The Highline Blog
September 26th, 2020, Volume 15, Issue 38
Our cattle have been eating away gaining weight in Davis Mountain for about a month now, and they’re all looking really nice and FAT. Just the way we like em!
To see how much weight they’ve gained we took a sample from Randy’s pasture and weighed them on Wednesday with Shayne. It was interesting to learn how much refinement and subtleness there is to weighing cattle. All your horsemanship skills are put to the test when you’re in the scale house, but that’s good because then it becomes clear what you need to work on in the arena. Shayne also taught us the importance of keeping the cattle calm when cutting one out to push it onto the scale. We weighed 20 head and they all gained an average of 50 pounds, which Shayne said was a good amount.
While we were weighing, wranglers and guests began pushing steers back to the Belgard from Davis Mountain. It’s a long day of cowboyin, but everyone was happy to be out and really enjoyed our fall weather. The sunshine was short lived though as we’ve gotten some much-needed rain the last 2 days. We had the quintessential dry Montana summer this year, and experienced quite a bit of smoke, but a couple of good rains later and the smoke has left us. Thank god!
In the arena Des has had us working on figuring out how to move our horses feet in order to get them soft. This has
really helped Yellowhair and I, especially on his harder side. Des reminded us that softness comes from the feet, not from the head. We’re always learning here at McGinnis Meadows, I’m lucky that Yellowhair, Des and Shayne are all such great teachers.
Happy Trails until next week!
September 19th, 2020, Volume 15, Issue 37
Things have been busy as usual here at the ranch. A smokey haze blew over the ranch last Saturday and has been hanging out here in the meadow ever since. The smoke has dissipated a bit since last Saturday but still seems
determined to stick around for a bit. Despite the smoke, guests and wranglers have still been going out to graze and enjoying what views they can still see. To keep the horses safe, the wranglers and guests have been going at a steady walk keeping it slow, but steers still need to be checked!
Back in the arena, we’ve been continuing our work with the neck ropes. Everyone who’s ridden with one has made a big change in his or her riding. Each day this week Des has been having us do all kinds of different exercises with the neck rope; some of us even took our bridles off and rode with just the neck rope! I think the horses have really enjoyed using the neck rope as much as we have; it’s been a great exercise for all of us.
At the end of each day everyone always looks forward to seeing what Emily has whipped up for dinner each night. She never cooks the same thing twice! It’s something different, from breakfast for dinner to Chinese Takeout, we’re always well fed here.
We finally got some much needed rain on Friday night, so here’s to hoping that will help with the smoke! Like I mentioned last week fall is right around the corner, it’s getting darker earlier and the temps are starting to drop, it won’t be long before there’s snow on the ground.
Well that’s all for this week!
September 12th, 2020, Volume 15, Issue 36
We had our first dose of cold weather this week Monday night here at the ranch. The next morning we all pulled out our jackets, gloves and hats, and there was even a bit of frost on the ground! Brrr! Since then it’s been steadily a bit colder
here in the mornings, fall is definitely around the corner. Despite the colder temps at night going into the mornings it’s still been getting up into the 80’s during the day, but it’s supposed to drop down to the 70’s and even 60’s next week, a welcome change!
Our wranglers and guests have been going out to graze all week, putting eyes on the cattle and enjoying the views. Graze, which is also known as Davis Mountain, has beautiful views of the Cabinet Mountains, and in some spots you can see the whole valley! The guests have really been enjoying going out and getting to explore our extraordinary country. Scott, Brenda and Kevin have been taking them out for ¾ days, eating lunch with the beautiful sights on their long days out at Graze.
Back in the arena we’ve really been working on riding with our bodies and our LEGS. To practice this, Des has been having us work with neck ropes. They really force you to use your hands less, and your body more. And they show you how much you rely on your hands when you don’t even realize it. At the end we did a few relay races with the neck ropes and everyone did a great job! It’s always cool to see everyone’s progress, including the horses.
Well that’s all for this week folks, tune in for next weeks adventures!
