The Highline Blog

In the last week we’ve gotten to have two big celebrations here at the ranch. We celebrated Des’ birthday on the 21st with a fun birthday ride together. Des requested that we all ride together for her birthday which of course was a great time had by all. Especially since we have been busy with winter projects, we were all thankful to get back in the saddle after a few weeks. We even talked about our goals for 2023 as a team and what that looks like for us as a group. For each of us our goals were a little different. For Jenna, she’s hoping to get accurate enough with her roping to participate in branding in the spring. Brenda’s hope is to be able to ride her personal horse, Magoo, with more quality and precision to improve his general expression and see him truly enjoy his job. For me, I am hoping to have both of my personal horses handy enough to ride in and out of the arena for guest season. Shane chimed in stating our primary goal should be for each of us to ride each the guest horses effectively enough that we are able to help do their pre-rides during guest weeks. We were all in agreement that this is something we are all striving for, that we’re able to help maintain, and better the herd for the program. Each of us are still very much learning how to ride with quality on any horse we get on, but nonetheless Shane’s challenge to us is a tangible one, which we plan on accepting.

Our second celebration was Thanksgiving, Shane’s favorite holiday, especially because of the delicious foods always offered! Thanksgiving was celebrated with a beautiful sunrise, feeding horses, relatively warm weather, and delicious food cooked by Holly! We are so blessed here with beautiful views, incredible horses, delicious food, and the camaraderie of friends/co-workers who love the horses. What’s not to be thankful for! While the ranch may be quiet this time of year, the space gives us all time to be thankful for the present and plan for the future. We hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving and much to be thankful for.



Trading Cattle for Elk

Hi Everyone!

The last few weeks have been noted with colder temperatures, filling up our 2023 guest dates, shipping our cattle out and winter projects here at the ranch. We are in full swing with winter weather as our mornings have dropped in to the negative temperatures, horses have been moved to the winter pasture, the elk herds are a daily sighting, and the snow is here to stay! Our days have been filled with indoor projects like deep cleaning & conditioning our beautiful Frecker’s guest saddles, winterizing the cabins, tidying up the lodge, and sorting through the collection of things we accumulate through the season.

Originally, we planned to ship our cattle out on November 8th, but due to the snowfall we received a few nights prior and the colder temperatures, the cattle trucks were not able to make it up the mountain until a few days later. The temperature that morning was just above 0 degrees. Normally we do not ship the cattle out so late in the season, but with the icy ground, we chose to sort and load on foot for the safety of our horses. Working on foot put our stockmanship to the test since we had to keep the steers quiet to prevent them from slipping on the ice. Randy, who oversees the cattle operation, had stressed the importance of pushing our cattle through the chute at different points within the season so there was no fuss in getting everyone loaded. Shipping day is always a bittersweet moment as we have put our heart and soul into caring for them over the summer, but seeing such healthy steers loaded in a gentle manner always puts a smile on our faces.

With the snowfall we are now putting hay out for the horses daily and the elk have volunteered to join in on the hay as well. Apparently we have traded feeding cattle for elk! We have a large herd of Elk who have come down the mountain with the dropping temperatures and the snow covered forage. They are a smart crew who await the feed truck’s arrival and join the horses as soon as the hay has been dropped! They manage to casually jump the fence or sometimes crash through it for fun to jump in and eat. Because of our frequent feeding of the horses and wildlife, all of us as staff are learning how to load the feed truck and fix fence so that we are never short handed if someone is off for the day.

We’ve been out checking on the horses every day making sure everyone is doing well in these colder temperatures as well as making sure the automatic waterers don’t freeze up. We’ve only seen a few freezing waterers, but we have see many cute icy whiskers out there. The horses are always up for some good pets and attention. Everyone has been settling into the winter reallywell with plenty of wooly coats as evidence. The guest horses get a nice break for the winter while the guests aren’t here while we book for next year!  We are rapidly filling up for 2023 and already have some of our dates full or almost filled. We will be working hard this winter to make sure next season is a great one! It will be quiet here at the ranch without the hussle and bustle of guests, but there is a nice peace too of our smaller winter crew which gives us time to rest as well!

