The Highline Blog

Colts, Cantering, and Colder Weather…

Volume 16, Issue 32

Hey There Y’all!

Where have the days gone?! We are already half way through October and we are starting to think about the holidays. While the temps are starting to get colder outside (it was 16 degrees this morning!) it means things are starting to get cozy inside.

Shayne and Des working Colts

Our cook Holly has been cooking up the most amazing soups to warm us up after a cold day on the mountain and they are always accompanied by the most amazing breads. You haven’t lived until you have had her dinner rolls. Us wranglers are practically fighting over the extras at the end of the night! Erin, our resident house keeper, has just started putting out our festive fall decorations which always brightens the lodge up this time of year. I always look forward to stepping back into the lodge at the end of the day because it truly feels like home with the glorious smells of supper cooking and the witty humor that accompanies it from these two lovely ladies.

Emily’s new colt Tigger

Our October 10-day has been great so far. This group of guests have been so incredibly invested in bettering their horsemanship and their efforts and focus are paying off! Yesterday we had beginner green riders cantering around the indoor beautifully like they had been doing it for ages. It was so great to see them overcome their fears and challenge themselves to step outside their comfort zone.

Trouble hitching a ride with Chris

Today we spent our off day watching Shayne and Des put their first rides on two of the colts we have here at the ranch and I am always enthralled by their process. They offer the horse a chance to really step into their own without being forced into a situation that would get them troubled. The horse is allowed the dignity to learn to trust the process and to willingly partake with the human. These colts WANT to be with the human and find comfort in it. It really is something to behold. It makes me eager to learn as much as I can so one day I can help start new ranch colts.

What a sky….

Well thats all folks for this weeks highline. Until next time…


When Dads away the dogs will play…

Volume 16, Issue 31

Hey There Y’all!

Cow dog Kate here! You see, my dad Kevin is away visiting family this weekend so I get to hangout with Emily. She happens to be out taking down that tent next to lodge with that goofy guy Scott so I figured I’d take the opportunity to steal the spotlight here for a while. The humans are always on these computer things posting pictures of themselves so why not me too?! I mean, I’m so adorably lovable right?

Ranch life is pretty great out here for a dog. Dad gives me a very important job each morning which is to guard the truck and trailer. I’m not sure what it needs guarding from but he tells me to stay on the back of the truck and keep watch. It’s not the most glorious job in the world but someone has to do it. The best part about it though is when the guests come out to load up their horses because then I get tons of love an affection. It’s such a great way to start the day.

For the rest of the day I get to ride out with everyone in search of steers. Well, I don’t get to ride, I have to walk and run the whole time but I think it’s pretty fun so it’s not really work for me! I get to run around and chase squirrels until dad hollers for me to “come behind” or “stay” when they find those darn steers. Whenever they show up it’s always right when i’m about to catch a squirrel! They have such bad timing. It’s ok though because then I get to show off my cow dog working skills. Dad has been working really hard with me to learn how to move the cattle, especially when they are in thick brush he can’t ride into. I guess you can say that I have saved they day a couple times now, though sometimes Dad doesn’t like it when the steers run a different way than he wanted. I mean, they are out of the brush now, right? Oh well, I guess one day I’ll sort out what he’s hollerin about. It’s ok though, I still love him.

Well, I’m off to meet the new guests for this October 10-day thing they are starting today. I hope they like adorably wonderful shaggy dogs.

See ya next time!



Up and Over We Go!

Volume 16, Issue 30

Howdy Everyone!

As always, life is bustling here at the ranch with all sorts of jobs to be done. The mornings have started to get colder, with some temps as low as the upper 20’s and there is even rumor of snow in the forecast for next weekend! But lets not get too far ahead of ourselves, shall we? The days are still holding on to their warmer temps and the sun has been shining all week long. It’s been great weather for riding out to check on steers up on the mountain.

My task for the week has been to take small groups of guests out to find cattle on the lower sections of Pier and to push them up and over the top to better grazing pastures to ensure they have the best chance of gaining weight before we bring them in. It really is such a treat to ride out in this country during this time of year as the aspens and larch are all starting to turn bright green and gold and all the ground cover brush is a beautiful red auburn color. The cooler evening temps have finally brought about the fall change.

