The Highline Blog

Perseverance and breakthroughs at McGinnis Meadows Ranch

April 20, 2019, Volume 14, Issue 16

Hey Everyone,

Warmer weather this week has surfaced at the ranch along with more rain. The horses are starting to look sleeker day by day!

Harley and Carolyn

Harley came back to visit us this week. He is a very cool draft horse that belongs to long time returning guest, Carolyn. He is truly a gentle giant, so very sweet. He came to Carolyn with some trouble and she has been diligent about working through this with him. This week she got to watch Shayne ride him to correct an issue with his shoulder pushing in through the corners. When Carolyn got back on him, she was able to feel the difference – this can be so helpful when you can feel what it is like to ride a balanced horse.

There were many highlights this week for each guest, as well as a few struggles along the way. As happens so often, a greener rider made great strides throughout the week, while the riders with more experience and old habits had to work pretty hard to re-train themselves. It is interesting to see how people learn differently. Some are visual, some have to mimick another rider, and sometimes, figuring it out on their own after instruction, is what works. Sometimes there there are mental or physical road blocks, but most always, people are able to work through it.

Marisa was a great example of someone who struggled with being able to turn her body correctly through the week and on Friday she made a huge breakthrough. When Marisa’s body changed so did Cheech’s, her horse for the week!

Marisa and Cheech

When she stopped bringing her rein across his neck to the outside, in order to prevent him from pushing his shoulder in, Cheech’s flexion became correct and he stopped pushing in of his own accord.

Tom, Heidi and Vicki all had similar breakthroughs, with their seat positions and getting life in their horses. Everyone also got to experience riding in neck ropes and halters :-). It was a really great group this week.

The work that Dave and Scott have been doing at the shop, installing new cabinets and reorganizing, is complete. This will make it a great space to work in and easily find what they need. Guests visiting the ranch will also notice the new tile floor that is going under the tent. Will, Willy, Randy and Dave are working on the base for this and it is going to look spectacular when it is finished!

New tent base for tile flooring

Talk about organization- new shop cabinets!







Scott continues to jingle in the herd each morning. Now with the nicer weather and green grass starting to come up, they are not always so cooperative. There are a few holdouts (Chaos, Boone and Brownie, to name some), that are pretty good at hiding. Once they are spotted in the corrals, you can be pretty sure that the whole herd is accounted for!

Tom and Vicki helping each other call out the horses foot falls. Focus required…

We welcomed back Sue and previous intern Rachel, this week. Sue was out recovering from surgery on her hip over the winter and Rachel has returned help Miriam in the kitchen and do a part time internship. We’re thrilled to have them both back here for the upcoming season.

Speaking of the season, there are just a few spots remaining for the 2019 season. If you haven’t already checked out our new fall and 2020 schedule, you should! There are some new twists like a cow working clinic, women’s week and several eight-day clinics that have already garnered a lot of interest.

There are also just 3 spots remaining for the 2nd Buck week clinic here at the ranch, July 21-28th, 2019. If you are interested, contact Janice to see how you can secure your spot.

Happy Trails,


Tom did well on Jasper

Heidi rode Roanie and Chief for a different perspective. Her riding improved bunches!

“How soft can you be on the reins” demonstration with Shayne and Ashlyn

There sure are some pretty sunrises this time of year here at the ranch


The Pace is picking up at McGinnis Meadows!

April 13, 2019, Volume 14, Issue 15

Hey Everyone,

It seems as though the wheels of the ranch are really beginning to turn with the spring season!

For starters, Miriam, Willy and Sue came back to work after having the winter off.  I took the opportunity to sample Miriam’s fare and that woman has not missed a beat!  I think her food was better than ever!!!

A Pileated Woodpecker!

Willy hit the ground running…. Checking fence, working on our lodge driveway, flagging areas for new fence, fixing corrals…the list can go one and on!

Sue just came in today.  She’s going to be taking it easy on the riding side for a little bit, due to hip surgery over the winter, but there will be more than plenty for her to do when she’s not horseback.  We have lots of new fun gift shop items to go over, saddles to clean and pastures to de-limb.

One of our former interns, Ash, also joined our crew for a few months for a partial internship/partial work deal.  She’s doing lots of “fill-in” work until our peak season begins.  We are so happy to have her back!

Tom worked really hard on changing his seat this week

The weather has been veeeeeeerrrry wet.  The good part about that is that there are only a few patches of snow left on the ground.  There isn’t really a bad side—other than it’s very muddy, wet and dreary.  We are SO ready for sunshine!  The horses come in caked in mud and you can only hope that you can get most of it off of them before they dry off and you have to re-brush—because you will get completely covered in manure-y dust!  You just squint your eyes and close your lips real tight for a long as possible, turn away and take a deep breath then go again, haha.  The ponies don’t seem to mind the extra attention!

