The Highline Blog

Highline Podcast!

We’ve changed the format a bit for the weekly Highline at the ranch. It can now be listened to in a Podcast format. The current episodes can be found here!

Cruising Along

Hi Everyone!

We have had a wonderfully busy couple of weeks at the ranch. We hosted our first guest week of the season and then rolled right into shoeing the herd for the start of the season. Des and Shayne chose two interns to join us this season, Liz & Lainey! Liz will officially be joining the crew in May and Lainey mid-April. We welcomed another member of the staff, Hannah Rae this week! She will be assisting Brooklynn in housekeeping. We are almost a full house!

Our first guest week was a ton of fun and we enjoyed spending time with old and new friends in the arena. Tommy just left us, wrapping up our first week of shoeing the herd. Everyone got a fresh trim at least and many received a set of shoes to prepare for riding outside. Liz was able to drive up for the week to learn about shoeing and try her hand at the process with us. We began our week with sunshine and ended with snow!

Spring is always a little bit temperamental around here. We have days of sun and warmth with green peaking through the old grass and then a day later we will have an outpouring of snow. Slowly but surely the beautiful weather is coming through as the winter breaks, making way for sunshine and the glow of new growth everywhere. Soon enough we will be ready to ride outside as things green up and dry out a bit.

We have our next guest week coming up April 20-28 with what looks to be an awesome group! They will be the first ones outside for the year exploring. If you want to join us this Spring, we do have availability during the April week as well as May 11-19! These are great weeks to bring a horse of your own. Also a fantastic week if you would like a cabin to yourself, these are the only weeks we offer solo cabins, so now is your chance!

Anyway, can’t wait to see everyone this year, the official season is right around the corner!

-The Crew

Arena Party

Hi Guys,

This last week we have been busy in the arena doing a deep clean from floor to ceiling to prepare for the upcoming guest season. Every surface of the arena is attended to throughout the week. We clean everything from the tops of the tack rooms, to the baseboards, ceiling, beams, heaters, mirrors, lights and so much more. We always have some entertaining finds as we clean the arena. One of which was the fact that somehow arena sand ends up on the beams near the ceiling (talk about stopping hard enough to kick the footing up!). The other is we KNOW Spring is here because the darn flies are alive and somehow manage to already be in the arena buzzing around the ceiling. In preparation we have already hung traps from the ceiling to help mitigate the issue.
A big project this time is that the baseboards have accumulated rust because of the consistent humidity in the arena. Noah, Jenn, and I scraped the baseboards down and sprayed them with rust treatment. Over the last couple of days the baseboards received primer. Today Noah finished the final coat enamel paint to finish them off!



Working Intern Tryouts

Hi Everyone,

We just finished up our annual working intern tryouts at the ranch. Shayne and Des invited 5 ladies to the tryouts at the ranch this year after reviewing tons of applications for our internship program. Sam, Skylar, Helena, Lainey, & Liz had the opportunity to stay with us for six days and show us all that they know and have the opportunity to learn! They had the unique experience of getting to ride and learn from Shayne & Des for 5 days in the arena, each getting to experience different horses throughout the week!

We started off the the week by having the girls have a review of how we handle our horses from catching them in the pasture to throwing the saddle on. Next we were on to groundwork. Shayne had everyone go out and show him what they know about their groundwork. From there he broke it down and demoed what he wanted to see. Much of the week was like this. He regularly let them show what they know, see where they were at and then would stop the group, show exactly what he was looking for, and then send them out again to work on the exercise at hand.

Everyone got the opportunity to ride at least 5 different horses who each showed off different qualities and skillsets in the girls. Some they found to be very challenging to be successful and others they meshed well with. Each horse had something different to offer each of them, showing them what they did and did not know in the saddle. Beyond riding, the girls got a feel for ranch work throughout the week. Every morning they went out, checked through all of the herds with Brenda. Broke ice in waterers, treated skin funk, doctored eyes, checked for injuries, supplementing grain, and groomed through the herds. They were each able to rotate through helping with AM & PM feeding on the army truck, whether it was driving or throwing hay.

By the end of the week Shayne had each of the girls demo their own version of a ride working through everything they know that would prepare a horse for success with a guest. Watching was an exciting experience because we all got to see how far everyone had come in their riding and knowledge. We finished the week with a final daunting task that is very much real life around here. The girls joined in on the deep arena clean! They were super helpful and were able to give us a great head start on the deep clean we do of the entire indoor arena. Everyone was amazingly helpful and up for the effort.