September 5th, 2020, Volume 15, Issue 35
We had quite the celebratory week here at the ranch! Both Maddie and I had birthdays this week, and to celebrate Emily put on two big birthday dinners. For my birthday on Tuesday, Emily went all out and prepared a burger bar, cauliflower mac and cheese, fries, coleslaw and topped it off with my personal favorite part, a beautiful rainbow cake.
Then, on Friday it was Maddogs (Maddie) birthday, and so Emily blew us all away again by preparing a bar food themed dinner which included nachos, onion rings, steak, and a BLUE Velvet cake, tailored to Maddogs tastes. Emily never fails to impress us with her dinner, we count ourselves lucky that we get to eat so well here at the ranch. Family dinners are always an especially fun event with all the stories Shayne and Des tell, they usually have us laughing all through dinner.
Besides the birthday celebrations, we worked on our horsemanship skills in the arena. One thing we’ve talked about and worked on this week that stuck out to me was riding with only your legs. To practice this we played follow the leader, with Maddie leading the way, weaving around the arena in a line with our arms folded. This exercise really shows you how much or how little you use your legs, something I personally need to work on! But the exercise made it fun.
We also got to watch Shayne flag some of the colts while horseback, it was interesting to see how little was needed and how much the horses would change. There are so many little things going on when watching that I almost feel like I could watch it all day and still never run out of things to learn.
Our new intern Levi, had his first week with us and he already feels like family. He’s been making jokes and even gives us crap back when we give him crap, which as Anna always says is a form affection around here….
Well that’s all for this week’s ranch ramblings, tune in for next weeks adventures!
August 29th, 2020, Volume 15, Issue 34
This week in the arena, Shayne spent a lot of time talking about how riding is like a dance. It’s something I’m sure we’ve all heard before, but it’s always good to hear it again. To demonstrate this, Shayne had all the interns and guests do choreographed ‘dances’ with their horses to music. It was so cool to watch each and every rider mesh so well with his or her horse and really look like they were both partners in the dance. Watching some of our guests do their solos, it was clear how much progress they’ve made from the first day they got here until now. It was so great to watch both the riders and the horses succeed.
When we weren’t dancing in the arena, wranglers, guests and interns have been going out to Davis Mountain and checking on the cattle. The steers have been moving around through the piece, and Scott has been checking to see where by looking for footprints and cowpies. These are all signs we look for every time we go out to check cattle, not only are we looking to see where they’ve been hanging out we’re also looking to see if they’re getting the nutrients they need, are they still gaining weight etc. There is just as much to learn about cattle as there is about horses around here!
In preparation for selling the steers in the fall, Shayne taught Maddie, Sophie, Emily and I how to weigh them this week, and it was so much fun! Shayne really taught us about the finesse of moving cattle and keeping them quiet and relaxed when they get on scale, but not just on the scale but when you’re moving them in general. It was an eye opener to see how little it takes to move the steers in the right direction. It was a pretty fun week here at McGinnis Meadows, never a dull moment!
Well that’s all for this week!
August 22nd, 2020, Volume 15, Issue 33
It’s been a wild week here at the ranch! We’ve been moving steers like crazy from our McKillop piece to Davis Mountain, which has proven to be quite the trek! This bunch of steers continues to be their wiley selves, but we’ve gotten pretty good at wrangling them nonetheless.
Davis Mountain is our largest grazing allotment, and it’s a long ride to get there. We have to push them buggers all the way through McKillop, through Elk Creek ,which is a small holding pasture, then through a meadow, and finally into Davis Mountain. I had never been to Davis before this week, so it was cool to be able to go out there and really get to know more of this beautiful country. Not only that,I’ve been continuing to learn more about how to move cattle, how to turn them, how much pressure is needed, where you need to make sure you’re flanking them so they don’t spill etc. I’m discovering that the better you know the country, the easier it is to know where they might spill and prepare ahead of time.
I’ve been lucky to ride with Brenda, Emily and Scott who have taught me a lot this last week. I always learn a lot going out, and especially going out with such great wranglers. We’re all happy to have moved the last of the steers into Davis this week, and that our count was correct! From now on we’ll be going out to Davis to check on the steers, move them around in the piece, and check all the tanks each week. They’ll hangout in Davis until it’s time to bring them down off the mountain.