Winter Has Arrived

We are officially heading into the winter season around here. The mornings have become quite crisp and frosty that even the grass is frosted from top to bottom. The horses coats are getting nice and fuzzy as the days shorten and are becoming more like wooly creatures than horses. We are weighing cattle, working on horsemanship, and getting started on our winter projects!

The cattle are coming into get weighed periodically and they are making great gains before they ship out in the next week or so. They are all shiny, carrying good weight and we have zero sick cows. We are always happy with that! We’ve worked on getting all of our guest equipment cleaned up and put away for next season which means our saddle pads get a good deep clean, the outdoor tack room gets cleaned and cleared out, and anything we aren’t using gets organized and put away until guest season! We’ve also been picking up all things around the ranch that need to be readied for winter weather, that way nothing is buried in the snow. No one wants equipment run over by the snow blower. That would be a bad day for everyone, which would result in broken equipment and us hand shoveling snow, and no one wants that!

Jenna, Sami, & Alex did a deep clean and reorganize of all of our medical supplies, supplements, grain, cattle supplies and other horse supplies over the last couple of days so we could take an eyeball inventory of all that we have and whatever we may need. Now you can find just about anything you could be looking for when it comes to meds, supplements and horse supplies. We found out that there were some things that may never need to be ordered again because we have so much of it, woops!

In anticipation of our incoming winter weather, we actually witnessed our first snow of the season today. It was only maybe an inch at best and lasted until lunchtime, but it was beautiful for the time that it lasted. I’m sure a couple months in we may not be saying that and we will be ready for Spring weather, but for now it is to be enjoyed.

Until next time.



Winding Down

Hi Everyone!

We just finished up our final guest stay of the year at the ranch. We ended with a fabulous group of guests and had a great time! All of us appreciated finishing out the season with such a great group of people who were hungry to learn and have a good time at the end of the day. They even got Shane and Des laughing on a daily basis, keeping all of us on our toes. We had some good laughs including breakfast for dinner with a pajama party and some dancing! Everyone got the opportunity to work cows, ride to the top of Pier, cut the flag, ride scenic views on the ranch, choreographed rides to music, and plenty of horsemanship time in the arena.

Much was learned by everyone as they gained skills in backing, cow turns, managing rate, riding with just legs, and fun educated rides with the cattle! Everyone got to sort cattle in the final stretch of the stay. We sorted cattle on the range using a rodear for each group. This is where we build a circle with the horses around a group of cattle to keep them in one area. One group had all 25 of the cattle we gathered and the other group started with none! The goal was for the group holding the cattle to sort off one at a time and push that cow to the other rodear 25′ away. They had to sort their cows until they were down to one and hold that single cow for three minutes before releasing it to the other group. It was a lot of fun! Lots of handy riding and plenty of escaping cattle, but by the end everyone successfully sorted their cattle from one group to the other.

Everyone learned many skills, saw beautiful scenery and had a great time. We will miss our guests and there were many good byes and see you laters. This group had so much fun they even said they want to try and all come back together next year. Now that would be a treat for all of us. We are officially winding down for the season. Our interns and seasonal staff only have a couple weeks left with us before we say goodbye. We are doing a deep clean of the ranch, getting final weight on the cattle before they ship, and getting a much needed break after a busy year of teaching, herding cats (aka our amazing guests), and extra early mornings. We will miss everyone, but theres a sigh of relief knowing everything is slowing down a little.


Cows and cooling off

It’s funny–the way our 10-day schedules go now, I’m not sure anyone really ever knows what day it is! Weekdays and weekends are all a mashed-up blur. Luckily, Sami has the Highline on a calendar alert so at least we can keep track of this!

This week our 10-day ended mid-week. We had a fantastic group of riders who we can now call our friends. Each and every one of them was tenacious, good-spirited and up for whatever each day brought for them. This group helped us to get nearly clean out at graze. All but the final 3 head of steers are left out on the Davis grazing allotment. Since their departure, our interns have been heading out with either Brenda or Dori to hunt for the 3 but have come up short each day. Today offered some fresh tracks (we are thankful for some rain a day ago!) so at least we have a better idea of where to look tomorrow. When you are hunting over 40 square miles for 3 steers, it’s nice to be able to narrow it down a bit!


