The Highline Blog
February 28, 2021, Volume 16, Issue 8
March is nearly here and with it comes longer days and warmer temperatures. (Of course, here in Montana, we will continue to have some cold nights and snowy days, but the hope of spring is on the horizon!)
It is not just the melting of snow and sunnier days that spring brings to the ranch, it is also the shedding of hair of our herd. Being a former biology teacher, I just have to take a few lines and tell you how this process takes place. The eyes of horses pick up the increase in daylight which then alerts the pineal gland (small and located mid-brain) to send hormones that trigger the pituitary gland, which in turn sends a cascade of hormones to trigger the thyroid. The thyroid gland is the one responsible for hair growth and loss (shedding). In the case of our herd, there is A LOT of shedding going on.
This past Saturday, Kevin, Scott, Emily and Brenda took brushes, combs and conditioner out to the pasture to groom the herd. Each horse had masses of hair that came off with just a couple strokes of a curry comb. And, after what seemed like rugs of hair on the ground, all were groomed.
On a different note, this winter has had its share of cold temperatures, but the overall health of the herd has been good and their weights steady and strong. But, don’t take my word for it. Check out the pictures and see for yourself. 🙂
February 20, 2021, Volume 16, Issue 7
There is a small room attached to the indoor arena closest to the lodge that is referred to as the warming hut. It originally was used to keep watch over newly born calves and their mothers back when Shayne raised Charolais cattle. When I am not riding, I spend most of my time in this room. I can usually be found gathering medical supplies for the next day or stocking more medical supplies that are needed on-hand, and in an emergency, drawing up medicine and treating an injured horse right there just outside the warming hut in what we refer to as the hospital. About a year ago, an idea brewed to transform the warming hut from a space once used for watching cattle with stored veterinary supplies, to a space that looked at felt like a veterinary office.
This past week, myself, Chris and Emily went to work on transforming this small space into something new.
There were moments when it seemed we were on one of those home improvement reality television shows with plenty of laughter thrown in. Chris skillfully took out the shower and in its place put in a brand new sink as well as laid new flooring. He is quite adept at using a skill saw. Emily put her master painting skills to use and painted floor to ceiling, colors of which she picked out herself (she once worked in the paint department at Home Depot). I, on the other hand, went to work on transporting a sea of medical supplies from old containers to new cabinets and drawers. On Saturday evening, we finally finished. What an accomplishment! Now, when you open the door to the warming hut, if feels just like you are walking into a veterinary office, and that at any moment, a vet with stethoscope and clipboard in hand will walk through the door.
If you plan to come to the ranch for one of our 10-day experiences, come on over and visit me in the warming hut. It would be my delight to show you around.
February 15, 2021, Volume 16, Issue 6
Jupiter reporting the latest ranch news again. To start out, we had some very cold days this week with temps as low -25. The crew has been doing a very good job of keeping the waters ice free for the herd and I. In the early mornings, the ponies and I come up with games to play to keep ourselves warm. We might wrestle each other or go for a run around the pasture. The cold days make me happy to come into the arena and warm up. I enjoy taking little snoozes under the heaters and feel the icicles melt off my whiskers.
With the temps so low, the work load is lighter in the arena as not to get us horses sweaty before going out into the arctic. I’ve really liked the slow work this week. It’s given me the chance to understand Maddog a bit better. I’m understanding where to place my feet while backing, leg yielding, turning etc. During one of our dances, Maddie and I were experimenting with the refinement within a leg yield. I’ve done many leg yields in my years, so I was ready to nail the exercise. As Maddie’s leg touched my side I put a big bend in my withers and gave to her hands. I glanced up in the mirror, yep the big bow in my neck made me look stunning, I thought. Just as I was about to cross my legs over, Maddie walked me forward and straightened me with her hands and legs, taking out the arc in my neck I was so proud of. Well she sure doesn’t know future bridle horse form thats for sure. I mean with that bend in my neck, all I was missing was the silver bit and bridle to complete my look I had going on. But I guess Maddie didn’t agree on all the flexion I was showing off.