That’s all for this week
August 15th, 2020, Volume 15, Issue 32
It’s Emily! Your neighborhood friendly cook and the kind office folk have let me leave the kitchen today to regale you with tales of my recent adventures!
While I always spend my afternoons in the kitchen preparing hearty meals for the hard working crew and long term stay overs I have been able to spend my mornings out on the mountain wrangling steers. There is no greater sensation than riding out at dawn, that crispness in the air and the sky barely lit by the coming dawn knowing that you have a job to do: Find those steers and move them to the next grazing area. It seems simple enough but there is so much more to it than most realize. You have to be ever vigilant, your head on a constant swivel, checking in every little hollow and grove for signs that the cattle have passed through. I love the challenge! I have been able to explore some serious country and have been able to really build up my confidence riding out. Riding up to the top of McKillop just to hit that top ridge as the sun rises over…there’s no better sight. This must be what it feels like to truly be free, to live in the moment, just you and your horse.
After lunch I find myself hanging up my cowboy hat and kicking off my dusty cowboy boots to get ready for the dinner time rush. It’s no easy task feeding all these hungry cowhands but knowing that after a long day of riding and dirty work that they can all come in and have a hot meal among great company fills my heart with joy. I always love to see everyone laughing and telling stories about their day to one another as everyone makes room for one more chair to slide into the table. The laughter is always a sure sign of a good day and even better company. To me, that’s what matters most.
Well, that’s all the time I have so until next time folks!
August 8th, 2020, Volume 15, Issue 31
This week at the ranch, we’ve been on a mission to find the last few steers in the State Section. These steers have proven to be quite sneaky in their hiding places. Emily, Sophie and Michelle managed to get 7 of the 9 left on Friday and move them into Shayne’s pasture. Now we just have 2 more left, Shayne and Kevin even took their dogs Sparky and Kate to try and find them! Hopefully over the weekend those pesky 2 steers will change their minds and let us move them into McKillop on Monday. Even though these steers have been elusive they’ve created quite the adventure for us folks here at the ranch. As Shayne says “This is when the real cowboying begins!”
All of the guests, staff and interns have been hard at work looking for those steers each day. They’ve been covering all sorts of ground in the State Section looking high and low for them. The guests have been stepping outside of their comfort zones helping us get these steers, going up and down steep terrain, and really get their horses to do a job. Each of them has really grown as riders these last couple of weeks. Finding these steers has been quite the group effort, and always gives us something to talk about at dinner.
Meanwhile, Scott has been very busy trying to get all the fencing for graze ready as that’s the last stop for our steers after McKillop. Once we get into the second week of September, we’ll begin fall gathering, which is when we bring the steers down from the mountain, weigh them, and then sell them. Fall gathering is always a wonderful time to be at the ranch, because of all the beautiful fall colors and fall temperatures!
Speaking of which, the heat wave has finally dissipated a little bit and we’re starting to feel tinges of fall here at the ranch. The last couple days it’s dropped down to 70 degrees, instead of the blazin 96 degrees we’ve been experiencing for the last few weeks. It’s been a nice change of pace for everyone I think, including the herd. Personally, fall is my favorite season so I’m really looking forward to cooler temps and the colors changing, one of my favorites times of year to ride outside.
Be sure to check back next week!
August 1st, 2020, Volume 15, Issue 30
To beat the heat this week, we’ve been riding out at the crack of dawn when it’s nice and cool scouring the State Section for cattle and then moving them to water in McKillop. At this point we have moved 187 out of 221, but these last 17 are proving to be pretty wiley. As Shayne says, the last ones are the last ones for a reason!
