Once we got them all sorted out, we moved the lot to their pasture in front of Randy’s house where their dinner was set out waiting for them. Since the sickos are now doctored and on the mend, they have also been allowed to join their buddies in the pasture.
The weather was in our favor yesterday when we went out again to ride through the steers and check on them. We found the ones that had been doctored the day before and were glad to see the amount of improvement in just one day. As we rode through them Shayne also taught us all how to best sort through them to achieve a smooth relay of riders and cattle from one corral to another. It was a delightful afternoon- made only better by the sunshine and fresh air.
I think I can speak for everyone here when I say that we are sincerely hoping that the fine weather will persist. Although we all love the indoor arena, we’re eager to enjoy the world beyond the roll-up-door. I am sure that quite a few of you who read this can commiserate with us on this feeling.
While hoping and praying the best for our friends and our nation, we wish you happy trails.
April 11, 2020, Volume 15, Issue 15
Anyone that knows me knows how much fun I have when I get to work with the young’uns! This past week has been full of colts!
One is a coming 3 year old named Lefty. I’ve been getting him good with groundwork for the last couple weeks and finally put my first few rides on him. So much fun!
Another is a coming 2 year old named Nicz. He had to get a quick course in good groundwork because he got a cut on his leg that needed doctoring and he was in desperate need of a foot trim! Nicz didn’t know much about groundwork and he was not too keen on holding up his feet at all. So, I started with basic groundwork with the lead rope, moved onto flag and tarp and rope, all in good time. He’s pretty touchy so we went slow. He got better and better to doctor each day and by mid-week, he had a perfect trim session with Anna!
We have two yearlings on the ranch now, Rip and Hadlee. These two are pure and I am enjoying being able to do everything from “scratch” so to speak! These two colts are brothers (their daddy is Metallic Rebel) but they are like night and day!
Rip is quite sensitive, like most of the colts I’m used to working. He’s gotten more accepting of brushes, throwing the lead rope on his back, the flag, seeing the tarp and learning to lead up nicely. But we go slow and he’s going to have to see these things lots of times before they become “old hat” to him!
Hadlee is a little different from any colt I’ve worked with thus far. It seems like I only have to show him something once and he’s got a handle on it. He’s quite bold and is becoming very independent!
The “kids” (lovingly referred to as Kevin, Maddie, Scott and Ahna) have been riding with us each day, and have been camping on the new Lazy U horses. Each day they run through the basic moves that you might do in a Buck clinic—hind 180/front 180, soft feel, leg yield, stops—and then they progress to roping, riding with flags and working on the cutting flag. Some of these horses are getting VERY hooked onto that cutting flag! Be ready to hang on!
Temps bumped up into the 60s by mid-week and all of the snow from the winter officially went away! Of course, that makes both horses and humans quite happy! But it also made clear that we needed a second deep clean on our new arena winter pasture, as some sticks had come up to the surface from the pasture being used all winter. So each day, a crew would assemble to deep clean the pasture from top to bottom. I think they took out something like 10 loads of sticks!
Janice has been personally working with our English intern Bonnie on the refinement of groundwork. Bonnie has a big interest in it, and Janice will teach her the intricacies of flags, tarps, ropes, work from the fence…you name it!
Hard to believe that Easter is upon us already. We wish everyone a safe and peaceful time, and we will catch up with you again next week.
April 4, 2020, Volume 15, Issue 14
Who would have thought we’d get more snow now than we had almost all winter!
While we are eager for green grass and warm temps, it sure is pretty here. The birds are singing each morning so spring can’t be too far off.
It is quiet at the ranch without guests but we are making the most of the time by riding a lot, catching up on projects, and creating new ones!
We now have a new set of stadium seats for guests wanting to watch lunchtime rides, and as I write this the crew is setting up a trailer at the new arena which will house gear, feed, and brand new shelves for stashing our lunches each day.
Staff has been fortunate to be riding with Shayne and Des most days and we are all learning a lot. The 6 new horses that came in from Lazy U are getting ready for the guest string and have been rotating through staff each day. It is pretty cool to see what each person puts into a horse and how we can all help each other improve. These horses are all so sweet and very fun to ride!
Some of the things Shayne has us working on include walk, trot and cantering over logs in preparation for lead changes; getting our horses really straight (up and down in the shoulders and withers), practicing our roping, and working through our individual trouble spots as we ride. Each day he will ask us what are the two or three things we need to be thinking about. These are different for each of us
and a good reminder of what we need to be focusing on every second!
Shayne and Des have also been working with their new colt Lefty. She is preparing him with a bit more groundwork and then Shayne works with him from horseback. He is making great progress under their guidance.