Each time we approached the mirrors, I took my form but then Maddie would straighten it all out. And we would
start over. “I just need your jaw to roll buddy, not your whole neck” Maddie would whisper to me. After a few more tries, I decided to give Maddie’s idea of a leg yield a go. We came into view of the mirrors. I gave to Maddog’s hands putting slack in the reins, and ever so slightly rolled my jaw but kept the rest of my body straight. I was surprised at how good this felt. I moved my head back and forth exploring the new feel. Maddie’s hands gently corrected me back to center. My legs crossed over underneath me with much ease and Maddie stopped me as a reward. I stood there processing. Without all the flexion in my neck, I was able to lift my withers, making me taller. My legs then flowed in the movement since my weight was correct. I felt so much looser in the movement too. Even though my stellar head positioning wasn’t the way to go in leg yielding, I’m sure I can incorporate it in other movements.
Well, I’m sure hoping to see some sunny days soon. I’m ready to shed this thick winter coat and sport all the muscles I’ve been building. I can almost taste the sweet green grass that will cover the mountains and pastures.
And so the journey continues…..
February 6, 2021, Volume 16, Issue 5
Howdy everyone, it’s Jupiter here, one of the ranch horses. Some of you may know me, I’m the stunning bay roan that stands out among the rest of the herd. I’ve been enjoying my time off this last year, but now I’m back on the payroll so I thought I’d give you guys a ranch update from my point of view.
So this last year I’ve been spending my days in the herd, getting fat on the lush grass and taking in the wide open spaces. Recently, I was moved to join the other herd of horses behind the new arena. I was very excited to join the cool kids and get put back to work. My first day back, I was led into the arena and tied in one of the spacious stalls. I took in the new smells of pine shavings, grain and leather saddles. I greeted all my buddies who were tied beside me and watched some of my other friends getting ridden. I took a few naps as well, enjoying the warmth of the heater on my back. I was soon taken out of my stall and one of the wranglers, Maddie, began brushing me. I closed my eyes and focused on the soothing feeling of every brush stroke on my coat. Maddie also put this weird gel in my mane and tail that smelled like a pasture full of flowers. I noticed the gel increased my handsomeness by adding shine and flow to my mane and tail. I felt extra special as I walked into the arena with my new hair do.
Maddie started with groundwork with me. As I circled this goofy human, I started remembering all the
dance moves as I tried to figure this gal out. At first, I felt out of balance as I tried to understand what this girl was asking of me. With every movement, I found ways to convey to the girl what I needed. Maddie and I soon started having a conversation with our movements. Like any first conversation, it had it’s awkward moments but also big breakthroughs. I licked my lips and took a big breath telling Maddie I was understanding. She paused and gave me soft strokes on my forehead. The next step was the saddle. Maddie swung her pad and saddle on my back and it felt new and familiar all at once. I stood quietly as she adjusted her gear to my very round belly. We went through our dance steps again and I listened to the rhythm of the leather squeaking on my back. Once the saddle was snug like a big hug around my body, I lowered my elegant head for the bridle. I felt like a stud sporting shining metal conchos on my headstall. Maddie swung her leg over the saddle and I felt her settle into place and the work began.
I could feel Maddie was hesitant as she touched my body with her legs or slid her hand down a rein. She was seeing what I had to offer and I was doing the same with her. Just like the the groundwork, we gradually found ways to communicate with one another. Not long after Maddie found ways to shift my balance and become a better dance partner, we had a serious job to do. All of a sudden I noticed there was a steer in the arena! I had no idea where this bugger came from but Maddog and I had to get him. I realized there was something different about this steer, another horse had to drag him around in order for him to move. And his body was made of metal but still wrapped in cowhide. I was wary of this steer, he could not be trusted. As Maddie and I got closer, I held back slightly letting her know this steer could be a trickster. I felt Maddie’s legs against my body and I pursued the cow until my lips were on his back. I got strokes of encouragement and I stayed hooked onto that steer. Soon Maddie’s rope started to swing by my side. When I saw her loop wrap around the steer, I ran up closer and kept that little guy in check until we got him stopped. Even though I was incredibly focused on my job, I was having so much fun. I forgot how satisfying it is to feel useful. At the end of the day, I glanced in one of the mirrors and saw my reflection. I let out a proud whinny at the stunning creature that was myself. Maddie laughed as she stepped off and brought my attention back to her as she took off my headstall. After another grooming, I inhaled a tasty bucket of grain and took a snooze under the heaters.
I’m looking forward to more rides in the arena and getting my muscles built back up so I can put the other geldings to shame with my good looks. I’m ready for the long summer days and hopefully I can chase some cattle in the mountains. The rest of the crew here (both horses and humans) have been doing good as well. Saddles have been getting cleaned for the upcoming season and projects are wrapping up. Our little patch of Montana is receiving a few inches of snow this weekend. The herd and I are very happy because that means we get extra food. 🙂
And so the adventure continues………..
