The Highline Blog
May 11th, 2021 Volume 16, Issue 18
Up, up, up we go!
Down the mountain and up again and back down and up again!
Spring is in full swing and cattle are on the ranch. That means making sure fences are up to par so the wranglers don’t have to chase loose livestock around the mountains. For the past few weeks Scott, Levi and myself have been making the
rounds around the meadow and graze pasture fences making repairs and shoring up damaged lines. We had a few big wind storms over the winter which means there is no shortage of downed trees and limbs to cut up and haul off. This means packing in tools and saws while hiking the fences, it’s one heck of a workout but there’s no better way to get to know the pastures.
The current big project is building and repairing fence in all the cattle grazing areas, miles of it. The days usually start out packing chainsaws while following a trail of
flagging tape laid out by Randy the day before, clearing any downed trees and thick brush as we go. Then we’ll pull the wire, set posts, tie everything in and get it tensioned. Levi and I have gotten a good method down, efficiency is they key to minimize the number of round trips up and down the mountain on foot packing supplies. The views keep getting better and better the higher we go, while there’s still some snow on the higher ridges the valley becomes greener everyday with the warmer weather. You can’t ask for a better office. If you’re visiting us keep a close eye up on the mountain sides, you just might spot the two Texas boys rappelling down a fence line in NW Montana.
Until next time,
May 5th, 2021 Volume 16, Issue 17
Emily here! You’re neighborhood friendly multitasker. I have been busy at work partaking in many activities here on the ranch this past week and as always, loving every moment of it. I have continued my duties each night as cook, making sure this incredibly hard working crew of ours gets fed and never leaves for the night without a full stomach of hearty yet healthy food. I get asked often how I come up with my menus and how I create healthy versions of hearty ranch style recipes. For me its all about having high quality, clean ingredients to work with. That means using as few processed items as possible. This allows me to know exactly what is going into my food. This crew works hard and they play even harder so high proteins and clean carbs and calories help to keep them going (that and the cowboy coffee!).
In addition to keeping everyone fed I have also been learning the office and everything that goes with it. It has been a huge shift for me to swap from cooking to office duties but I like to think of it as adding another arrow to my quiver. If any of you have met me before you know I LOVE to learn new things so when Shayne and Des asked me if I’d be game to learn I said “heck yeah!”. One of my favorites parts about this new endeavor is that I get to talk to everyone who calls to inquire about the ranch and why it is so special to everyone here. I’ve really enjoyed the process thus far.
Another exciting part of my week was that I was able to get out of the lodge to help out in the branding pen. I had the privilege of working both horseback holding feet and on the ground crew branding cattle. Janice, who is our branding pro, taught me how to properly find the sweet spot to lay the brand and how to properly place the irons as not to scald the steer. She takes such pride in her brands, as do we all, and there’s this great level of satisfaction one feels when the steer pops up and you watch as they trot off with a perfectly placed and executed brand. This was my second year on ground crew, with half the amount of people, and I need to say that it ran just as well if not smoother even with less bodies. The ground crew, led by Brenda, was smooth and precise and their communication was on point. Not a single steer got up on them and thats beyond impressive considering the size of these steers, the largest weighing in at 895 pounds!
Branding has finally come to a close for us here at the ranch and now we shift our focus to pasture maintenance, fencing, and preparation for out second group of 10-day horsemanship guests coming in this weekend. That’s my cue folks! Time to get back to work.
Until next time…
April 28th, 2021 Volume 16, Issue 16
Maddog and Em here!
We had a super successful first 10 day at the ranch. We kicked off our season with a fantastic group of people. Everyone who joined us was incredibly enjoyable to be around and it was fun swapping stories at the end of each long productive day. We genuinely enjoyed listening to everyone’s reasons for coming to the ranch. We noticed one thing in common with everyone; they were looking to change their life. Horses and life truly are the same, just like Buck Brannaman himself states. Watching this group of people change and grow and become more confident with themselves over the last ten days has been truly awesome.
As soon as our ten-day wrapped up, we got started roping and branding our newest batch of cattle. So far, everyone has been kicking some serious cowboy butt! Even the cook is out of the kitchen and horseback to aid in holding feet! At the rate we are going, we will have all 227 head branded by Friday. It’s been so much fun to have a serious job to do horseback. And the ponies enjoy it too!
Branding is always one of our favorite times of the year because it gives us an opportunity to apply everything we have been working on all winter. This might be one of the greenest roping crews the ranch has ever had but under Shayne’s guidance each and every person has been able to really get into the thick of it too get a job done, and done well. We both are so proud and excited for everyone to have the opportunity to learn and grown and get handy in such a safe and secure setting.
Well that’s it for this highline addition. We have more steers to brand!
Until Next time,
Em and Maddog
April 18th, 2021 Volume 16, Issue 15
As the days get longer and the sun shines brighter the ranch has come alive with our first group of guests who have joined us for our first 10-day horsemanship stay of the year. Their experience in the saddle varies from those who ride daily to those who have barely been on a horse before, but they all share a great eagerness to learn all they can while they are here. It’s been a joy thus far sharing stories and experiences with them all.