Right now, Tommy is back in town and Sami, Caleb and Jenna are hard at work getting the horse herd shod. This will be their last full shoeing for the year. When Tommy comes back in November, it’s pull and trim time. It’s pretty nice that ourhorses’ feet get to rest unshod for 4-5 months of the year.

With changing seasons and temperatures, I’m getting the last couple of colts of ours set up for a few rides in the roundpen and then outside while we still have good weather. The way things go out here, it could be sunny one day and then raining the next and once the rain comes—if the temps never come back up…we’ll there goes the roundpen for the season. For now though, the weather is absolutely gorgeous…this is the weather that someone would want to be in Montana for—crisp mornings and mild days—sunny….cool enough for a light sweater but too warm for a coat. No bugs. Just right.

Well, I’d better get back to it!

Till next time,


An episode of cops and catch up

Hi Everyone!

We’ve had a relaxing but busy week here since concluding our August guest stay. We have been all over the map catching up on things here at the ranch. We’ve gathered cattle off the mountain, weighed cattle, training rides, washing equipment, cleaning rooms/cabins, vet visit, truck repairs, and so much more! We also had the pleasure of hosting four riders from the Seattle Mounted Police Department for a couple of days as well! After the 10 day we had a few slower paced days and for all of us we had some much needed days off. We then jumped right back in prepping for guests, enjoying the company of the police, and catching up on things here around the ranch.

Erin has been hard at work turning over all of our cabins and rooms so they are beautiful for our guests who arrived today. She even boasted that she got all of the bedding done in a day. That girl was moving! Holly has made two Costco runs, multiple Sysco orders and every other grocery run you can imagine. That woman brings us enough food for a large army, and every time it arrives, somehow it all fits in the refrigerators. It’s like a small miracle every time we unload it. She’s pretty incredible that way. She feeds us well while threatening us with our lives if we leave a mess. SO far we’ve all survived lol.

Des and Jenna led the teaching of the mounted police for a couple of days. They worked on their foundations in groundwork and built upon it using balls, tarps, and ropes to help get their horses more gentle. The riders then got to work their horses under saddle in the arena making sure they had good control and that the horses operated within their rectangle. There were ropes, and lots of commotion working each horse to get them confident with multiple activities happening at once. The second day Jenna put together a fun and challenging trail course to complete their stay. Every horse and rider had some great success putting all that they learned to the test. Although a short stay, much was packed in and we enjoyed every minute!

Brenda and Sami had a day with the vet going over a group of our horses to make sure they were in tip top shape. Everyone was able to get their regular joint maintenance and work through lameness exams so we could make sure everyone was getting what they needed to be at their best!

Des, Sami, Joy, and Jenna went out to gather cattle over by the Davis house. We brought all 23 over to the scales by the lodge. We were able to sort everyone in the corrals into two primary groups and worked them onto scales to see what our gains were so far. Minimal fuss from the cows, other than wanting to stop every 30 seconds to eat grass along the way.

Brenda, Sami and Caleb went out to graze at Davis to check mineral and water. While they were out there, they spotted a young black bear! He ran straight up a tree and was playing peek a boo with us. He was quite a curious little fellow and would poke his head out to see us and then hide again. He was pretty cute, safely a pet size you wanna stash in your truck and take home. We opted not to, momma bear probably would have been mad. We enjoyed the cute guy long enough for a photo op.

Much else is happening and has happened, but it’s time for bed! We have a 5am morning tomorrow for our first full day of the September 10 day. Can’t wait to see what happens this week, should be a good adventure.



The Cats Eye View

Hey folks, Lily here!