Last weekend we had Dr. Genovese and his tech’s out at the ranch to vaccinate the entire herd.  They love coming out here because the whole process is so uneventful!  We were able to get 110 head vaccinated and wormed in a 1/2 a day!  And that’s in addition to Dr. G working with us in getting several horses x-rayed, or utrasounded who were due for re-check-ups.

One of the really neat things we do at the ranch is x-ray any horse’s feet who our farriers feel might be a problem, or who they might have a quandary about.  You would be very surprised at how much different a horse’s bone structure can be from the shape of their foot!  Often, we can look at x-rays and our farriers can determine that they can take off quite a bit more hoof, or they learn that the horse has thin soles and needs extra support, etc.  It’s a fantastic learning tool and we have several horses on the ranch who have been x-rayed and had their shoeing adjusted which has helped them tremendously with balance and soundness!

In fact, we have a HUGE shoeing book, with notes and photos of every single horse on the ranch—what shoes to use, how to handle them on the ground, x-rays, history of injury, etc. 

Kenzie has a nice way with her horses and has been getting them really soft!

It’s extremely extensive but a testament to how much we care about the health of our herd and their comfort when it comes to their feet.

Anna and Scott have started the process of finally getting shoes on the horses again.  We keep most of them barefoot over the winter.  Now that the ice is finally gone, it’s a full time job to get the horses shod again so that we can start riding them out!  The two have been doing an awesome job and Shayne and I are so proud of them both!

This week we had just one guest, Tom, from Washington.  Because Shayne and I had quite a busy week with horses to ride and projects going on, we gave Janice the lead in the teaching.  It was a huge learning experience for her!  Shayne or I would assist as needed, and of course we taught Tom, Janice and our interns as well, but then would hand the reins back to Janice. 

Des practicing roping on client horse Romeo

She has a new appreciation for not only being able to teach, but to ride multiple horses and improve them during the whole process.  It’s harder than you think!  Janice got really smooth and helped to get Tom to an entirely new seat position.  We always wish we had before and after photos because he made such big changes!  We are looking forward to having Tom back at the ranch later this season—this next time with his big Friesian colt by his side.

Well, I’m signing off for bed.  If we get a break in the weather this weekend, a bike ride may be in order!

Till next time,


Hey, Can I come in?

We were blessed with seeing another rainbow over Shayne’s house!


April 6, 2019, Volume 14, Issue 14

Greetings Everyone,

We’ve got some exciting news about new programming here at MMR! 8-Day clinics, Women’s weeks, VIP weeks, and much more is what you’ll find later this fall and throughout the 2020 season! Read a synopsis about it further down in this edition of the Highline. There will also be more details on our website (, in our Ranch Ramblings newsletter and on Facebook!

Kathy and her horse Toby

This week, we had several repeat guests as well as first timers. Ryan, Lauren and Madi have all been here before. Lauren brought along her horse Charlie, a really cute bay roan, and this time Madi got to ride our guest horse Shadow. Shadow has recently been retired from ranch work and will be leaving on Saturday to start his new life with her. Both of them look like they couldn’t be happier!

Nikki also joined us, a longtime friend of Ryan and Lauren, and Kathy and her horse Toby visited too. Toby was a client horse a few years back and we are always so excited to see them both when they return to the ranch!

In horsemanship this week, we worked quite a bit on seat position and getting everyone to really have their horses working off of their legs. The neck ropes were brought out on Wednesday. In order to make exercises with a neck rope really effective the rider’s leg has to have meaning. The leg should create the flexion in the horse, not just the use of the hands. Once this is working well, then the horse can still be in correct flexion even with just a neck rope. To challenge everyone just a little bit more, we brought out the jolly balls!

Ryan rode Charlie for part of time as well.

Everyone got to pair up with another rider, and the goal was to bring the ball from one end of the arena to the other in the straightest line possible. To do this, you need the ability to center the horse directly behind the ball and be able to direct the left and right front leg independently. It takes some control with your legs to accomplish this, as you can imagine! Everyone did great and it even got to some friendly competition at times.

In other ranch news, Scott and Dave have been busy organizing the shop. They’ve gone through just about everything in there, tidied up and cleaned out anything not needed, and are currently installing brand new cabinets. We’ll get some before and after pictures as soon as the project is finished. J

Today will be a busy day here at the ranch. The vet is coming in to give the horses their spring shots! It will be all hands on deck to accomplish getting through all 100 head of horses, with quality.

Madi and Shadow! Here she is asking him for a soft feel before leaving to cross the arena.

We make sure not to rush the horse and that they are good with the process so that next time too will be a good deal for them.

Lauren and Booker. Lauren’s seat really improved this week!