Each morning we set out to check each tank and each mineral pot for fresh sign and then track where the steers might have traveled too. As we ride around our newly cut trails and paths we keep a sharp eye out and listen for anything that might give away their location. These steers are proving to be quite crafty and very clever in how they avoid detection but they can’t stay hidden forever. Eventually, when you ride a piece long enough, you start to learn and think like a steer. You’ll ride by a gully or drainage system and think, “man, that’s a pretty good place to lay low and there’s good water down there. I’d hide there if I were a steer”. Once you start thinking like a steer you’ll start finding them more and more.

It’s been such a blast riding with this group of guests. They have been so game to really jump into the thick of things and have been so dedicated to getting the task at hand done. They knew that once we had steers in front of us that there was no stopping until we got them up and over the mountain and they were all in it to win it! And the view at the top is always worth the ride.

Until next time…




Moving Steers 101

Volume 16, Issue 29

Hello Everyone!

Today, I’d like to share with you the process of moving steers. Now, a lot of folks think that this is a fairly simple task. I mean the movies make it look so easy, right? We’ve all seen it: A bunch of cowboys all lined up behind a huge group of cattle as they move smoothly across the plains. Sounds pretty perfect. Well, out here in Montana, in the wilds of our little valley, there’s more to it than that and while you might have a plan on how you’d like your cattle to go, the steers might have their own plan in mind and you’ve got to be ready to adapt at every turn.

Moving steers from one location to the next seems like and easy task, but in reality there’s an almost scientific way to go about it and if you make even the slightest incorrect adjustment all your cattle will burst from formation like a firework going off, steers running in every direction! So, lets talk about how a steer thinks.

The Hughes Family 🙂

Cattle are prey animals by nature. They have inherent behavioral traits that help protect them against predators. We call this herd instinct. Their greatest defense against predators, especially in the wild, is to stick together as a group. Often times, when we are out in search of steers we will find them in small groups and we know that when we see one there are more than likely several others close by. By attempting to keep these groups together, in theory, they will move easier for you. But just because they stick together doesn’t mean that it’s smooth sailing from there.

Honorary Intern Brodie and Emily

When moving cattle you need to be aware of everything around you. Where are your steers headed? Do you have all your riders in their positions? Are they moving in a calm manner? A general rule of thumb is that wherever your steers are looking IS where they are going to go. So if your herd pauses and they are all looking to the right you had better have your group hug that right side of the road to encourage them to keep on their path. Now you have to be careful because if you add to much pressure from the wrong angle then you might cause them to spill the direction where they were looking. It doesn’t take much to cause them to spill, it could be as big a change as you trotting your horse right at them too closely or as little as your horses rib cage pushing towards them. It’s amazing how little it takes to influence your herd. The level of awareness you need to move cattle properly, along with good quality horsemanship is key to having a successful cattle drive. So, keep your eyes open, head on a swivel and your horse nice and straight. If you hold your position and keep life in your cattle all should go well, in theory of course.

Until next time folks…




The Round Up Continues…

Volume 16, Issue 28

Howdy Y’all!

What a week it has been! We welcomed our first group of September 10 day guests this week and have had such a blast wrangling with them so far. Both our month long guests and 10 dayers have really rose to the occasion, pulling long hours in the saddle each day in search of cattle. They have done such a great job that we only have 13 more steers left on the Davis piece to move back home.

Lined out so nicely

And lets not forget our simply amazing equine partners because without them there is no way we would be able to do what we do. These horses have trekked our hides all over these mountains without complaint, taking care of us is some pretty nasty terrain, and they always bring us home safe. We are truly lucky to have such an amazing herd to work with.

Guest Pam getting in some roping practice

We have come up with a pretty neat system where Scotty and Kev have been searching for steers with their groups to put into a holding area. Brenda then takes her group and they then move the steers back to the ranch. From there Des and I have had our group move those steers to new country, making sure they find water and good graze land. It has been incredibly efficient and everyone has been able to rotate around to each job and the guests have loved it! Hopefully, come Monday, we will be able to find those last 13 and get them home.

Jasper always finds the most interesting rest areas

Until then…


The Ultimate Game of Hide and Seek

Volume 16, Issue 27

Hey There Everyone!


It’s officially that time of year. Fall gather is here!

Just picture it. The air is crisp and cold and a serene layer of fog hangs just above the tips of the meadow grass. Your horse takes a deep breath and tendrils of cold morning ‘smoke’ rises up in the air around you. You grab your saddle pad and saddle and get your partner ready, checking each buckle and saddle string to make sure your rig is secure. The truck is loaded with great care and everyone does one final check of their gear. The rumble of the diesel engine starts up and off we go, it’s time to round up those steers.

