The Highline Blog

The elk are coming!

Volume 17, Issue 3

Hi Everyone

I don’t think there is anything more beautiful then when the Sun starts to rise up over the mountain, casting its warmth on our valley below. The snow and frosted trees all glitter at first light and it’s like something out of an old painting of when times were simpler.

The weather has continued to stay rather warm during the day with temps reaching near 40 degrees! The warmer days have brought some extra visitors down from the mountain tops, the elk. Each morning seems to bring more and more elk down to graze on the hay we feed out to the horses and on some afternoons they seem to out number the horses in our catch pen.

Did you know that the state of Montana has the second-largest elk population in the country, with 150,000 elk. Elk are often called wapiti – a Shawnee word meaning “white rump.” A herd of Elk is often referred to as a gang and they can run up to 40 miles per hour, beat horses in short races, and jump up to 8 vertical feet. It’s no wonder they get into our pastures so easily, with a jump like that!

They really are amusing creatures to watch and interact with. Earlier this week I crept my way out into the herd to try and get some close up pictures of the big goofs and it was really cool to watch how they interact with one another. The youngsters really are more inquisitive than they are fearful while the mothers flee at even the slightest unidentifiable movement. The cows also pushed the young bulls around, pawing and rearing at them and pushing them off of the hay to keep it to themselves. The horses, for the most part, aren’t really bothered by the elk and share their hay willingly. We joke and call them free loaders but we do really love that they find safety and sanctuary with us.

Until next week folks…



Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow!

Volume 17, Issue 2

Howdy Everyone

We all here at the ranch hope that everyone had a wonderful holiday and a Happy New Year. I think I can speak for most when I saw we are excited to leave 2021 behind in hopes of bigger and better things in 2022!

Chris getting some serious snowblowing done

This past week brought with it some seriously crazy weather. It started off with negative temps in the low 10’s. We were all very busy checking waters and horses to ensure that everyone was well and had access to water as often as possible. It can be difficult to keep livestock healthy in these conditions but our crew here at the ranch does an amazing job keeping up with everything that is needed.

Trouble always supervising Em’s work

Mid/late week brought in a snow storm that threatened to drop up to 33in of snow! Luckily we didn’t get that much but instead we faced a different challenge. On the second day of the storm the temps jumped up to near 40 degrees and the snowfall quickly changed to rain. Every gate and pathway still needed shoveling so we all donned our warmer rain gear and headed out to clean everything up. What a day!

Starlit night at the ranch

Thankfully Holly made it back to the ranch safe and sound and after a long day shoveling she made all some absolutely terrific chicken soup with homemade noodles! As as if it couldn’t get any better she also made us her famous soft dinner rolls. It was the perfect meal to warm us all up.

The sun finally came out today which lit up the snow covered valley. It was nice to finally see some blue skies. We almost forgot what they looked like! Well that’s all for now folks, until next week.

Stay warm out there!


Happy New Year to All!

Volume 17, Issue 1


The last week of the 2021 was one for the books with temps as low as -25°, lots of snow on the ground and plenty of work to get done. The cold weather really puts our equipment to the test and pushes them to the limits. They say everything comes in three’s and this week was no exception. Little Blue the ranch truck lost a U-joint, the forklift we use for loading hay blew a hydraulic line, and the icing on the cake was the feed truck going down because the all wheel drive wouldn’t engage.

Luckily we have contingency plans for those situations and didn’t miss a beat when it came to getting the horses taken care of. Just means lots of shop time to get everything back up and running. The loader was an easy fix with a new hydraulic line, and Blue will be back on the trail pretty quick with a new U-joint. The feed truck, which is a key piece of equipment that we use daily, was a little more work but will be up and running pretty soon when a new part arrives.

While it’s never great to have something like that go down, it’s always an opportunity to teach some of the other guys how to work on and maintain the equipment. James and Kevin spent some time in the shop with me helping tear down the front axle on our giant military truck. It’s always nice to have an extra hand when pulling off a 400 pound tire.

Christmas is always a great time of year, while the crew is a little small there was still a big celebration. We had Christmas Eve dinner at the lodge with Shayne and Des. Em whipped up one heck of a spread of sides and desserts, and the big hit was two kinds of prime rib including an amazing smoked one. If you’ve had the BBQ at the ranch you know what kind of treat that is. We all slept good that night in beef comas. It was the perfect end to an amazing year, and we can’t wait for the season to fire back up in 2022 and guests to start coming in when Spring thaws us out.

Happy new year from all the crew at McGinnis!!!!


Merry Christmas to All! And to All a Good Night!