Today we will be meeting for breakfast and saying goodbye to everyone as they head home. Each of the girls has been asked by Shayne to write a letter when they go home as to why they want to become an intern at the ranch. Shayne and Des will review them and make their final selection of interns for the 2024 season. We have so enjoyed having them here to learn, and we will be excited to see them again around the ranch as interns or even as students during the season!


Responsibility of the Rider

Des, Sami, Jenna and I have enjoyed time riding with Shayne this week and receiving his instruction and feedback. One of the phrases he has offered us to remember is “Their (the horse) feet are your responsibility.” He is adamant that we ride the horse in such a way that his feet are ours to direct. Shayne is teaching us some movements of the horse that keep their withers elevated and lighter on their feet. He said the horse is so much happier when his front feet are not buried in the ground, and you have access to any of his movements at any time because he is more balanced and rocked back over his hocks.

 Shayne is always asking us, “What are you willing to accept?” Exactness and precision (which horses understand and respect) or inconsistent and haphazard movement (which horses abhor).  I have seen this question come up not just in my riding, but when I lead my horse, when I do my daily chores, when I communicate with others. There is wisdom in knowing what you want, knowing what you’ve got, and what you are going to do with it.

As I have been learning from Shayne this week, I find myself thinking on the wisdom of King Solomon in Proverbs 4: 23 which states, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” I know I need to guard my heart from impatience with myself or my horse and guard my heart against surrendering to defeat and embracing challenges that stretch and strengthen me. How blessed to have the opportunity to be more than I was the day before. Riding is a journey of seeking clear communication and precision with horse and rider to create harmony. First we have to have harmony within ourselves.



Learning to Refocus

This past week has been quite busy here at the ranch. For the first two days of the week, we were trimming feet with our farrier, mentor and teacher Tommy Kilgore. Then a day later, our veterinarian Dr. Bob Genovese came out to assess a few horses with injuries and inject a few others who needed a little joint support. In each experience, the learning was challenging and the focus needed was at a very high level.

I frequently remind myself that there is blessing in the challenge. When the learning is steep, when master knowledge fails to be understood and when doubt filters in that your mind just can’t get it, I have learned to stand and then keep walking.

There are always gates, doors, fences we need to crawl under or walk through. But there is also always a choice as to whether we will walk through or turn and run. But if we do walk through, there is the blessing of building confidence and character and by God’s grace, given another day to start all over again.

The gift is in the learning. We are richly blessed at McGinnis to be given countless opportunities to learn and grow.

Here is to your own learning wherever you may be.


As Season’s Shift








These two pictures were taken in the same location just under two weeks apart on McGinnis Meadows Road. It amazes me how quickly nature can change; circumstances can change and the unexpected appears. So far this winter, besides a cold snap, it has been rather mild up here in northwest Montana. 

No matter how technologically savvy our society becomes, we cannot create what nature withholds, nor can we push back what nature brings. It might be a drought year here at the ranch this spring and summer, so preparation and planning will be of the utmost importance. Of the many things I respect and admire about working at McGinnis Meadows Ranch is the attention to detail and insistence upon preparation- for known and unknown challenges that may lie ahead. 

Some changes to our herd have also taken place over the last few months. As much as we wish our horses could work at the ranch forever, there are a few this year that need a change of pace. I wrote up some words below to introduce them to you and to share them with you.

Those that have been to our ranch know that our horses go through extensive training before they are able to be included in the guest string. Each horse, no matter the size, breed or training background, is required to pass a series of tests such as being able to move cattle, being able to cut cattle, being steady with a swinging rope, and taking care of guests whether in the arena or up in the mountains. 

Once the horses graduate to the guest string, they serve loyally and thrive on attention and companionship. The life of a ranch horse out here in the mountains can wear down even the best equine athletes. Some of our string just need some easier miles as they age. This year, we have four horses that are in this category. We could continue to keep them in our herd, but they no longer would get the stimulation and attention that they crave—our horses LOVE to have a job. So, as much as we love each and every horse, we would like to find a forever, solid and committed home for each of these four beloved friends. 

Each of these horses would be great for light trail riding or being a good teacher to a young beginner or even in an easy lesson program. They make great companions in a herd and great babysitters to younger horses as well. These horses aren’t necessarily giveaways. They still have a lot of life in them and are worth their weight in gold.

If you are searching for a well-educated, kind, light riding horse, please email Des Sides at She will be able to give you specific details on their breed, age and veterinary needs.