As promised here is synopsis of special events for Fall 2019 and 2020 the season:

Women’s Week and an 8-day horsemanship clinic (Oct/Nov 2019 and Oct 2020)

Thanksgiving week (November 2019)

8-Day cow working clinic (May 2020)

8-Day horsemanship clinics- (Feb-Apr/Jul/Oct 2020)

Veterans, Active Duty and Law Enforcement Appreciation Week Guest week (Aug 2020)

VIP Weeks  (Jun/ Sept 2020)

Buck Brannaman Clinic Weeks (Jul 2020)

Please contact Janice for all of the fun details about any of these weeks as well as our regular guest weeks, at, or call (406) 293-5000.

Happy trails,


Nikki and Chief. She did a great job of riding him soft with just a neck rope.

Shayne and Cooley kicking the jolly ball with no hands!

First light at MMR

Oh, and did I mention that Madi taught Des, Shayne and me how to do the Floss??


Connecting the Horsemanship Dots at McGinnis Meadows

March 30, 2019, Volume 14, Issue 13

Greetings everyone,

This week there were no guests riding so Shayne and Des worked with the interns and staff each day. We got to work a lot on riding straight lines, riding to softness, walk – trot transitions and on Friday, cantering!

McKenzie riding straight lines on Jasper

I was fortunate to be able to ride 2-3 horses each day and this really lets you feel the differences in each horse. The really interesting part with the guest horses though, is that they may have a different feel, yet the issues that have developed in them are all very similar. We tend to create things in them that we then have to fix later. We focused a lot this week on not creating them in the first place, and feeling them in a more timely manner, so we can make corrections a lot earlier. When this happens, corrections can be a lot smaller and much more subtle. Shayne talked a lot about connecting the dots when you ride- looking ahead and riding far out ahead of you so you can stay ahead of your horse.  It was an analogy that really clicked with all of us.

The art of fine horsemanship requires so much mental focus (as in ride every step), and so much planning ahead that it can seem mind-boggling in the beginning. But, as each of the components becomes more automatic, riding can become more efficient and more fluid. I am thankful that I have such great teachers who never give up on me as I struggle sometimes to learn all of this!

Scott got to ride with us as well, and he rode his pretty pony Yellow Hair. Shayne thought he had things working pretty well with this horse and commented how ‘with him’ Yellow Hair was. It was fun to see.

Yellow Hair!

Casey and Tina, our stellar interns, finished up their last week with us. We will miss them! They were great students and they both made so much progress in their riding in such a short amount of time. We know they will both be back soon, and we look forward to it!

Out on the ranch, Scott, Anna and Dave did some more adjusting to the shoeing area, making it a bit more roomy. It looks great!

Brenda returned from vacation this week too, and we are all happy to have her back here. She wasted no time saying hello to her beloved herd and taking care of all of them.

It looks like winter is still hanging on just a little with expected temps not getting out of the 40’s next week. The snow is melting though and of course the tell tale sign that spring is approaching… the piles of horse hair on the ground after they get a good brushing!

Here is to a great week ahead.


Casey and Firestone

Scott feeding with Dave (driving)

Who, Me?

Des and Pard. He is so handsome!

Thank you to Rachel Niemela for the great photos!

Exciting news at McGinnis Meadows Ranch!

March 23, 2019, Volume 14, Issue 12


Spring is when you feel like whistling, even with a shoe full of slush. —Doug Larson

It’s WARM AGAIN!!!!!  I mean, we hit a new high this year of 54 today.  Compared with -35 a couple weeks ago, that is quite toasty and it feels oh-so-good!

We’ve actually been getting a little bit warm inside our indoor arena and rode this afternoon with the doors up.  We could have ridden outside if the ground was good.  Shayne was thinking ahead though, and he had our friend Chris Noble, (who owns an excavating business) use one of his big loaders to haul out truckloads of snow.  I mean…there was a mountain of it!

And…Shayne finally told me I can break this news to everyone who hasn’t heard about it…

We are in the process of building a BRAND NEW, state of the art, indoor arena riding facility!  The new arena/building is 130×250 feet!  It will have two incredible tack rooms, heated horse pens, custom sound system, custom overhead watering system, warm in winter, cool in summer, mirrors, top-notch footing—not to mention diagonals that would make any horseman or woman swoon ;). If you know Shayne, you know that he cut no corners on this one.

Shayne has been working out of our old indoor arena for 20 years!  He (and the rest of us) are ready for the upgrade.  As you can see from the pics, there is still plenty of work to be done, but we are well on our way.  The facility should be completed by early fall.  I can’t wait!

Of course, the new facility will require more horse pastures, lots of fencing, de-limbing, and some minor land clearing.  Our ranch hand crew is going to be pretty busy this year!

Ok…back to this week…

Bethany and Scotch

We had two guests this week.  Jade is still in high school but she has a passion for horses and convinced her parents to drop her off for the week.  Bethany is a doctor who lives in Kalispell, so we are hoping to start seeing her at the ranch more often now that she’s gotten her feet wet!  Both ladies truly gave it their best, even though they were challenged in new ways daily.

