The Highline Blog
Long time, no post, but we can officially say the 2023 season has concluded. I would love to say that I’ve been a diligent Highline writer for 2023, but as anyone who knows me and the ranch, knows that I juggle more than a few plates. We are long overdue for an update, so here we go!
We were blessed to have an incredible group of guests this year, and many of them signing up for round two as soon as they finished round one. We LOVE meeting new guests and seeing old friends. As anyone knows, if this place became a place special to you, then you know you left as family. We are already excited for 2024 because we know we are seeing a TON of friends who are coming back one, two, and three times in 2024. If you haven’t looked at 2024 dates and plan on coming, you might want to jump on it before you miss your spot!
We got to host 190 wonderful smiling faces this year who we are very thankful for. We watched so many people overcome obstacles, learn new things, dig deep for more, test their courage, work hard, bring adventurous spirits, refine their riding, change their learning mindsets, do something new, challenge the status quo, and overall be fantastic students. We live to have students who are as excited to learn as we are to teach and willing to dig deep for the good stuff. Boy we got the overflow of that all season long. It seemed as the season went along that somehow each guest week was better than the last, which I’m not sure how is even possible. We thoroughly enjoyed each one we hosted.
This fall we finished up with us wranglers doing the final gather off of Davis mountain and brought all of the cattle home in record time. We spent 6 days non-stop as a crew hunting 116 head of cattle on 40 square miles and managed to find, gather, and move all of them back to the ranch meadows in time before our final regular guest week. We had a blast as a crew doing a job together but we may have also finished out with chaffed butts, busted knees, and overall whooped. I don’t think we would have traded it for anything and we will have stories for days. So when you see us next, just ask! I’m sure you will get a good belly laugh from our adventures together. The cattle were shipped out just after the October guest stay. We gathered, weighed, sorted, and loaded them in groups horseback first thing in the morning. The process was smooth and only took a few hours start to finish. The goodbye is always a little bittersweet as we’ve gotten to know them throughout the season. We are thankful for our time with them nonetheless.
We finished out the fall season with two October and two November guest stays. We had some incredible & fun guests join us! We were able to do cavalry in the meadows, weigh cattle, work the cutting flag in neck ropes, work on lead changes, ride to music in neck ropes, and so much more! Des was able to officially advance Lefty from the Hackamore to the Two-Rein after working diligently to make sure she didn’t miss anything in the Hackamore. The journey is a beautiful thing to watch, and will be such a treat for everyone to see next season when he’s straight up in the bridle. Shayne was able to join in quite a bit more towards the end of the season which made for some FUN horsemanship lessons. He came in with electric energy and passion and got everyone amped up in their horsemanship. Needless to say Shayne’s lessons got everyone pumped up and pushed out of their comfort zone. Des and Shayne put some of their personal bridle horses in the guest string which was such a treat for the guests. A handful of guests were able to see what it feels like to ride a horse that is masterfully educated and has more buttons than they could imagine. Des also graduated a few more B-string horses into the guest string which was exciting as they made their debut and were able to teach riders. She’s been working hard at getting the final group of B-string horses ready for guests. I’m sure this winter she will probably round out the list and finish the last handful.
We are in project mode at the ranch for December while we aren’t riding. Everyone is here for the winter, Me, Max, Jenna, Brenda, Holly, CJ, Brooklynn, & Zach. Noah is home for the winter and will be back in the spring once we thaw out a little bit. I’ve been catching up in the office and preparing for 2024. We worked on the deep indoor arena cleaning as a whole crew for a handful of days, and now Jenna, Max, & Brenda are finishing up the last portions. Zach & CJ are working on winterizing all of the unused buildings and vehicles for the winter. Brooklynn is doing the final cleaning and shut down of all of the guest rooms & cabins. If you saw our winter project list, you would be amazed how much we work on and get done in the winter that during regular season we don’t have time for. We catch up on all of the to-do’s in the winter around the ranch. We are looking forward to January when we get back to riding and are able to dive into learning mode for us wranglers. It is probably the sweetest time of year because everything slows down a bit, is quiet, and we get to hunker down learning in the saddle and checking off our project list.
Anyways, until next time!