January 30, 2021, Volume 16, Issue 4
This week in ranch happenings, we have been continuing to expand our horsemanship horizons with flying lead changes! The first time I tried the pattern Shayne was teaching, I was on Leroy, another favorite pony of mine. I think they are all my favorite at this point, hahaha.
Our pattern consisted of a leg yield at the trot to pick up the canter, to a short circle and coming out on a straight diagonal line to change leads. Shayne has been encouraging us to challenge ourselves to the next level and explore cantering short circles. For awhile, I didn’t believe I could canter short, not with elegance any way. But after an empowering dad talk from Shayne 🙂 I trusted myself and did the exercise. I found that by cantering Leroy short, it caused the hind end to step up and underneath himself giving us a new kind of power. As we came out on our straight line, I gently switched my legs asking for the new lead. With a little bit of thought, Leroy switched to his new lead and I was grinning ear to ear.
Up next for the exercise was Des, starting out with a beautiful canter depart. I watched intently as Des cantered a perfectly balanced small circle and came out with a gorgeous lead change. By setting up the hind end in the small circle, it’s
easier for the horse to change leads because the hind is already engaged for the change. Changing leads in this manner is more comfortable to the horse and they start “hunting” the change because it feels good to them.
Throughout the rest of the week, we continued to revisit this exercise. Or “refry the bean” as Shayne now says. Between our roping routines and cutting flag sessions, we practiced flying lead changes out of our short circles. All of the horses became more balanced after this exercise. Some even standing with their hind more underneath them. At the end of the riding week, we refried the seat position bean. Yep the quest for the perfect position of balance still continues!
With a light dusting of snow over the last few days, the mountains feel fresh and we had our first full moon of the year. To finish out the week strong, the new arena got a deep cleaning. With the tack rooms organized and the rails shining, the arena is ready for another week of horse and human connections.
And so the journey continues…….
January 23, 2021, Volume 16, Issue 3
Hey everyone! Here’s this week’s ranch update.
We are continuing our roping practice daily and we are finding more and more ways to get creative with our exercises. Earlier in the week we cut on the cutting flag with our ropes in hand. This simulated running up on a steer with ropes attached. Anyone who knows me knows I enjoy going fast, so I had a blast with this exercise. Not only do you have to be quick physically, but also mentally. With only one hand to keep the horse hooked on to the flag, you have to rely more on proper positioning of your legs and knowing when to reach for a rein with your other hand. It was a great job for both us and our ponies. Later on in the week, we spent a whole morning breaking down each movement in the cow turn. As we each had a session on the flag, the rest of us would study the balance of each foot. This was really cool for me to see how weight distribution changed the cow turns.
After studying the feet, we were able to adjust our dry work to balance our horses to the next level. By watching the patterns in other horses, I was able to imagine what I was feeling my own horse’s feet do underneath me. This helped me quite a bit with a few of my horses and I was able to hook them on to the cutting flag better. I’ve noticed that by understanding where to place my horse’s weight, I have been able to focus more on getting the job done with feel rather than just mechanics.
In other ranch happenings, our project lists are slowly getting shorter. Trouble also got stuck in a tree the other day, but with some encouragement and patience, he was able to get down on his own. 🙂 He likes to keep us on our toes for sure. The sun is starting to stay out longer each evening, I think we are all looking forward to longer and warmer days.
And so the journey continues!
January 16, 2021, Volume 16, Issue 2
Emotions and horses
All has been well at the ranch as we settle into the new year. We have been diligently practicing for the upcoming branding season. Everyday Shayne gives us new drills to get us handier with our ropes. Dally practice, dragging the roping sled, learning new shots, perfecting our swing and acting out real scenarios are just a few of our daily tasks. Along with roping practice, I’ve been learning some new things in horsemanship and I’ve gained a different feel throughout the week. Over the last month, I’ve developed a new outlook on how emotions play a part in riding. We are often told that we shouldn’t let our emotions get involved with horses. If we let our emotions get in the way, we can’t fully be there to support our equine partner. If you’re caught up in your own sadness, drama, fear, anger, or stress, the horse will feed off your energy and your attention won’t be dedicated to the horse. Or there’s the other extreme, to where horses become an escape of life’s problems. I was pretty good at blocking out all emotion while working with the horses. I focused on the mechanics and what I needed to do in the moment, the rest fell away. But I realized there was something missing. Mechanics can only take you so far, feel has to start taking over. Feel requires more connection with the horse on an emotional level. The best way for me to describe it, is that you almost have to give a little bit of yourself away so the horse can give you a piece of his soul in return.