Our interns, Casey, Allie and Tina were superb.  It was a unique opportunity because all three of them started on the same date a few weeks ago and all learned the exact same things and had many of the same struggles.  All three of them have had major breakthroughs in their riding and in their own personal journeys.

We decided to have the interns help us to teach the guests, as well as our newest intern, McKenzie.  What was so fun to watch, was how they taught the same material that only a week or two prior, they might have struggled on.  Because of this, and because they learned how to apply the methods and succeed at the exercises, they had a really good feel as to how to teach it.  It was pretty amazing how far they had come in such a short time.  The guests couldn’t fathom that our interns had been dealing with the same challenges only a week or two prior.  That’s how quickly a person can get better when they work hard and have the right attitude in this horsemanship program!

Jade and Boone

Shayne thought that this was his best teaching week ever.  He’s certainly coming up with some great ways to teach the material in ways that maintains the integrity of the horses’ foundation—whether the rider on their back is green or advanced.  It’s all about ORCA—Observe. Remember. Compare. Adjust.

In other news, Dave has been keeping the ranch running smoothly behind the scenes.  He kindly scrapes away the slush each afternoon that can create some nasty, icy ruts on the lodge driveway in the morning!  He and Randy are always working together to make sure water is running, heaters are working and machinery is in it’s best working order.  Dave has really become an asset at the ranch and always goes above and beyond in learning new material and expanding his knowledge of material he already knows well.

Adrienne has been managing all of our deep cleaning this winter, and is getting the ranch prepared for the upcoming season.  She’s been a huge asset to Janice in the office as well!  She’s excited to take on some new roles of more “ranch hand” type work in addition to regular duties this season.  She’s can weld, drive a tractor and is pretty mechanically inclined.  Plus, she loves being outdoors.  But then…who doesn’t when you live out here?

Our newest intern McKenzie doing a great job of focusing with Chief.

Jenna has been keeping everyone’s bellies full of yummy food as well as hustling through getting saddles cleaned.  She’s also been an asset to Adrienne with the deep cleaning with any extra time she has.

Speaking of cooks…Miriam is excited to be coming back as our lead cook in April!  Between now and then, she’s going to be traveling the world surfing!  Is there anything this woman can’t do?

Anna and Scott are taking the weekend to attend a shoeing clinic hosted by our Vet Clinic in Kalispell.  Dr. Genovese is really excited to be working with these two, and we have the utmost confidence in their ability to maintain our herd.

Sue is finally going to be making her way back to the ranch next month.  She had an extensive hip surgery and spent the winter recovering in California with her family.  Good thing, because snow, ice and hip injuries just wouldn’t mix out here!  We are looking forward to her coming back home.

Last but not least, Janice and I will be going over our fall 2019 and full 2020 schedule this weekend!  We have some really exciting weeks and clinics coming up.  You’ll hear all about it soon!

Till next time,


Des ground working Cookie

Casey riding her horse Firestone

Close up of the new indoor arena!

Allie is finishing up her internship this weekend. She says she’ll be back!

Omar’s silhouette- He’s almost too tall to fit under the roll up door 🙂

McGinnis Meadows Ranch Welcomes the Spring

Well, it seemed like it would never happen…but the big Spring Thaw has arrived! When I mean big, I mean, the potentially biggest spring

                 Spring is almost in the air

thaw that Shayne and Randy say that they’ve seen in YEARS. For it to make more sense, you’d have to know that less than a week ago, the lows were still in the negative double digits. And we have had a LOT of snow this year…so…much…snow! Now, the temps are in the high 40s and hitting into the high 50s by mid-week! But, the ground underneath is still frozen. So where will the water go?

Dave is ready to dig trenches where needed. Snow has been pulled away from buildings. We have lots of big equipment on hand to help as needed. As for me…I might trade in my snow-shoes for my paddle board when traveling from the house to the arena in the mornings!

I know that it might be a sloppy mess here for a couple weeks, but I’ve got to say, these temps are sure good for the soul. I’ve never been so happy to see small patches of asphalt peeking through the snow-packed county road, or widening tree wells or especially, the sounds of birds singing again!

I’m also so happy about everything that we worked on in the arena this week. My head is still spinning from the amount of info, the feel it took to apply it and the changes seen in so many horses (and humans, too!)

We had a couple of guests reschedule, so this week riding it was just Shayne, me, Janice and our interns, Casey, Tina and Allie. All three interns had just come off of the advanced 10-day clinic and had a great foundation going already. Janice did not ride in the clinic, but she

                         Tina & Bob

was present for a large portion of it assisting in any way she could, and soaking up lots of knowledge. Because of this, Shayne and I were able to pick-up right where we left off in the 10-day. Rather than start from scratch, we told everyone to get to work doing what they had learned already.