It has been a while wince we’ve posted, but we have been hard at work around the ranch and have finished up our August Women’s Weeks. We are rolling right into fall season with guests arriving today! We had an incredible month in August, our ladies moved the cattle to McKillop from the State piece and finally to the final grazing allotment at Davis mountain which is our largest space of 40sq miles! August was filled with some smoking hot weather, fun activities, and friendly competition. We held a charcuterie board competition, horseback scavenger hunt across the ranch, obstacle challenges, ground work competitions, cattle games, and many other fun activities across our guest weeks.
The not so fun portion of the second guest week is 1/2 our staff ended up with COVID! We had a guest who was unaware they had it and so that put a damper on our week, it made us feel a little like we were in the twilight zone. Nonetheless we were able to finish the guest week strong! Our hospitality/kitchen staff was down for the count, so Sami and Alex were called in to have a menu and dinners for the second half of the week. Might I say, we were creative and it turned out pretty good, especially the CHURRO cake! Max & Jenna were able to keep the riding side of things going with Des and the ladies were still able to have all of the horsemanship and outside experience they hoped for. Somehow our staff makes the miracles happen when nothing looks right.
We rolled into a week of shoeing with Tommy right after our guests left, Max and Sami were the shoeing crew while we awaited everyone to test negative and feel better. Horses are shod, everyone is now healthy and we are looking forward to a cooler September with lots of cattle work and time outside. We finally received multiple days of rain which helped knock down the dust and green up the meadows. We are in the final stretch of caring for the cattle until they ship out October 10th. We will be sad when they go, but everyone is healthy and thriving. We are prepped and ready to roll into September with crisp days and beautiful views.
We just wrapped up the first of our two Buck clinic weeks! I look forward to this time with Buck all year long. How many people are privileged enough to spend time with their real-life heroes? At the ranch, all of us count ourselves extremely blessed.
We had about 10 days between our last 7-day clinic and the Buck weeks. And let me tell you, it was a whirlwind! We had a tall order to fill…do a deep clean on the arena, get ponies ridden and ready, SHOE 85 head, get around fences in the next cattle and horse pastures, gather cattle for the clinic—and somehow in there find time for some shuteye and a shower or two!
Of course, we killed it and got everything completed. This crew of ours is absolutely relentless and dedicated. Buck even noted that he thinks it’s the best crew we’ve ever had out here. Everyone works hard, plays hard, is compassionate, friendly and can maintain the best of attitudes no matter the circumstance. I’m a lucky ranch manager!
I made the decision to put Pard and Tucker, my former bridlehorses into the guest string. With so many youngsters and B-string horses to ride, I just can’t give them the time they deserve. And they (Pard especially) are fat as ticks. Some very fortunate guests were able to ride them in the clinic this past week and enjoy horses with a few extra buttons. Taps also made his debut in the clinic! We’ll have a couple more newbies added in this week.
The horses did fabulous. Shayne has really been bearing down this year on the flag work/cattle working skills and all of the preparation for them to make the horses get handier cutting. It’s really paying off! Several of the guests really got to feel what it means for a horse to be “hooked on” to where they could just turn them loose and let them go to work.
Buck always brings on the WOW factor with his horses. Watching him ride and seeing his horses progress really helps me as a rider to get back in balance. Shayne and I study so many nuances that ultimately make monumental differences. I told Buck that seeing him was like seeing an oasis in the desert after so many months!
Friday after our guests left, Buck, the crew and a couple stayover guests played 3 hours of laser tag with us! It was SOOOOOO much fun. Normally we go for like an hour, but our teams were really well matched and very competitive. We didn’t shut down our guns till after 10pm.
Today the crew is just wrapping up the final touches on the ranch for our incoming Week 2 clinic guests. Orientation is going to be starting pretty soon! It was great catching up with all of you.
All the best,
Des here! I know we are a little behind on our Highline, so let me just recap what has been going on the last couple of weeks!
For starters, we have had a ROLLERCOASTER of weather! This is certainly the strangest spring I’ve ever seen since I’ve been out here (almost 15 years)! It goes from dry and almost 90 degrees, to thunderstorms, to pouring rain the in 50s or 60s and then does that on repeat every few days. We even had smoke from a forest fire in Canada a few days last week! Thankfully all of that has been rained out…we are currently getting buckets of rain.