This is always everyone’s favorite time of year to come visit the ranch. We currently have eight repeat guests staying with us for the month who have joined us for the past several years for the gather. It’s always great to have this group join as they feel more like family these days than guests, some of them having come each and every year since the ranch opened!

Best sunrises around

Our herd consists of 227 Black Angus steers and they are scattered over thousands of acres on our Davis grazing allotment. Talk about the ultimate game of Hike and Seek! You see, the key is to look for fresh sign. Hoof prints in the dusty roads, grass that has been laid down in areas, and even the fresh cow patty can tell you a lot about where your steers might be! A good place to start is always at your water source so we have been splitting into small groups to check the various water tanks along with mineral pots for fresh track. Every time we round up a fairly good sized group we then make the near 7 mile trek back to the ranch. The days are long and dusty and there’s always a little excitement when you have a couple wiley ones in the bunch but it really is the coolest experience. I wake up everyday and can’t believe this is my job. I love being a cowboy.

How handsome is Amigo?!

Fair thee well friends,




Crisp Mornings, Fall is around the corner…

Volume 16, Issue 26

Howdy Everyone!

As daily life here on the ranch continues on as normal we have found ourselves waking up to frost tipped fields and brisk temps in the low 30’s. As we say goodbye to August, it seems that September has brought with it the fall feels! The aspens are just starting to turn lighter in color meaning soon they will share their golden hue with the valley.

Fall has always been my favorite time of year, having grown up in New England I am accustomed to brightly colored maples and oaks and pumpkins every where! Now while out in here in Montana there might not be the array of colored fall leaves I am used too but it’s no less beautiful. It’s certainly a breath taking sight to see when you drive through the mountains and all the aspens and larch are dotting the hillsides with varying hues of yellow and gold.

Ranch Cat Trouble brought us a gift!

This week on the ranch we have been getting ready for our next group of guests as well as catching up on our daily projects. It’s never boring around here as one night earlier this week we had a rather unexpected playful visitor while we were closing down for the night, a yearling black bear! Ranch hand Chris had his hands full chasing off the little bugger as he proceeded to run around the lodge seemingly taunting him too “catch me if you can!” Nothing to be alarmed about folks! Black bears are just super curious and we are sure he just smelled new cook Holly’s tasty food and wanted some for himself. Luckily for us he made his way back to the forest and hasn’t been seen since. It’s very rare for one to come visit but oh so cool to see!

Our resident Yogi bear

We will soon be focused on moving our cattle to the next grazing site which is always an exciting time because during this time of year that means full day cattle drives! We all pack lunches in our saddle bags and head out early in hopes of wrangling up a good group of steers to move back home. With any luck we will gather them up without too much trouble but there is always a wiley few.

Tigger wants to share Wyatts breakfast

Wells that’s all for now folks! Until next time…


Turn Her Loose!

Volume 16, Issue 25

“I never teach my pupils. I can only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn.”—ALBERT EINSTEIN

 A good teacher is not someone who simply explains a process and then expects its understanding, but rather someone who guides their student through the process while providing knowledge, understanding, and leadership through example. Shayne teaches his students this way each and everyday and there is no better student who exemplifies this than Des.

For our first ever women’s only 10-day working ranch experience Shayne turned Des loose for her first solo teaching guest run and it was clear from the start just how disciplined she is and how much she believes in trusting the process.

Des Sitting on her colt Hadlee

When people come to ride with us they see Des and just how competent she is as a cowboy and they make the assumption that she must have always been that good but she will always be the first to tell you that she used to share all the same fears we have while learning to ride horses and really had to fight through them to get to where she is nowadays. There’s nothing we face that she hasn’t already been through which makes her ability to relate to her students all the more meaningful.

Des worked with her students demonstrating the fundamentals with clear explanation backed up by a solid demonstration that was repeatable by guests on their ranch horses. Each day she would touch on these fundamentals for a short while before introducing the class to an exercise in which they could use them, say opening gates or riding with only their legs or having their horses kick a soccer ball down the arena without being afraid.

She also has this exercise where she has you canter with no reins so you can better feel and use your seat to drive the horse while she supports you with her horse and flag. She does it in such a way that you forget any fear you have and really start to feel what the horse has to offer you. In most cases everyone wants to go around with her more than once because they feel so secure and are genuinely having the time of their life cantering around!