These ladies are SUCH good students! They went straight to groundwork and covered all of their bases. In the riding, they revisited riding with a flag to help turn their bodies. We decided to ride with neck-ropes one day and they all did stellar.

I’m pretty sure Janice had her very best riding week EVER. Shayne and I were so happy with how she progressed on her horses. She discovered how much she could get done with her hips! Lots of people struggle to engage their hips properly when riding and to get their bodies loosened up so they can turn and not be stiff. Janice has struggled with this (as have I!) and this week we found the magic combo to help her find them a’horseback. As teachers, sometimes you have to think outside the box…the same as you would with horses. We are soooo happy for her and her progress!

We are also VERY happy with this current intern crew! These ladies have demonstrated a feel above and beyond what we’ve seen before. Each day, they come at the horses from their hearts. Although they are learning and could very easily get lost in the mechanical

                        Allie & Booker

aspect of this—they don’t. They have already learned the importance of patience, creativity and feel. And that at the end of the day, it’s what your horse thinks of YOU that matters the most. All of their horses improved by leaps and bounds this week.

And where would these horses be without the other people who work behind the scenes to keep them at their best? This week, with Anna on vacation, Scott has taken on the trimming/shoeing full time. I absolutely love it that he understands the value of teamwork and enlists the help of Brenda or even our interns in holding a horse who is a little unsure. Scott has a really nice, quiet way around the horses (and by the way, he’s an ambidextrous farrier)! He and Anna have really got these horse’s feet looking great.

And Brenda…where would we be without her keeping a constant eye on the herd? Rain, freezing cold or slush—she’s out there every day keeping tabs on her “babies.” On a given day she’s doctoring eyes, cuts, checking for rain rot, giving supplements, wrapping horses, noticing things that most people wouldn’t even see. Finding potential issues and fixing them before they become one. She is a true gem of a woman and the horses adore her.

Well, I’d better wrap this up! I need to make time to ride some ponies and go on a slushy snow-shoe with the pooch.

Till next time!



Des & Brownie


Hi from the gang


Casey & Levi


Just hanging out


Des & Angel


Feed time!


Horsemanship outside the box- McGinnis Meadows style!

March 7, 2019, Volume 14, Issue 10

Wow, this past couple weeks has been a nonstop, fun-filled horsemanship ride!

Rey finishes his internship tomorrow- he has come along way in just one month!

As I write this on Thursday evening, we have just finished up our very first 10-Day, Invitation-Only Horsemanship Clinic.  Guests are heading home tomorrow morning chock-full of knowledge, new tools, a new feel and lots of creative insights.

The day before the clinic started, we invited guests to come in early so that they could watch us ride all of the horses we would be using during the 10-day event.  We also rode through a couple of our personal horses, as well as a few ranch horses who are in our personal string to be re-ridden until they are really shiny again 🙂

Because we planned on starting the guests this week in halters, we rode all of their horses in halters for them to watch.  Although we only had one rein, we demonstrated the ability to do hind and front, walk, trot and canter on course, on a loose rein and maintain proper flexion.

This group, for lack of better words, would be our guinea pigs to an experiment Shayne was working on.  He wanted to see how well the horses we had ridden could be maintained, and even advanced with the guests based on the structure of how we taught, how slow we went and how refined the movements were.

Joy was really getting Max soft and balanced by the end of the day

We did quite a bit of groundwork in preparation for riding.  We covered SO MUCH STUFF in the groundwork!  The “standard” groundwork (i.e., hind, front, united circles).  We also worked on focusing on maintaining a larger bubble with the horses, going so far as to get all groundwork done at the very end of the lead rope.  Guests were able to reach all four feet and hang them in the air separately.  We did groundwork with flags, with tarps and with giant horse-sized soccer balls!  Guests watched demos on bridling tough horses, introducing horses to ropes, and really studying nuances of balance in footfall.

In our riding, we began with one-rein work.  Because it’s so tantalizingly tempting to grab for two-reins in a snaffle, (even when only attempting to work with one-rein), Shayne just eliminated the temptation to pull on two by just giving the guests one-rein—the halter and lead rope!  Of course we rode with them in the same fashion.  Guests learned how to maintain flexion while riding circles and straight lines.

Chief and Lauren working on a feel and getting a horse around different objects. BIG horse, Big jolly ball!

Then we gave them their snaffles and reins—with one caveat…. For the first day in the snaffle, they had to hold a flag with the shaft in in-between their reins.  In this way, they had to keep wide hands and learn how to avoid pulling.  They learned to ride serpentines, straight lines, get a soft feel, stop and back-up.  Because their hands were set wide, it forced the riders to really focus on turning their bodies when in circles, staying even on the straight lines and being more subtle in their seat position in forward-stop-back up transitions. 