We had our SECOND guest stay of this season. During orientation, we knew we were in for a treat with the characters seated around the table. It’s not often that we have tears in our eyes from laughing in the first 30 minutes of meeting our guests. We were in for a lot of fun!
In addition to having our riding guests, we also had two friends come in to help us rope and brand—Ty and Will! This made for an extra special week, because guests had the option to ride each day, but they also had the option to run ground crew for our ropers—some would set ropes on front feet and hind feet, and some would give shots of wormer while others would run irons and lay on the ZO brand. Shayne, Ty and Will would rope each morning, with Noah giving relief holding front feet. In the PM, I would trot over and try to hog as many head shots and heel shots as I possibly could! We were done in 3 days with the last day being just fun, slow and easy. I was pretty sad for it to be over.
On the last riding day, we did our big ride with the guests to the top of Pier Mountain. I rode Chulo outside for the very first time and by the time we had ridden past the lodge, he was settled in and happily leading the group. We got LOTS of great pics up there, saw sooooooo many wildflowers—AND—picked off a few ticks—EWWWWWWWW.
Holly made our guests (VERY HAPPY) guinea pigs by trying all kinds of new
main courses, side dishes, specialty salads, breads and desserts! Even though the guests have left, we are still trying several more dishes in the shaping of our next guest week menu. So far, we have had some super yummy saltine breaded bone in pork chops, and a couple of fun desserts—Montana TRASH pie (think a melty cookie pie with coconut, melty chocolate chunks, pretzels, butter—lotttts of butter) and tonight we had a NUTELLA cheesecake with a BISCOFF cookie crust. I just love being one of Holly’s guinea pigs!
Tommy, our master farrier is back for several days to guide us in shoeing the herd. We are on a roll, having already gone through 22 horses in 1.5 days! Tommy is such a fantastic teacher. Besides Sami, we are a fairly green crew, but Tommy keeps us on track, gets us better each time and keeping the horses feet on the gain with every shoeing. This week it’s me, Sami, Noah and Max in the program. PLUS, Brenda is shoeing with us this go around! And hopefully in every other round from here on out. She is doing fabulous and Tommy is super happy with her. JENNA is working with our guests, Lynn and Joy, keeping tabs on jingling and cattle, and basically filling in every gap since we are all pretty tied up.
Besides that, the ranch just keeps rolling in projects. Brooklyn is keeping the place looking shiny, Alex and Nolan are keeping up with the yards…things are growing at a pace that’s hard to keep up with! CJ seems to be juggling so many different plates, I’m not sure how he keeps track of everything…but somehow water tanks are getting turned on, fences are getting around for horses and cattle, and about a million other projects are getting done and getting done well. And Zach, well he’s keeping everything running!
Willy continues his ranch beautification projects. He is currently on Shayne’s mountain, clearing roads and getting rid of thick brush and trees. It’s kind’ve become a jungle up there.
Shayne just got a sweet new sweeper attachment for the arena. A couple of passes and the cobblestone walkway looks like new! He is fixing up roads around the ranch, and has been working on completing our new 100ft roundpen! He helps me keep track of anything and everything. If you know Shayne you know he doesn’t miss much! His keen eye is a huge reason for this place running as smoothly as it does. He has ADD—Attention to Detail disorder, ha!
We certainly have a fabulous crew this season! I’m excited to share them and this place with so many of you who will be visiting this season! And if you can’t make it this year, just keep reading and following on social media. We’ll keep you in the know.