I’m the cuter of our cats here at the ranch, but my pesty brother TROUBLE gets alllll the attention just because he’s always IN trouble.  We wrapped up our second annual Women’s Week here at the ranch and wow what a dynamic and fun group!  I got petted by so many friends both new and old and I’m still purring just thinking about it.  The humans did a really neat “cavalry exercise” in the meadow that was really a sight to see. I’ve been practicing my own kitty version in front of the Bunkhouse all week.  They also had a super fun all day ride up Pier and had a picnic lunch. That sounds SO much nicer than the mouse I had for lunch. I didn’t even have a picnic blanket!  There was a lake trip that I had zero interest in, cats and water don’t mix and all that jazz.  I spent all morning waiting for them to get back so I had laps to sit in again. Hopefully only dry laps if i’m being particular! Meanwhile, my brother TROUBLE was up to his old shenanigans of trying to stealth bomb the lodge doors and sneak into the game room.  I swear that cat is such an embarrassment

to good cats everywhere.  We were so sad to see everyone go, its very quiet around here and there’s a lot less laps with naps.  We’ve been hanging out on porches waiting, but no laps have appeared. SO I’ve been busy with housekeeping, assisting Erin at all of the cabins, making sure everything is just right! I spy through the front door usually while keeping a close watch. Those cabins need to be perfect so the guests stay longer for me to have a napping spot. I’ve now heard from a trusted source that we’re having new guests (and laps!!!) show up on the 10th so I guess we can hang in that long. In the meantime I can be found sitting in the flower pots which are almost as cozy as someone’s lap. in the meantime I’ll try to keep Trouble out of the lodge, ugh, he’s such a menace. He leaves cat hair everywhere, so embarrassing. I have things to do so….

Until next time!

-Lily & Trouble

Women, Wine and Willpower

We are 3/4 of the way through our 2023 Women’s Ten-Day adventure here at McGinnis Meadows Ranch!

What a great group! They all came here with varying experience levels and ages, but all had the desire to learn and try new things. So far, they have learned the

foundation for getting a good walk, trot and canter, transitions, progressions of lateral work, and competed in an outdoor trail skills course, indoor groundwork competition, and a choreographed musical ride in teams!

Today we are heading out to do cattle work in the meadows and riders will be presented with a new twist. Teams will not only have to gather cattle from the arena, but will then have to drive them through obstacles in the meadows, through several pastures, with the final destination point at the Joanne Wallace pasture. With a bluebird sunny sky day and temps in the 70s it will be spectacular!

It’s not only about riding and horses on this adventure though… The Laser Tag guns were brought out earlier in the week, and with a high level of competitiveness among participants that led to a very active game!

Last night was the popular repeat from last year- The wine and paint party! You can see from the photo that this is a group of talented and budding artists! Holly, our fabulous chef, kept us fed and happy with tapas, desserts and of course, plenty of wine.

Speaking of food, there is no shortage of wonderful dinners here. Holly and the kitchen prep team of Erin, Alex and Micheli do a fabulous job of keeping everyone on the ranch well fed.

Well, we are off for more excitement this afternoon. Stay tuned for an update about the last few days of this really fun adventure!

Do what you love, and love what you do.


Sometimes You’re Just Making Mecates


Hi everyone, Jenna here!

It has been a busy few days since we touched base last, and there has been lots going on in preparation for our Women’s 10-day! We are so excited to welcome back a handful of familiar faces and be joined by some new ones.

Aside from the regular routine of taking care of the herd, some extra time has been spent on getting our indoor arena in tip-top shape for guests. Our fantastic interns have helped us make more mecates to put on our headstalls, so we have plenty of equipment for this upcoming week. It can be a bit of a process to get all of that rope cut, tied with the knot, and poppers attached to the end, but it got done with good fun at the end of our days sitting on the kitchen floor eating pizza. There is never a dull moment!

Shayne and Des have been spending lots of time teaching on horsemanship in the arena with Kitana, Tegan, Margot, Chelsey, and Genna. This week, there has been a lot of emphasis on riding using legs only and using them to create proper flexion. The ground poles have been out almost every day as Shayne has been teaching the importance of being able to direct the hindquarters and front quarters with legs only in a serpentine pattern.

Caleb and Brenda have been spending quite a bit of time on Davis Mountain in an effort to figure out what is causing the fence to have low voltage. It has been a bit of a puzzle, but there is no doubt that these two will sort it out. So far, cattle are still on the right side of the fence!

Our good friend Janice is back on the ranch for a few weeks to help me and Sami learn the ropes in the office. We are happy to have her with us and are grateful for her wealth of knowledge in all that goes on behind the scenes.

Overall, it has been a great week for getting projects checked off the list! There is always more to be done, but we end each day with a smile on our face.