From there, we took their flags away and they finally got to ride with reins “like normal.”  Except now, everything had a greater meaning.  There wasn’t mindless pulling and kicking because the refinement had been learned beforehand.  We spent some time working on getting the horses very soft at the standstill in lateral and longitudinal flexion, then incorporated it into contests in which guests divided into two groups and picked winners from each group on quality of soft feel with rate and straightness.  This continued into the last day, with trotting soft feels and walk/trot/canter transitions.

Carolyn and Brumby using the flag to find seat position

Somehow in all of this, we found time for a good ol’ match of horse soccer!  Guests also learned cow turns, learned about riding in “neutral” flexion, reaching feet and…I can go on and on.  Although I am talking about activities and movements, what we stressed all week was “feel with creativity.”  We talked about ways we would address different issues that were particular to the horse were were on.  We challenged the guests to watch their horses feet and expression in the groundwork and to really feel for their balance when horseback.  We challenged the guests to study their horse and their own movements in order to answer some of their own questions.  We challenged them to think outside the box in working with horses—always staying true to the foundation of what we are taught but realizing that there is more feel than mechanics involved when advancing in horsemanship knowledge.

In 10-days, a lot of changes can occur in a horse.  The guests also had a great opportunity to watch Shayne and I re-ride through a few guest horses who needed some TLC and fine tuning.  We also made a point to ride our personal horses at lunchtime and I rode through some client horses.  Each horse was at a different level and we spoke freely about what we were feeling and why we were working on certain movements at certain times.  I think that doing this was one of the most insightful learning experiences for the guests over the 10-day clinic.

Shayne working with bandit to develop a feel without the use of a halter

This group of guests were amazing—as were our four current interns!  Each person showed an intense love of learning, love of horses and love of this way of working with them.  After 10 full days, everyone was still giving 100% and wanting to glean more and more insight!  They always kept their horses in mind—even if something

How many things can you think of to expose your horse to?

got fast and maybe some things fell apart—they knew where to go to fix it up for the horse to keep them on the winning end of things.

I’m so thankful to have spent time with all of these guys.  I’m thankful that Shayne graciously allows and encourages me to teach alongside him and to take over the class at times.  I’m especially thankful for Janice’s help this week—she missed a LOT of time in the office helping us to get the day rolling, grab horses, manage the arena, help guests and take videos and pics.  We couldn’t have done it without her!  Of course, we also had lots of help from our team—Anna, Scott, Brenda and Jenna.

Speaking of staff, Jenna will be embarking on a new chapter in her life- she will be going back to help on her family’s ranch and will be taking lots of knowledge with her to continue her study of horsemanship. We’ve loved having her here and watching all the progress she has made with her horse Shadow! We wish her all the best. Jenna’s departure opens up a position for a continental breakfast cook/baker from May- October here at MMR. Baking skills preferred. Send anyone you know that might be interested to me (Des) at

Early in the clinic, temps dropped to -35!  By the last day, we were up to +40!  It seems that we are finally ringing in springtime!  Wish us luck…there’s a LOT, I mean a LOT, of snow that’s going to be melting these next few weeks!  In no time we may be working on kayaking and stand-up paddling in the meadows! 

Beautiful sunrise

That’s OK with me!  We are all ready for some warmth, sunshine, shedding ponies and green sprouts poking out through the snowmelt.

Have a great weekend everyone!


*P.S. If you have been a previous guest of ours and wish to focus on more intensive horsemanship, our next 10-day clinic from April 21st-May 2nd, 2019 still has a couple openings!  We would love for you to join us!

is it my turn? Des’ horse Tucker

What a great group of interns we have here. l to R: Rey, Allie, Tina and Casey

Montana Horsemanship -Ten Days of learning at McGinnis Meadows…

Intern Tina and Brumby.

March 2, 2019, Volume 14, Issue 9

Greetings everyone

As I write this we are in the midst of our first ever Ten-day horsemanship clinic here at MMR.

Ten days in succession gives riders the chance to work towards more advanced concepts, and to help retrain any bad habits that may have developed over the years. These guests have all been here before and have an understanding of Buck’s methods and terminology so progress is made by leaps and bounds!

Karmen, former intern came back for a guest visit!

We also have three new interns that arrived at the beginning of this week. Tina, Allie and Casey are getting to dive right in with this clinic format and it should really jumps start their learning. They will all be here for one month.

There is a lot of snow here at the ranch. It is hard to believe it is March already. There are some glimpses that spring may be approaching, even if ever so slowly. The sun is getting more direct and it gets and stays lighter these days. The birds can be heard singing in the trees as well, and yup, you guessed it, the horses are starting to shed their winter coats!