We received our cattle in two phases over the last couple of weeks and found out that they were pretty feral and touchy! This made for an exciting time getting them moved around and put in their appropriate pastures. Our second load of cattle did not travel as planned and had no respect for the wire hot fence so they took a tour all over the ranch unexpectedly. The crew was able to reorganize and gather the majority of the herd that was loose and use them as bait for the cattle who were on the loose. We had two cattle run off on their own up into the 420 piece on the mountain. With two loose, this meant all hands on deck to find our cows. Maintaining the main herd in the Winter Pasture next to the 420 piece proved to be a good lure! CJ was out checking fences and saw one cow hanging out near the fence line in the evening. Brenda and I went out on foot after dinner at about 9pm and were determined to get this steer back in with the herd. We had to be thoughtful, because his bubble was about 100′ in all directions to influence him in any direction. After some thoughtful maneuvering we were able to trot him right in through the gates to his friends. The other steer was no where to be found so this meant that we would ride out horseback the next day to go find him on the mountain. We counted the herd in the morning with hope that maybe the lost steer would appear in the group, but he didn’t. A group of us rode out and gathered the herd holding them near the fence line while Des & Noah rode the fence line looking for tracks. Once they found evidence of the steer they tracked him until they found him. Meanwhile Max and I held the steers in a rodear with Nadine in an attempt to keep them quiet and nearby. When the steer was found, the goal was to push him down the fence line to a gate. We began to move the rodear down the fence line as well in hopes he would get his eyes on his friends. With some luck, des pushed him down the mountain and as soon as he saw his buddies, he trotted himself down the mountain, and right through the fence back to his friends. The fence stayed up and we finally had all of the cattle back together. With this new batch of cattle, they’ve taken time to get them more gentle and comfortable with us walking through on foot to check health in the evenings or riding through horseback for health checks. We’ve had a wild couple of weeks. The cows have settled and we are ready for our second guest week!
We all know Spring is upon us when the snow is melting and its time to get shoes on all of the horses! We spent 8 days with Tommy, our farrier and teacher we fly in every 6 weeks, on all ends of shoeing. By the end of his first trip to the ranch this year he had everyone in the shoeing pen! Even Des joined in for a 1/2 day every day and learned trimming, shoeing, and finishing. We were able to learn how the science of balancing the horses feet leads to better comfort, soundness, and performance for them. With Des knowing how each of the horses ride, she was able to put together the things she feels under saddle with what we saw in balance and conformation on the ground. We had a great 8 days learning every nuance of the balance of the foot based on how the horse was built and how the foot wanted to grow. Noah & Max our working interns joined in for the duration of shoeing and got their fill of education in not just shoeing, but having good feel with the horses throughout the process. Jenna was able to stay in the shoeing sessions and finesse her trimming and nailing skills. She even wore a ‘hoof necklace’! We all learned a lot, learned new skills, refined our skills, and realized shoeing relates to more than just the foot. When you get tired, frustrated, or struggle the feel still matters to the horse so they can have the best experience. We all found that feel has to be carried in everything we did whether it was how we got under the horse, running the rasp, or nailing on shoes, it mattered. Everyone came away albeit tired, with a new found respect for the process of shoeing and balancing the horses. Now for the final countdown to our first guest week in 6 days! Cattle arrived yesterday and the tent went up today. We are in the final push to have this place polished for guest season. See ya’ll soon!
Noah was brought onto the McGinnis team after participating in the working intern tryouts. He wrote a piece of poetry for the Highline this week. Enjoy!
Amidst the mountains of Montana’s grace,
The Scion climbs with strength and pace,
It’s tires grip the rugged terrain,
As I, a rookie, tend the plains.
But though I’m new and lack the skill,
To climb the mountain with my own will,
I take pride in my work each day,
As the Scion climbs, come what may.
For the ranch is my home, my place,
And though the Scion may trail the race,
I know my work is vital too,
In tending the land, all fresh and new.
So let the Scion climb the heights,
As I work hard with all my might,
For together we make a team,
In this land of a Montana dream.
Hi, my name is Brooklynn!
I do not come from an extensive background in the horse world, and only began my journey into the horse world around two years ago. I was super excited and nervous to apply for the intern tryouts. Having no experience with roping or cattle, I knew the stakes were going to be high, and the chances of being accepted to try out were very slim. Despite my lack of qualifications, I took the leap of faith because I just knew the experience would be worth any discomfort – and I am so glad I did!
The working internship tryouts were two weeks of immeasurable knowledge, hard work, comradery, success, failure, and amazing home-cooked meals. All seven of the potential interns trying out were immediately welcomed by the staff and brought into the McGinnis Meadows family as if we had always been a part of it. The two-week trial was essentially boot camp for horsemanship, but with the best amenities you could ask for. The stakes were high, but everyone put his/her best foot forward and gave it everything he or she had. One of the most special parts of the tryouts was how every single day we got to watch Des ride every horse being used for the day, and how she would maintain the standard set of skills every horse needs to have to be able to do the job asked of them. No matter what horse, Des would get the same output on each horse. To see that level of consistency, from one horse to another, all maintained by Shayne and Des was eye-opening. Getting two weeks of essentially private lessons from some of the best horsemen in the world, for free, is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Shayne welcomed each one of us into the best part of his world, and the two weeks spent in his world were worth more than anything money can buy. Shayne and Des do not just teach you how to ride a horse – they teach you what it means to truly be a horseman, and that teaches you to be a better human not only to the horse – but also others.