With guests returning that means that things are heating up in the kitchen (no pun intended). I have been busy getting back into the full swing of a guest week but thankfully our wonderful new working intern Brooke has been assisting me. She has been helping out with maintaining the lodge and cabins and has started working in the kitchen with me prepping our large evening meals. She has such a bright attitude and has been a joy to work with.
Our second batch of cattle arrived this week and yesterday we tagged and vaccinated them with the help of our guests. The sun was shining bright and the 70-degree temp was incredibly welcome. It looks like spring might finally be here! Kevin, Levi and Scott, with the assistance of several of our guests, were like a well-oiled machine running the cattle shoot with perfect timing and precision. We ended the day with a classic BBQ meal of slow roasted pulled pork sandwiches with baked beans and coleslaw with cold refreshing watermelon for dessert. As a cook you always know that your food must be good if all you hear during supper is the clinking of forks on plates combined with the sight of people going up for seconds.
Until next time my friends,
The ranch has experienced just about all four seasons this past week. Snowy days, bluebird sunshine and warmth, and today it is sleeting! We do know that spring and summer will be arriving- it is just a question of when.
An exciting event each year is the arrival of our new yearling Black Angus steers. The first of the group came in on Wednesday, with a total of 76. All in all we should have about 250 this season, which is about thirty more than in the past.
This group looks stellar! All have nice weight, (the average was 695!) and are so far, very quiet and willing to move where they are guided. As with humans, cattle can go through phases, so we will see if this behavior holds! Yesterday we put the cattle through the chute and got them all shiny new ear tags. Then they moved on to the weigh scale for us to gather their individual base weights.
From here on in, weighing’s will be compared for monitoring purposes so that we know if they are gaining as they should be.
We are getting ready to welcome in our first official 2021 Ten-day guest stay. This afternoon guests will
arrive and they will get to spend the next ten days riding and experiencing ranch life. We are thrilled to be back in action here at MMR and looking forward to a season filled with laughter, making new friends and seeing old ones.
Have a great week ahead!
April 5th, 2021 Volume 16, Issue 13
The last two weeks we had Tommy Kilgore certified master farrier, out again to help us put the first set of shoes on for the year. Tommy started off the trip shoeing some of Shayne and Des’ personal horses, as well as a few client horses. It was humbling to see the skill and efficiency of a master farrier. It was his third trip to McGinnis Meadows; the last two we mostly worked on the foundations and trimming, along with anatomy and confirmation of the horses.
On this trip however, we got to focus more on doing the shoeing. Using the aids Tommy was providing and showing us, we worked on training our eyes to spot the signs of the foot and body, and any corrections that would need to be made. A few examples of this are:
-Keeping the trim balanced and level.
-Shaping the shoe to support the leg and confirmation of the horse
-Setting the shoe to the center of the leg, as well as the break over and stride length to fit each individual horse’s needs.
Being able to work with Tommy for an extended period of time has been a privilege and a great experience during the last three visits. He has had us working not only on the technique of trimming, and shoeing but also our awareness of the conformation of the horses and our surroundings while shoeing.
We have some special guests this week, the Chief of Seattle Police and his lovely family. They are joined by Dale and Renea who have taken advantage of our month long horsemanship stay experience.
After all the long days and a physically and mentally challenging week, we got to end it with a test run of the new Laser Tag guns Shayne bought for the guests/staff to play with this summer. The battle started at 6PM Saturday night– the teams split up and not surprisingly, we were so competitive that we continued playing almost until dark!
Until next time,
Kevin & Scott
March 29, 2021, Volume 16, Issue 12
Lots going on this week! To start off we’ll catch up with the latest happenings in the arena. The main goal for me this last week was
getting my ponies to truly turn loose. Des and I both worked on new ways to have our horses become more relaxed through out their whole bodies. We did this by finding the perfect rate with just our seats to where the horse’s head became steady and rhythmic with the body. By doing so, when we picked up on a soft feel, they were already releasing any possible tension before the reins came into the game. It was nice to take some time and experiment with what can be accomplished with just our seat and legs. Often when I come back to these exercises, I find things missing in myself (position and trust in the horse). Once I improved on this, my rides started tying together better and I was able to feel of my horses more.
Tommy has been spending the last ten days with us, coaching Kevin and Scott on shoeing the whole herd of ranch ponies. It’s been great having Tommy back at the ranch. The boys and I really enjoy listening to his stories early in the mornings before work starts and at the end of the day. I learn something knew every-time he comes, not only about shoeing but also life.
Levi has returned to the ranch to become apart of the crew. He has been busy helping Chris with many of the spring projects. It’s great having him back.
At the end of the day Saturday, we all met at the lodge for our first game of laser tag! Shayne set us all up with the coolest laser guns and we picked our teams. We all got super into it, coming up with strategies and hiding spots around the lodge. We set up one flag on one end of the lodge yard and one on another end. Whoever got the opposing teams flag to the other end first won the game. It literally sounded like a battle field with the gun’s sound effects of rounds flying through the air. We played for hours running through the woods or sliding under cabin decks. We all had a blast.