Winter sure is beautiful at the ranch though and the photo ‘opps’ are spectacular right now.  Winter is also when staff takes their well -deserved vacations and we just welcomed Brenda back from hers this week. She hopped right back in with the horse doctoring and supplementing and all the other things she does so well at the ranch. It is good to have her back! Scott is back as well, and Dave and Adrienne have just left y go back home visiting with their family in PA. Everyone here pitches in to cover ranch duties when someone is away so it never really feels like a hardship. It is always nice to see everyone come back refreshed and ready to jump into the new season.

Class in session

With the luxury of ten days to teach, Shayne and Des have been focusing on groundwork early on, and guests have been riding in halters to really get the feel of one rein work. It is amazing how much feel a person can develop doing this, if they are willing to really study the horse’s balance. When they do get back into the bridle the riders legs have a lot more meaning and their hands work independently of one another in a more meaningful way to the horse.

Today we brought out the “soccer” balls! Introducing this to the horse we first approach it from the ground, like anything new. Once under saddle, it is familiar to them and there is a less chance of them getting troubled.

Carolyn and Roanie working on a feel.

The horses really get to liking it- it is a nice break for them from the normal drywork and they get so curious about it. It gives them confidence once they know they can move it!

The clinic will run through next Friday so we expect there will be a lot more progress and understanding taking part in the arena. We will keep you updated J

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Happy trails,



Shayne And Martha demonstrating how rein management affects your horse’s mouth

Des, showing a groundwork exercise with a client horse Angel- how light can you be?

Lauren and Max

Joy on Max doing one rein work

Well Hello!


It’s all about the feel and balance.

Horsemanship fun and games at McGinnis Meadows Ranch


February 23, 2019, Volume 14, Issue 8

Hey everyone,

It was a busy week here at McGinnis Meadows Ranch!

Full moon rising

Brenda and Scott have been on a well-deserved vacation so Anna has been filling in doctoring and supplementing the herd, and of course continuing to trim feet! Scott will return tomorrow and we are sure Yellowhair (his horse) will be looking for him. The whole crew– Dave, Erin, Jenna, and Adrienne have also been filling in as needed- teamwork abounds and it is very cool to see it all in motion.

In horsemanship this week, guests were introduced to things that would help their seat and feel. Riding in halters (we’ll explain why further down!), ground exercises, how to introduce the flag and tarp to a horse and the famous soccer ball were just a few of them…

Riding in a halter here at the ranch is a way to learn how to have your seat and legs have more meaning. As Buck says, you can’t fix a troubled horse by pulling on two reins. Troubled is relative, as it could mean a horse that lacks confidence, or something as subtle as a change in expression through a movement. Riding in a halter also means you get good at being handy with the lead rope because the lead is not tied around to the halter on the other side. You are riding purely with one rein only, and need to get efficient at flipping the lead over your horses head when changing direction.

Des riding client horse Angel in the halter. Notice the softness in the lead.

Without the ability to pull on two reins, you really have to figure out how to get your horse working off of your legs and seat. In the beginning you may feel like a boat without a rudder, but as your seat gets dialed in, the horse really responds to it.

Our guests this week also learned to ride with a feel- where is the horse’s shoulder, are they pushing to one side or the other, changing rate without the rider asking, or dropping their head and front end down through transitions?

They learned how to make corrections in all of these scenarios and their horses became softer and more responsive as the week progressed.

Coincidently, all of our guests were from Utah this week. Ryan and Laura drove in to ride with us. Shayne had Ryan focusing on his seat position and he went from wanting to tip forward through movements, to being able to ride tall in the saddle. It was also something special to see how his feel developed in such a short time. His guest horses Booker and scotch were loving life! His wife Laura also make great progress. By the end of the week she had Roanie so soft that all she had to do was think the move with her body and he was responding to the lightest touch!

Kevin on Brumby

Evelyn and Kevin have been studying Buck’s methods for awhile now and were excited to come to the ranch to learn more. Kevin’s seat improved dramatically through the week and Evelyn worked hard at finding her center of balance while using her legs, changing direction, and getting her horse to walk out.

Lynn, our repeat guest, joined us for another week. Shayne had Lynn and all the guests working on an exercise where he would groundwork the horse on a circle with the rider on his back. They would be able to get the feel of shifting their legs, turning their hips and body to change direction without having to worry about directing their horse. Once they had the idea, these positions transferred over nicely and became more engrained in their riding.

On Friday, halters were replaced with bridles. Ryan commented that he didn’t even think about his hands because of all of the riding he had done in the halter. The reins were more for refinement at this point, because his horse was working well off of his legs. All of the guests were excited about how they could put all the elements they had learned through the week, to culminate with seeing how it can be applied to get a job done. For example, when the soccer ball came out it was easy for them to center their horse so a punt could be made!

Ryan and Laura (far left) were great students! The sign says it all.