That is about it for now. We hope that you are all staying safe and healthy, and we can’t wait to see you again soon.
March 29, 2020, Volume 15, Issue 13
Following the completion of our 8-day clinic (which ended on Tuesday) everyone was still working hard to finish the week strong and work hard. However, by the end of this week we were all ready for a blessed rest.
As the corona virus continues to loom over the nation, we are so very thankful for the bit of peace that we have in knowing that we are tucked away among the mountains; although, this does not go without taking necessary precautions. Having restricted our trips to town we are doing our very best to avoid sickness and contact with the outside world. To that end, our dear Anna is no longer able to do our town runs! Thank God for FedEx and UPS!
While we are shut up here at the ranch, let no one be worried for us- there is still plenty of work to do. Boredom is never an issue 🙂 This week we’ve been practicing our roping from horseback. The other afternoon, Des got her rope on one of the roping dummies and was dragging it around the arena for all of us to try to heel and head as she rode by. It was so much fun! Shayne also gave us plenty of tutorials on the proper technique and angles to rope from- all vital components to a successful loop and catch.
Since that day, we have been getting down our ropes every morning and afternoon! It’s been a blast! One evening after all the chores were done we met back around the roping dummies on foot to continue our technique practice. Shayne and Des showed us tips for getting our loops stronger and more consistent. Shayne even showed us a trick shot that he said everyone had to get before going to dinner! I’ll just say that we were pretty hungry by the end of the session.
Quite a few of us (though mostly Emily and Anna) have been diving into the world of macate making! They are already quite accomplished- the beauty and quality of their work is a sight to see. Be sure to let them know if you’re looking for a new set! They would be happy to help you out!
Roby has also found his way back to the ranch after a winter of travel. Its nice to have his goofy self around again; he is also hard at work in the Kit arena riding our ranch horses to prepare them for the season.
Its nice to be stuck in one place with people that mean so much to you; the other night after dinner everyone was reluctant to leave the table and we all sat around telling and retelling stories, reminiscing about the past seasons and the memories we have all had together. What a good family we have all found in each other.
That’s I’ve got for ya this week. Next week is bound to bring more adventures so stay tuned.
March 23, 2020 Volume 15, Issue 12
It seems like everywhere one looks, there are people talking about and feeling the effects of this COVID-19 virus. Our hearts go out to individuals who are sick, families who are locked in quarantine with no means to work, those who are elderly and immune-compromised and at risk. In this tough time, we can only hope and pray that “this too shall pass,” and in short order.
At the ranch, we are taking the utmost precautions in the safety of our staff and our guests!
At the ranch, life goes on. I guess being in a quarantine isn’t much different than a normal day on the ranch in our little corner of the world! We are riding each day, getting outside for walks and hikes (the weather has been quite warm and sunny for March) and just carrying on with our normal schedules.
We are currently coming towards the tail-end of an 8-day clinic. As always, these clinics prove to get our riders to levels of horsemanship they hadn’t thought possible before! Our guests have been doing lots of riding with legs only, learning the refinement of the soft feel, cutting hard on the cutting flag and watching some colt demos. And much, much more. The changes in seat position, life in the horses and focus compels us to continue on in this journey of teaching.
This week we also had a very special treat! Former McGinnis Meadows employee and well-known clinician Ricky Quinn joined us for a couple days! Ricky manages the Lazy U ranch in Nebraska and he brought us 6 head of well-bred horses, who will one day become new Guest Horses!
In addition, he worked with Anna and Scott on shoeing some of the ranch horses. This was a continuation of the clinic Anna and Scott attended in Nebraska earlier this winter with Tommy Kilgore. This is an adapted version of shoeing a horse that truly incorporates a feel for the horse’s natural abilities. Shayne and I rode several horses who had been shod and there was an immediate difference in how comfortable and freely they moved! We are very grateful that Ricky has such a heart for our ranch horses that he wanted to continue to help us to explore their utmost potential in the shoeing. We’ll see him again in 6-weeks for another tune-up!
Anna can explain this in better detail. Here’s what she had to say:
This weekend was an amazing opportunity to get another chance to practice what we learned in Nebraska. We got to train our eyes to see what the horse is telling us it needs. For example, a horse with contracted heels needs support on his heels to help carry his body weight appropriately for his conformation. Opening his heels and giving him a larger perimeter to support his body would ease pain!
With Ricky’s help, we spent a lot of time on our hard cases, finding patterns we—the human—have put into our horses. Each year of horseshoeing is so different! I am excited to help these horses carry themselves more confidently!
And that’s a wrap!
Stay safe out there and please contact Janice at firstname.lastname@example.org feel free to give us a call at 406-293-5000 for any questions regarding a current or future reservation.