Having known Des for several years now and knowing her background and where she came from I can truly say she is completely in this for the horse. Everything she does, every move she makes, every correction is to better establish her connection to the horse, to build that unbreakable bond.

Flora rode the soles right off her boots!

During this 10-day she gave us all a demonstration on how she starts the colts here at the ranch. She explained her process and how she never strays from her list of steps she needs to accomplish before saddling a young horse. When asked by a guest “how long does it take” she always responds with “however long it needs too. It all depends on the horse”. She never rushes and is incredibly methodical, just like she is with her students.

Des and her crew here at McGinnis made sure that they never gave up on their students and always pushed them to be better than they were when they started. The classes were filled with challenge and encouragement and each student was able to find success and felt like they were better when they ended the day. That, to me, is the mark of a good teacher and student relationship.

Kara and Emily with the Handsome Clayton

Des embodies what it means to be a cowboy and she is constantly striving to be better than she was 5 minutes prior. She is relentless in her pursuit of becoming a true horseman and to stay true to the process Shayne and Buck has taught her. She also passes that down to her crew of wranglers and it’s clear in how they teach as well. It was really great to see her take the helm for the week and I know for a fact the women of our women’s only week really enjoyed their experience with her and the McGinnis team.

Heidi and her man Bob

While listening to the women talk at dinner about their days in the arena there was an overall theme to how they felt about the teaching and the week in general. They would rave about how amazing the ranch horses were, playfully arguing about how each persons horse was better than the others. They also couldn’t believe that so many good young, hardworking people existed in the world anymore, referring to the crew who made it their mission to make sure that this group of guests experienced their best stay possible. Truthfully it almost felt like a vacation for us too, we all had so much fun!

Until next time friends…


New Friendships To Last A Lifetime…

Volume 16. Issue 24

“New friends are like new adventures. You never know what lessons they will teach you.”

– Unknown-

What a truly special and amazing 10-day we just had. McGinnis Meadows just hosted it’s first ever women’s only 10-day ranch working experience and I can truly say, on behalf of everyone who participated and helped out, that it was an experience we all will never forget. The women who joined us came from all over the USA and while a couple of them knew each other before arriving each and everyone of them left as family.

Paint night was a success!

Every person here cheered on each other as they worked through fears and overcame obstacles. They were able to get out into the mountains to check on cattle and explore uncharted territory. They worked on horsemanship as we taught everyday cowgirl skills from leg yielding to open gates to swinging a rope to head steers. They were all game for anything we threw at them and even played a lively game of mounted horse soccer!

Calvary exercises in the meadows!

Each night was filled with story telling and photos and the game room was always packed with both guests and wranglers trying to get in on a game of pool, poker or liars dice. Even the boys wanted in on the festivities and Kevin’s dog Kate was definitely the center of attention, stealing the show numerous times as each lady wanted a selfie with the adorable ranch pup.

New Cook Holly serving up Huckleberry Margaritas!

Needless to say the women’s only stay was a smashing success and we all can’t wait for another go at it next year!

Laser tag shenanigans

Until next time folks…


Look at the focus in this game of liars dice…

Paige and Quick





Ride Em’ Cowgirl!

Volume 16, Issue 23

Ride Em’ Cowgirl!

Howdy everyone!

Em here. We have the privilege this week of hosting a wonderful group of women for our first ever McGinnis Meadows Women only 10-day!

Just some cowgirls and the cowdog Kate!

We are only just about halfway through the adventure but already we have created so many fun and exciting memories. These women are here to experience what it really means to be a cowgirl and they have taken every challenge in stride with positive attitudes and a great sense of humor! We have so many great activities planned from a wine and paint night and relaxing trip to the lake to a cowgirl themed ranch competition where they can apply everything they have learned while here with us! It’s definitely going to be a 10-day for the books and I can’t wait to report back on how everyone does!

Emily working some grill magic

Life on the ranch continues on and as always there are many projects and tasks to complete. Kev and Scott have been diligently checking cattle out at graze to make sure they are happy and healthy and thus far the buggers have proven very stealthy and difficult to find. Wiley steers! Chris has been hard at work running his fence crew while learning to operate our hay meadow irrigation system. The best part about working on the ranch is that there is always something new learn which inevitably makes you a handier person. It’s one of my favorite things about working here.

Great evening for a stroll

Well that’s it for now but rest assured, there will be plenty of stories to share next week!

Until then, Happy Trails!