As a greener rider, I knew I was going to be the underdog of the group, but I knew no matter what – this was going to be worth every grueling, embarrassing moment. To be introduced to what it means to really be a horseman is awe-inspiring. To know and see that the person running the show cares more than everyone in the room about all of our successes is a unique feeling. Nothing was always sunshine and rainbows, but nothing good in life comes without hard work. Every day I failed on at least one activity if not all, but none of the staff gave up on me or anybody else out in that arena. I knew after the first week that the chances of me being picked over the other interns were not high, but I knew that I did not want to leave this magical part of the world. My goal was to show how good of a student I could be, and hopefully, show how much I cared about the horses and being a better horseman. To my disbelief, my hard work and good attitude shined through and caught the attention of both Des and Shayne, and I was given the opportunity to join the McGinnis Meadows staff as a housekeeper while still being able to learn whatever I can from the wealth of knowledge McGinnis Meadows has to offer.
At the end of the two weeks, we were tasked with a follow-the-leader exercise. All the interns plus the wranglers were split into two groups, and each one of us had to take turns leading our group. The goal was to do any exercise we had learned within the past two weeks. It was hilarious while still productive, and we even had Des cracking up at all of us leading our group. We may have turned into drill sergeants at the same time, but we had to motivate our troops! Not only did we show that we had learned the exercises, but we also showed that we can teach others too! We all had a good laugh as a team. The hardest part was taking yourself and your peers seriously! All in all, these two weeks was an experience of a lifetime, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.
I am excited about this upcoming season and everything it has to offer. I look forward to meeting some of you and being a part of your journey to becoming a better horseman.
We are officially in the final countdown to Spring time around here. We’ve spent the last week shifting horses around to get them organized for the intern tryouts. Des has been busy getting many legged up so they are tuned up and fit for these two weeks of interns at the ranch. Shayne’s been busy riding and teaching in the arena challenging each of us in our refinement in the saddle. We have finished up cleaning all of our equipment so it is fresh for this upcoming guest season. Every piece of equipment was carefully gone through, cleaned, and conditioned. New parts were ordered from Frecker’s Saddlery for anything that was worn out. The vet has been here twice for joint injections and lameness re check exams to make sure everyone is in top condition for riding season. Randy is finalizing cattle purchases for the ranch. Cattle should arrive sometime within the next few weeks. Dori has done a full turnover of our cabins, buildings, and staff housing. We’ve ordered and pulled out mountains of beautiful new linens, rugs, and accessories to freshen up all of the guest lodging. Holly has been busy at work refining her menus and ideas for the upcoming guest weeks, so you can be sure there will be some new things on the menu this year! CJ, Zach, & Nolan have been busy getting every single piece of equipment on the ranch serviced, repaired, and in tip top shape. The shop has been a revolving door of tractors, trucks, vans, trailers, and other equipment being rotated through for inspection.
The snow is officially melting, blue skies are abundant, and we can see the road for the first time since November. The horses are in full shedding mode where every piece of hair is coming off in huge floofs. We hit a lovely 50 degrees today and boy did it feel like weather for shorts after the winter we’ve had! Our 7 interns arrived today and are here for two weeks for our first ever tryouts. They will be riding and working with us for two weeks as Shayne and Des teach and evaluate them to see how may be a good fit to join our team! The chosen intern(s) will be taken on for the guest season and get to learn the ins and outs of the ranch and horsemanship in every area. I’m sure we will have some big updates for next weeks Highline after the first week of tryouts. We’re excited and officially rolling into tryouts, finishing projects, shoeing horses, branding, and into our first guest week April 30th! We are almost completely full for guest season so on my end the office has slowed down a little. We do have some availability in August, October and November! So if you’re still wanting to book, its not too late, but space is limited. We are excited for this year and there’s lots of learning and adventure in store. Jenna and I will be starting our own colts with Des! That may in fact be the EXTRA added on in learning and adventure. Anyway, we’re excited to be rolling right on into guest season even if we are a little nervous our ‘list’ of to-dos will never get finished. But isn’t that always the case with anything horses? Anyway happy Spring ya’ll!