This week I’ve been riding out with Brenda most mornings who has been teaching me all about the country, different routes you can take, where the tanks are, how to move cattle, where they like to hang out in the State Section, where and when they might spill, where you need to position yourself and your horse etc. She has been a great teacher to me and I’ve learned a lot about a cattle from her
Janice was away last week managing the Buck clinic’s in Kalispell and shared a little bit about the experience. “A few of the ranch staff and interns had an amazing opportunity last week to ride and/or audit Buck’s clinics in Kalispell and Whitefish. Every time I see him ride, I learn something new and his explanations and descriptions have a way of turning on the light bulb with things I may be struggling to improve.
Being from Michigan, before I came out here I had only worked cattle a couple of times in an arena. It’s a lot different being out on the mountain and moving cattle, but I’m finding it to be oh so fun! As I’ve discovered going out this week and really getting to know the State Section and McKillop, the more you know the country, the easier it is to know where the cattle might like to spill. Brenda has told me it’s important to keep the steers going at a steady walk to avoid them spilling, and when we did so the cattle hummed right along through those sticky sections.
These clinics were some of the most advanced he puts on partly because of the class description but also because of the riders participating. It was a stellar group. Buck was thrilled to be able to teach things he may not normally get to in other clinics. We even had a couple of guests join us since they are at the ranch taking advantage of the month long stay. Guests Michele and Anne-Catherine, Interns Sophie, Flora, and Allie, myself, and of course Shayne and Des! We were so excited to be able to ride in it this season, and everyone learned a ton.
The Whitefish clinic was invitation only and with a smaller number of riders it felt more like a private clinic! Buck helped riders individually with setting their horses up for success with flying lead changes, stopping and backing, leg yielding, and cow working It is always sad when these clinics end, but we look forward to Buck’ return- in the meantime we will be studying hard!”
The hay crew has been pumping right along the last two weeks and finally fished off the hay season at the end of this week. It’s been so exciting to watch them work out in the meadows, and turn out all of those nice bales. Our horses are so lucky to have such nice hay to eat all through the winter, and all thanks to Randy, Will, Willy, Nolan, Anna, Kevin and Scott. Hopefully next years hay season will be just as good!
July 25th, 2020, Volume 15, Issue 29
Haying season has finally begun here at McGinnis Meadows! This week Randy, Willy, Anna, Scott and Kevin have begun haying our meadows. In order for us to really crank out these bales the weather needs to be consistently warm and dry and it seems mother nature has finally delivered the weather we need with temps getting even as high as 96 degrees! Everyday at lunch we’ve all been watching out the lodge window as the hay crew works their magic. It’s fun to watch all the tractors, trucks and balers cruising around in the meadow. It’s been neat to see how it all works, and Randy runs a pretty smooth hay operation. I personally like to watch the baler pump out our 600+ pound bales. They all look so perfect sitting out there in the meadow. Once the bales are ready to be picked up Anna, Scott and Kevin have been driving in trucks and trailers and picking them all up and stacking them away like big Lego blocks for later use.
While the hay crew has been busy in the meadow Emily, Maddie, Brenda and myself have been up on the mountain moving steers from the State section to the McKillop piece. Something I always forget is how beautiful the country is here at the ranch. Both the State piece and the McKillop are beautiful, but I have to say I think the views riding out to McKillop are pretty hard to compete with. While the views can be quite distracting, riding out is the perfect opportunity to apply everything we have learned in the arena in a real world setting. As we walked out of the arena to go look for cattle the first thing Maddie asked us was “What do we memorize?” and we all cheered, “RATE!” and off we went with slobber straps a swingin’.
While the steers we gathered were a pretty wiley bunch we managed to wrangle them up together and moved them to the lower water tank on the McKillop piece. It’s always important to remember that when moving steers to a new grazing area that we must first show them a water source before dropping them off. The girls were telling me that when it’s hot like it has been this week the steers tend to stay up high where it’s cooler and where there are fewer buggies. This is why we have been hitting the trail in the early mornings to catch them before they head up to the top. There’s always so much to learn when we ride out and move cattle. Everything from what kind of trees we’re riding through, to what to clues to look for when looking for cattle and knowing where they like to hang out. It really does teach you to keep an eye out for even the smallest details. It’s just part of cowboyin, or in Maddie, Emily and I’s case cowgirlin’.
That’s all for this week,