Worth the wait, big update!


Hey everyone, Des here!

Hard to believe it’s been 2 weeks since Buck left the ranch.  In one sense it seems like it was just yesterday…but in another, it seems like we have been going, going, going, so much, that there’s no possible way that we could have fit in as much “stuff” into those mere 2 weeks that we have!  Seems like enough to fill 2 months!  Hence…a missing Highline issue from a week ago.  My sincerest apologies!

So, what have we been filling up our time with?  Well let’s see…. We have had to move cattle from McKillop pasture onto Davis Mountain.  That has involved many days and miles of riding to gather…lots of times we are more or less hunting for the cattle in thick brush and in steep terrain.  As of right now we are still 3 head out!  Now it’s time to check for tracks outside of the fence line—yikes!  Let’s just hope they are playing an exceptional game of hide-and-seek.

There is a new trail that the boys cut out from our McKillop pasture into Davis, via a smaller pasture called Elk Creek.  That took some time and muscle and chainsaw.  And then of course, it took quite a bit of time to get the Davis Mountain fence checked and ready (that’s 40 square miles)!  Water tanks had to be set up, mineral moved out.  It’s no small task, especially after a hard winter with lots of potential trees and downfall on the fences.

Tommy, our master farrier came out for 9 days…a little longer than the norm so that he could spend some extra time training some of our newer crew members—Caleb and Sami.  Shoeing a big herd like ours is no joke but those two really stepped up to the plate and came out the other side with loads more knowledge and feel.

We’ve had FIVE new interns start with us in the first week of August.  They are a pretty fantastic crew too!  Margot, Tegan, Chelsey, Kitana and Genna have been getting earfuls of horsemanship from all sides between their work in the arena and their work outside with the cattle.  They’ve even helped me in some of my earlier rides on one of the colts I’ve just started.  I’m really enjoying their work ethic and discipline.  This is a group that is going to get pretty far in short order.

Riding, riding, riding…I have been riding my tail off trying to get a few more ponies into the guest string who are pretty close.  In our herd we have our A string who are our Guest String horses.  Then we have our B string…those horses have all been ridden and can be ridden by a wrangler or an intern but need more consistent rides by myself to be qualified for a guest.  We also have a C string that consists of colts or horses who just need a lot more help—those are just Des string horses until they make it on up to the next list.

So, I’ve been focusing in on about 5 B-String horses who just need a little more refinement and consistency to be able to “fill in” in any given scenario.  A guest horse in our string has a pretty massive responsibility—they have to fill in for their riders as well as for themselves in a way.  They have to maintain balance and composure despite sometimes having it taken away…they do ultimately learn how to sort this all out.  That requires a deep foundation that they can draw back on.  Which is why even when a horse is in the guest string—Shayne or I will ride them for 30 min or so before any guest gets on in a given day just to bring that foundation right back up to the surface.  It’s what keeps them all operating at such a high level. Anyway, enough about me…there’s more going on beyond that!

We had a massive windstorm a few nights ago and had some of our very old Aspen trees topple down by the cabins into the lodge meadow.  About a half dozen!  Willy has been taking care of those.  We also got our final piece of the “NEW” land that Shayne purchased last year fenced this past week!  The last piece of it was actually finished up yesterday and we are live now.  It’s called the 420…. Clever name, huh?  Hint…it’s 420 acres!

We drug Janice back home (willingly!) to train some new and old staff members on learning the ins and outs of the office.  Kim is off to new adventures taking over a hunting lodge in Idaho.  It was an opportunity she couldn’t pass up and we are more than happy for her.  We hope to be seeing her around here in the off season.  For now, when you contact the office you may be seeing a few new names…all very qualified once Janice gets done with their training sessions.

Photo by Micheli

Last but not least, we said safe travels to little Kevin, who has been with us since he was 14 and just turned 21 this week!  He’s off to some new adventures and is going to continue some schooling.  With his tenacity and work ethic, he’s certainly going to go places.  We are looking forward to following the journey.

That’s all for now!  We gotta keep pushing to get this place in tip top shape for our Women’s 10-day starting on Saturday!  It’s going to be a hoot!  Even Dori is going to join in on the fun for this one.  Lucky us!

~ Des