Often times, there’s other things in life that take up our attention and we worry it will affect our riding. Perhaps
your truck broke down, you lost someone you love, your little brother is getting on your nerves or you’re simply having an off day. All of these things we consider a factor in our focus while working with our horses. All these situations bring up emotions. But what I found this last month is it’s not about hiding our emotions or letting them consume us. Neither a mental breakdown nor blocking out the problem will help in the advancement of a horse’s education. Instead, I have let myself feel every emotion that runs through me in the moment and used it as horsemanship fuel. By feeling all the juju, I can better understand where a horse might be coming from on a soul level. By processing these feelings, I have been able to offer the horses something beyond the mechanics. I really felt the changes in my rides over the last week, especially with Tapadero, a favorite ranch horse of mine. I’ve noticed by offering this different feel, he has started to look to me as his safe place. I’m excited to see how this emotional experiment plays out. I know I’m only peeling back the next layer of the onion as Shayne likes to say.
We have been busily working on our projects along with riding. We had quite the wind storm earlier in the week with gusts up to 40 mph. I woke up in the wee hours on Wednesday morning to all kinds of sounds from the wind blowing things about. Luckily all of the ponies were just fine but the wind caused a few trees to fall and we lost power for a day. On the night we lost power, Emily and I decided to have a sleepover at the lodge where we had light and heat thanks to our generator. We each camped on a couch with a blanket and we discussed our rides of the day. We had many laughs as we shared our adventures. The next morning, Chris, Brenda and I got to work cleaning up the fallen trees. Chris and I spent our morning dragging trees behind Clifford (Chris’s truck), and repairing fences until the pastures were all set again. EmDog and I also had the chance to give the kitchen a redo. We moved all of Emily’s shelving and cabinetry around the give the kitchen a whole new feel. I have never seen a happier chef. 🙂
And so the journey continues……
January 9, 2021, Volume 16, Issue 1
Psst….Hey! Down here! It’s me, Trouble the ranch cat!
Emily left the lodge door cracked and I managed to slip in, undetected, to have a look around. I’m so crafty. purr*
The Lodge is so cozy and warm this time of year and always smells of fresh bacon, though I can never manage to get my paws on some. Note to self…maybe if I act even cuter than normal Emily will sneak me a piece.
Life as a Ranch Cat continues on as normal around here and I of course take my supervisor job very seriously. The wranglers have all been working so diligently on winter projects that sometimes I don’t see them until supper time so I have taken it upon myself to help out and have started taking notes while I walk around the lodge and cabins for things that need addressing. So far, what I have found is that the cabins are buttoned up tight, much to my dismay, and that there aren’t nearly enough snacks left out for me to quality check. I definitely need to remember to bring this up with management.
Life for a Ranch Cat here is quite relaxing but sometimes I like to spice it up a little and cause a little mischief to keep everyone on their toes. What’s life without a little adventure, am I right? For example, the other night as I saw Emily leaving the lodge for the night I waited up high in a tree while she checked the red sheds, I never know what she’s looking for, maybe mice for a late evening snack? That’s what I would do but I digress. As she started to walk away that’s when I put on my best acting skills and I started meowing from up high in the tree until she noticed. You should have seen the look on her face when she realized where I was! Hahaha, I’m so crafty. Anyways, the human went off to get a ladder and then promptly returned to “save me”. With the aid of Brenda, another human wrangler here, Emily climbed up high to “rescue” me. Did I mention it was starting to snow, and it was pitch black, and it was cold? Little do they know that I am an expert climber and could have gotten down all on my own but where’s the fun in that, and I just like the attention. Purr*
The humans “rescued” me from the tree without incident, even if it did require Emily to climb a few limbs to reach me and I got loads of love and affection after we were back on the ground. Mission accomplished.
This Highline thing is sort of fun. I can finally reach out to all my adoring fans! But, I think I hear Emily coming so I gotta run! Stay safe out there humans and send treats!!
Until the lodge door is left open again,
Much Love from your FAVORITE Ranch Cat,
P.S.- If you are missing being around my bubbly personality, I heard through the grapevine that there is still some space left to book in 2021. Give the gals a call and make sure you tell them that I should get extra treats for being so lovable 🙂
January 2, 2021, Volume 15, Issue 52
Happy New Year everyone!