And so the journey continues………..
March 20, 2021, Volume 16, Issue 11
Live like someone left the gate open…This is one of my favorite sayings. Well, this past week, the horses certainly did!
It is always amazing to see the frolic that happens, when the horses get somewhere they just know they
are not supposed to be. Late last week I got a radio call from Randy that some horses had crossed over the bridge into his pasture and were heading North. This is two pastures West of where the herd is supposed to be!
With everyone else out doing different things around the ranch, I rounded up Emily and the two of us headed down the county road to park at the closest gate we could find. It is impossible to drive through the pastures right now, as they are spring thawing, and deep in mud and water.
So we hoofed it on foot (no pun intended), running through the pastures all the way to Randy and Dori’s place. Emily was calf deep in swampiness at times (for me it was knee deep!) but we pressed on. Luckily by the time we arrived at Randy’s house, he had corralled them all into one of his pens. We went around to close the gates to the surrounding pastures, thinking about the best way to get them back to the West Pasture. Randy was kind enough to drive his Kubota around the North side to get those gates so we didn’t have to keep traversing through the muck. He did pretty well until the way back when we heard the radio call for Dori to come down with the backhoe :-).
With Dori to the rescue to get Randy’s Kubota unstuck, Emily and I let the horses out, me directing them with a flag and Em blocking, to keep them headed towards their destination. It all went very smooth, as we uncrossed our fingers, and got them tucked back into their pasture for the evening. We cannot be 100% sure but Taps is always on the suspect list when it comes to opening gates. I have never seen a horse before that can open a rollup garage door, then the latched gate, and then proceed to let all of his buddies in (or out), which such efficiency! Just to be certain, Chris now has all the gates sporting carabineers that I doubt even Taps will figure out. We all sure did get our exercise that day!
In other exciting news on the ranch, Tommy Kilgore is back to help Scott and Kevin continue their farrier
education. It is that time of year again when all the shoes need to go back on. Each day they work their way through the herd, while getting valuable feedback from Tommy. At the end of the day, everyone gets to share their stories from the day and listen to Tommy’s experiences that he has had throughout his career.
All in all, it was a pretty fun week!
Until next time,
March 13, 2021, Volume 16, Issue 10
I’m back from my two week vacation and I’m so happy to be home. So far my first week back has consisted of relentless hazing from the boys, even Shayne has taken part. And honestly, I’ve been loving it. 🙂 They may not say it out right, but I think they missed me just a little bit.
Now that our days have gotten longer and sunnier, we have been tackling our long list of spring projects. The boys have been busy getting our tent set up, (looking forward to dinners outside) and Emily and I have been cleaning just about everything. I’m the kind of weirdo who finds cleaning and reorganizing very satisfying. So it’s been a nice change of pace whipping things into shape.
Back in the arena, we have been preparing our A string ponies for the upcoming season. After having all winter off in the pastures, the crew is ready to get back to work. Daily, we go through our progressions and experiment with different exercises. I’m constantly learning new things and changing my feel with each horse. With the warmer weather approaching quickly, comes the shedding of the winter coats. On Saturday, the boys,
myself, and Brenda gave the whole herd a good brushing. The horses absolutely loved the extra attention. At one point while I was grooming Magoo, Little Red and a few others lined up for their turn of pampering. After the grooming session, all of us were covered head to toe with the various colors of horse hair.
Before we know it, cattle will be occupying the meadows and eventually the mountains. And we’ll be enjoying the hot summer sun and no more ice to slip around on. We are all looking forward to hopefully having you all back at the ranch for more exciting adventures!
And so the journey continues……..
March 6, 2021, Volume 16, Issue 9
Janice gave me the great opportunity to write another Highline so I must have done alright on the last one I wrote. 🙂
This week has felt like spring and winter are having an arm wrestling match and there’s no clear winner yet. We have had everything from 50 degrees with blue skies to freezing temps and snow. As much as i do love the snow and winter time activities, myself and all of us here at the ranch are ready for the warmer days ahead. We have just a few weeks remaining to give us a chance to do spring preparations and be ready to receive our guests coming for the ten day in April.
We have lots to do from opening up the cabins and housing that were winterized last fall; Getting the cabins and lodge yards looking tip top. To riding through and shoeing the string. It will be a busy month but who doesn’t love fun, longer days and sunshine.
Maddie returned from her two weeks off. We are all glad to see her back and have another hand around. With Maddie gone, Emily and Brenda worked on lots of projects.
Scott and I had quite a few days in the arena by ourselves or with just Shayne and des. We shared lots of laughs, roped the dummy and pulled the roping sled as much as possible in preparation for cattle and branding and rode through a tone of horses. Is was a lot of fun for both of us and we are looking forward to next week with the whole crew back and riding together.
That’s all I have for you this week. We look forward to seeing many of you this season and thanks for reading.
Until next time