A Little Love for our Herd

Hi Everyone,

We’ve been busy this week finishing up a few projects around the ranch. One major thing we do in the winter is regularly go through and groom the entire herd of 80 horses. Even though we see them every day to check for any wounds or skin funk, we still like to make sure their bodies get a good once over. They get the full treatment of body, mane, & tail. Today Brooklynn, Jenna, Brenda, and I all went through and gave everyone some love! Many of the boys enjoyed the shedding blade and having their hair done. We have quite a few with the farm temps who needed more funk treatment for their skin because wet above freezing weather likes to attract fungus like crazy. It is quite itchy too so we had lots of happy boys wanting extra scratches as we applied more M-T-G to their bodies. We also had lots of help from friends wanting more scratches and attention following us around once they were finished. King was a major instigator wanting more attention after his session. Our grooming box was also a hit with many of the boys going through and picking the brushes out and tossing them in the snow. Here are some cute pictures from our grooming sessions. Enjoy!


The January Deep Freeze

Hi Everyone,

Here’s a little excerpt from Brenda from this past week with the extreme temps!

I am currently hovering over a hot cup of tea. It is just after 5 pm and -10 degrees. This morning, the temperature was -42 degrees at 9 am. Such temps call for living in layers and layers all day. When it is this cold, it is all-hands-on deck. Yesterday evening we did a night check of the horses at 9 pm, 11 pm and then an early morning check at 2:30 am and 5:30 am. I imagine we will be doing the same this evening.  

 When arctic weather comes our way, prevention is key. Horses are fed twice a day, water is checked about every 2-2.5 hours, and all outer wall faucets are on drip. Sinks, toilets, showers must be run multiple times a day to keep the pipes from freezing. Sources of heat must be dependable and checked often.  

 Here on the ranch, life revolves around heat. Heat for the old and new arenas,  the lodge, heat to keep the pipes from freezing, to keep the large equipment functioning, and heat in the form of hay to keep the horses from dropping below the point in which they can no longer sustain their body temperature.  

 Odd as it may seem, hay (fiber) once fermented in the hind gut provides the main source of heat for horses when it is frigidly cold. Along with an insulating coat, a constant supply of hay allows horses to keep warm and be able to live and breathe in temperatures that dip way below the comfort zone.  

For the love and deep appreciation of our horses and where we live, diligence is what is required during this deep freeze. We have love & diligence written on our hearts. 



A Faithful Friend

Since November 30th ChaCha has been with Jenna, Sami and I – collectively known as “The Aunties” while Des and Shayne were on vacation. We of course fed her and took her for long adventurous walks, but we also got to love her… and (shhh) maybe even spoil her. I took some pictures over the five weeks she was with us that capture some of her personality and charm. I am sharing them with you now. 

 Here is a little back story on ChaCha that you might enjoy reading.  She arrived as a small pup to the house of Shayne and Des four years ago in February. She was so small you could hold her in both palms. Now she is over 40 pounds of muscle, stealth and endless curiosity. She is bred to round up, sort and move cattle- but she is also born for speed. For short distances, I think she could give greyhounds a run for their money.  

 As a puppy, she would eat pebbles and rocks. Taking her outside was a game of quick reflexes to keep her head from diving to the ground. (Still not sure why she had this habit…) But thankfully she grew out of it. I will say, however, that shoes and socks are still fair game if left unattended. 

As you can imagine, her life outside is quite extraordinary in this rather secluded part of the world. She accompanies Des and Shayne up mountains, on the river when they go fishing, sorting cattle when they are here and practicing commands on the arena cutting flag. Her focus is intense, and her movements are effortless. Sometimes, when I watch her run, I think she has mini rockets on the back of her feet.  

 Her color is a reddish brown with white specks mixed in and her eyes a soft gold. As you can see from the pictures, she blends in well with bare ground. No matter the hour, the weather or the temperature, she is always, always ready to go…anywhere. If there is still adventure to be squeezed out of the day, she will take it. On a personal note, she loves her ears rubbed and will stand for as long as you like.  

Perhaps the best part of hosting ChaCha at our house was the time at the end of the day when we would sit together by our wood stove. She would either sleep on her guest chair or sleep very close to the wood stove. It was rather comforting to have her near us, stroke her soft coat every so often and listen to her snore and occasionally watch her dream – legs flying, voice lightly barking.  

 She is a faithful listener, which is required here on the ranch. The mountains that surround the ranch support herds of elk and deer as well as lions and wolves. It is imperative that she always stays within view and comes to walk beside you when called.  But, perhaps the best character trait about ChaCha is that she is our friend. She chooses you; you do not choose her. She is rather specific about that. But, when she is your friend, she shares with you all her exuberance, kindness and joy for life. Thank you for taking the time to peer into our part of the world for a few minutes.