As we ride into 2021, the sentiment out and about is, let’s kick 2020 out the door on its butt, and move on to better things. At the ranch, we are truly blessed to have had a sense of normalcy throughout the pandemic as we chug along through our day-to-day adventures.
The horses know nothing of the chaos in the outside world, and we as their partners, need to do our best to convey leadership and guidance despite any internal feelings we have happening. While this can be an extreme exercise in self-awareness and discipline, we owe it to them- every minute of every day. I am grateful to be among folks who have this goal in mind and who are all in it for the horse. Below you can read more about our staff’s individual gratitude. We will also be conveying a personal goal that each of us have- you can check these out on our FB page in the coming weeks… 🙂
“I’m grateful for where we live and even though COVID affected our guest season, it did not drastically affect our way of life. Things were pretty normal in our little solitary utopia—and I feel that we are beyond blessed for that.” ~Des
“As this trying year has come to an end I find myself looking back on everything we have endured. It would be easy and convenient to claim that 2020 was one the worst years but truthfully all I am able to recall are the amazing opportunities I have been able to partake in and more important how much I’ve grown. This year has forced me into some uncomfortable territory both mentally and physically and I am extremely grateful for each and every uncomfortable moment. It’s those uncomfortable moments that have really helped me grow beyond what I had originally thought possible. I have grown as an individual and feel more confident in every aspect of my life and who I am. I’ve rediscovered things I had forgotten about myself and pushed to learn new and foreign concepts that have allowed me to focus in on what I feel it means to truly live a rewarding life. “ ~Emily
“The thing I’m most grateful for in 2020 was how we were able to continue to ride and work, pretty much as normal. Then, being able to bring guests of the ranch into this environment by utilizing the quarantine made it even more meaningful. Because of that, the ranch never felt dramatically different for us, or the guests who were able to come.” ~Kevin
“This year I’m the most grateful for my ranch family. We have all gotten so close over this last year and it’s made the ranch experience even more special. I have never been around such a strong, supportive and gritty group of people. No matter what I know they’ve always got my back. I’m looking forward to sharing another year of adventures with this amazing crew.” ~Maddie
“I am grateful for my country that still, at least for now, stands for freedom and bravery.” ~Brenda
“It’s the little things…I’ve always been one to focus on the bigger picture /goal, but this year I am grateful for finally discovering the “little things”. I am realizing that while the bigger picture is important, it is the awareness of all the details and little pleasures along the way, that makes the journey memorable. Being able to spend more time with my ranch family this season, really getting to know them, and doing the same with the ponies, has been so uplifting. Even though we all have this study of horsemanship as our commonality, every person and every horse brings to the table their individuality- and this is something that I will treasure.” ~Janice
May Peace and Happiness be with you.
Your friends at MMR
We hope everyone had a wonderful and safe holiday! Here at the ranch, we were treated to a full Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve, and then a delicious Brunch on Christmas Day. Emily out did herself, and the crew all pitched in to make it a team effort. The new snowfall made for even more scenic views overlooking the meadows and mountains from the dining room.
The conversation at dinner was that of gratefulness, and how much we appreciate all that we have here. Recognizing that it is very challenging times for many folks, we are even more focused on seeing the good in all that we do have. For me, this Christmas was one of my best at the ranch- the team here this winter is small, but mighty. It is such a great cohesive group and the friendships have continued to grow. We even got brave enough to put out some of our “artistic talent”. Kevin, Brenda and I played and sang our rendition of the Little Drummer Boy. Maddie played guitar and sang Bubbly by Cobie Caillet. And for a final song, Brenda sang an amazing version of Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.It was truly a special day!
The horses are all doing great as well, thanks to Brenda’s continued care and overseeing of the herd. She cares deeply for each one of them and it shows – they have never looked better. We woke up to about 4″ of new powder today, so I am sure as I write this, the ponies are looking very fuzzy in their picture-perfect postcard setting.
Trouble gave us a good scare this week. We didn’t see him for a few days which is very unlike him. Emily and I searched high and low but to no avail. Then out of the blue, on Wednesday, as I was out calling for him, guess who came bounding across the driveway? He was fat and fluffy so no doubt had found a good hiding spot. It was the perfect Christmas present to see him! He has been sticking around now, probably because he realized how much petting and attention he is getting again 🙂
As we head into the New Year, we wish everyone the best in 2021- May the troubles in the world subside and we find peace and happiness in all we do.