At the end of Friday, we unsaddled the horses but before putting them out, guests had a chance to learn how to introduce a flag and tarp to a horse. Ryan and Laura have several horses at home that they will be working with, including some younger ones, so they were really keen to see the progressions. They observed the “do’s and don’ts” and went about working their horses through all of the movements. They even learned how to do the 180 groundwork exercise! All in all it was a fantastic way to end the week.

Shayne with Lynn and Boone, demonstrating from the ground how to use the rider’s legs and seat on a circle

Next week will be a busy one as well. We start our first ever ten-day clinic here and have 6 guests and 4 interns joining us! Ten days will enable riders to be exposed to even more progressions and movements so we are pretty excited about this!

If you are looking for more ways to study this style of horsemanship with like-minded people, we have a couple of spots open for spring and fall horsemanship. And, as luck would have it, we had a cancellation for Buck’s July clinic here at MMR so if this is something you have on your bucket list, give me a call. (406) 293-5000 or email

Happy Trails,


Evelyn riding Chaos with a nice feel.

The boys

Laura getting a nice walk with flexion

The view is always amazing

McGinnis Meadows Ranch Valentines week


February 16, 2019, Volume 14, Issue 7

Hey everyone,

Have you checked out the video on the McGinnis Meadows Facebook page of the snow “avalanche” off the game room roof? It’s worth watching just to hear Anna and Dave’s reaction. 🙂

Malone looking handsome

The weather seems to be the topic all over the country lately. We have quite a bit of snow on the ground right now. It makes for a bit of extra plowing and shoveling but boy, our guests this week really took advantage of it. Hannah, and her kids Flora and Clem are avid xc skiers. They brought their gear with them and could be seen skiing through the meadows after a full day of riding!

Speaking of riding, what a great week it was. We had family of four join us again with their own horses, (John being the husband and dad of the skiing clan), and many times repeat guest Lynn, here with us.

I asked them what there favorite part of the week was. Clem and Flora really liked the detail in the groundwork. Flora specifically liked working on getting her horse on a united circle and more forward on the circle. Clem and Clover, and Flora and Cache really made nice progress throughout the week. Flora also focused on feeling the life in her hips and improving Cache’s left flexion. It seemed to be working because Friday afternoon she was riding all over the arena using just her legs.

Lynn really liked riding different horses this week. She had never ridden our ranch horses Scotch or Boone before and she had a blast with both of them!

Lynn and Boone

Shayne and Des focused a lot on groundwork this week in part, to help the horses through some trouble spots. Shorty would get afraid of things like the rollup arena door, and had some tight spots leading up. Shayne explained how these spots can lead to a horse pulling back. Well, by the end of the week, Shorty was a changed horse. His demeanor was so much calmer and the rollup door could go up and down all day long and he didn’t even flinch! While Shorty was getting his lessons, Des worked with Cache, Flora’s horse with groundwork and Flora got to feel the difference it can make.

We had a new intern join us this week too. Rey hails from NYC, and has just finished up a job working on ships that support the US Navy. He has sailed all around the world. He found his love of horses after he saw a documentary about prisoners working with wild mustangs. He has also been a safari guide and rode on a safari reserve with giraffes and zebras! He has been riding for one year and is hungry to improve his

Rey riding Chaos

horsemanship. He’ll be with us for one month and we look forward to seeing him progress.

There have been recent Trouble, Sophie and Lily sightings (these are our ranch cats in case you haven’t met them yet!) and they are faring very well despite the cold and snow. Every once in awhile you might get a surprise when you open up the game room door to find Trouble lounging on the chair. He is really good at sneaking inside, and then with a yawn acts like “What? I am just trying to get some sleep!

They do have nice cozy fleece beds to keep them comfortable in the Antler room and on the porch, but who can blame him for giving the indoors his best shot?

Jenna has been outdoing herself with meals and amazing desserts. Every day there are treats galore and so very creative! Don’t come here expecting to be on or stay on a diet. 🙂

Dave and Anna have been doing a lot of shoveling, and plowing to keep ahead of things here this week.

All that snow!

I saw a post recently that mentioned the cold is really the least of the issues when you work on a farm or a ranch. What challenges you are the “little” things- frozen gate latches, frozen water tubs, equipment that won’t start and even walking through thigh high snow to get chores done…now that will test your mettle sometimes. But the plus side is a great opportunity to take in the beauty that surrounds you in winter white. The horses in all their furriness, the elk, the snow-laden trees, are all just beautiful this time of year, if we remember to take time to see them.

Here’s wishing you a fun week ahead.

Happy trails,


What a character that Trouble is! Clem and Flora thought he was pretty cool.

Flora and her horse Cache, working on timing up with the feet

Clem and Clover doing groundwork

Shorty says hi

Conditions are great for some xc skiing! Flora, Hannah and Clem.

Wow- what can you say? Cake by Jenna