We often wonder why when we walk into a room, building, or conversation we can feel the air of what is going on before we actually know what’s going on. People carry presence, we carry intention with every breath, and we shape the atmosphere around us by what we carry. Are we carrying joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, etc into the places we go, activities we participate in, and interactions with others? Or are we carrying their opposites? Anger, bitterness, fear, anxiety, stress, control, you name it, they all effect the spaces we occupy and the people around us. We all desire those atmospheres where you can be at your best, but we are all participants in providing places where each of us can thrive. Everyone knows it is hard to thrive when you can’t find peace, understanding, patience, and kindness. Well the same goes for our horses too. We are all trying to find a place for our horse to find peace and understanding in our riding. Much of that journey to find peace and understanding requires us to carry clear and direct communication that often times requires the pressure we talked about last week. Horses seek peace and comfort, where they find that, they learn. They seek that spot in the ride where you gave them a space to find peace. First you usually have to get through the pressure part where you’re constantly redirecting them to the path they need to be on.
A question of each of us in the saddle and in life is how are we applying the pressure? What kind of presence is carried with it? Is our presence with anger, frustration, pride, anxiety, fear or any other negative? If we want our horses to find peace on the other side of pressure we have to carry the right presence. Our presence in the saddle and on the ground requires us to be direct with them, carrying a firm, but kind presence, seeking out their benefit on the other side of the pressure. We are indeed contending for our equine partners with every ride, but this requires us being intentional with our presence. An example this week is with Rocks. Rocks has come a long way, but he despises the flag touching his ears and upper neck. He throws a fit and acts like you’ve offended him for a lifetime when you go to pet him with the flag on the ears. I’m in the process of creatively attempting to work through this area with him. Every session with the flag requires that my presence and the presence with the flag is carried with thoughtful attention. Shayne made a comment as he worked Rocks the other day that there was a lack of feel with the flag. I was lacking correct presence.
The next ride I came out with a different idea of how to approach the issues of the flag. Similarly to how Rocks improved with the poles the previous week, I thought to expand on the idea. The hope was to ride with the flag on his upper neck and near his ears while doing all of his progressions warming up. For the ride, the idea required two forms of presence from me actively. My legs had better mean something and be firm when necessary in asking for him to maneuver around the arena and my flag needed to remain in a comforting manner when he despised its presence. The primary goal was to focus him on the task of whatever I was asking him to do, so that the flag just became an inert part of the ride that was constantly present. At first he was bothered, distracted, and upset with the flag being in that spot. My presence remained consistent and the same no matter how many times he chucked it off his neck, threw his head, or hopped around. I kept directing him with a kind firmness to the task at hand with my legs and seat, occasionally plucking a rein to redirect his flexion. Every step of the ride required presence, peace, patience, and kindness while being direct and unwavering with the mission. Fear, impatience, annoyance, none of that could interrupt the ride, otherwise the atmosphere of what was attempting to be achieved would have probably gone nowhere. Rocks needed to know that the person directing him is the same, flag or no flag. The end goal at some point being that the flag is a place of comfort and pets when he’s on the right path. We were able to get to a few spaces where I let his feet rest and was rubbed with the flag on the upper neck and he would drop is head and neck. Maybe yawn, relax for a breath. I needed him to see that this place of rest he always gets in the rides that he loves is still the same space, even with the flag. We had some moments and I’ll count those as building blocks to the hopeful end result. The right presence had to be the foundation of the pressure being applied.
If we apply pressure in any area to people or horses with the wrong presence or many times the wrong ‘tone’ we generally get further from the desired result. Just like the grapes and coal transforming, our end result can be ruined by the wrong atmosphere. Your grapes can sour, coal can crumble, and in the end you start all over. The presence we carry in every situation, conversation, and ride either hinders or helps us and those around us to the desired outcome. Resistance is normal when change is in the air. But can we manage the most direct route to the end result desired by carrying peace, patience, and kindness as the foundation of the pressure we are applying? I think many of us, if we can prioritize the quality of the foundation of what’s driving us towards our goal, we may find more diamonds than lumps of coal on the journey.