Volume 16, Issue 32
‘Twas the night before Christmas out here on the ranch,
not a critter was stirring, no bird on a branch.
The horses were all resting, munching on hay,
While the crew sat around the dinner table, talking about the day.
Snowflakes fell softly from up in the sky,
Where had the season gone, man time sure does fly by.
Trouble the ranch cat was all snuggled in bed,
While visions of catching mice surely filled his little head.
The night was winding down, the temps dropping low,
There’s no telling if Spring will ever melt all this snow!
Soon we were off to bed, the lodge buttoned up tight,
When something crossed the meadow, out there in the night.
Curious now, to the window we all sprinted,
“Could it be him?”, the crew all hinted.
The moon broke through the clouds, shining upon the snow,
And that’s when we heard it, a booming voice call “whoa!”
“Could it be?” we cried out, checking our sources,
It was a sleigh hitched up to eight of our ranch horses!
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
We knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles, his coursers they came,
And he whistled and hollered and called them by name:
“Now Cooley! Now Nigel!
Now, Chief and Paco!
On, Booker ! On, Brumby!
On, Catman and Mighty!
To the top of the mountain!
No horse to big or small!
Now dash away! Dash away!
Dash away all!”
As dry aspen leaves that in the wind fly,
When met with an obstacle, they mounted to the sky.
So up to the arena top the horses they flew,
With a sleigh full of the finest tack, and St. Nicholas too.
We ran from the lodge, to all catch a gander,
Oh what a sight, it couldn’t be grander.
Up there in the sky as they flew overhead,
Good ol’ St. Nick pulled out a cowboy hat to place on his head.
We all hollered and yipped and called out with joy,
Santa, tonight at least, was a good ol’ cowboy.
We heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
“Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

Tig looking festive in his antlers!

Merry Christmas from our family to Yours! And Happy New Year!!
See you next year!

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

Volume 16, Issue 41

Sproket and Tig playing in the snow!

Tidings of Good Will to All!!

Out here in Montana, up in our little corner of the world, we have had the snow falling each and every day for the last two weeks! It really is starting to look like our own personal North Pole Winter Wonderland up here. While some people don’t like the cold, as long as it’s snowing, I don’t think its all that bad. How could you when you have views like we do here on the ranch.

Chalkeye says Hello

The trees are all frosted up along with the meadows and they seem to glitter whenever there is a ray of sunlight light fights it way through the clouds. Every time this happens I can’t help but stop and just survey the land before me, thinking about how lucky I am to live in such a beautiful place. It really is breath taking.

Even though there may be near 2 feet of snow on the ground work continues on as usual. Due too the weather we have taken the opportunity to hunker down in the new arena to really get it clean and man let me tell you…there is nothing more satisfying then seeing it shine up like a brand new penny. Kev, Des and I got to man the scissor lift and cleaning up to the highest ceiling peaks and over each and every ledge and heater. It’s a good thing we aren’t afraid of heights! Even though cleaning is never anyones favorite task, everyone really seemed to have fun through the process, signing and grooving out to tunes as we went from one section to the next. Job well done everyone!

Nom Nom Nom

It’s crazy to think that Christmas is literally this weekend! Where has the time gone!? We here at the ranch wish everyone safe travels as we are sure our friends will be loading up to visit loved ones. Stay safe out there!



A First for Every Occasion…

Volume 16, Issue 40

Hey all!

James here, first time writing the highline. In fact these past two months have been filled with a lot of firsts for me. My first time cutting cattle on horseback and driving them through a chute. First time driving a  forklift and an army truck. First time helping cut and process dear meat. And my first time in northern Montana. One thing is for sure around here, if you’re willing to work for it, you will take away more than what you came with. During my time here I’ve come to see that this fact is what makes the ranch what it is. It is a place of learning and a place of growing. A place where you can push yourself to be better knowing that everyone around you is doing the same.

Elk in Action!

This week I was able to ride some more with Shayne, Desiree, and Kevin. I rode Pecos all week. Like many of the McGinnis horses Pecos knows all the buttons and is willing to work with you till you find them. With every ride I try to think of something to focus on and improve, and I feel confident in the fact that I’m getting good advice from people who have been in my same exact position at one point. I also see that as I’m learning, so are the people who are teaching me. The end goal is never to know everything, but to utilize what you’ve learned to push you further in your horsemanship journey. No one ever will know everything, and the term “end goal” in itself might be a misnomer as I can see now that there is never an “end.”

Em on her way to get groceries. What a view!

As we move towards the holiday season, we are making one more push to get everything cleaned and organized before the new year. As of now, we are deep cleaning the indoor arena. Dusting and sweeping every nook and cranny. The arena is our office, and there is a certain satisfaction in seeing it get cleaned out and beautified. This project should take us into next week. With heavy snow in the forecast we are focusing heavily on our indoor projects. As far as the weather goes, we are praying for a white Christmas. The whiter the better. So if you know any good snow dances, send them our way!

Cowboy mini meatloaves!

Happy trails,

Weird weather, working horses, and wire pulling…

Volume 16, Issue 39

Hey Everyone, Kev here.

Usually at the start of December we have already seen weeks of low temps in the teens but we have had unusually warm weather. Temps have been staying up above 50 for most of the day and any snow we did have has melted off. This means that the window has opened for some outside work.

First Snowshoe of the season

The Belgarde pasture, which is one of our largest livestock pastures, has been in need of a fence upgrade. We have always used this pasture for cattle because of its decade old barb wire and hard to use access points, but now with the ranch connecting all the way through the valley it is now the perfect opportunity to upgrade to high tensile fence. Once we complete this project we will have one of the best horse pastures and longest jingles on the ranch.

Snow up the mountain

Scott and the crew have been hard at work this week taking down old fence and laying new posts before he takes off for winter vacation on Sunday. He won’t be back until the end of January so everyone wish him a happy holiday. Myself, Emily and wrangler in training Kim have been working through the b and c string horses under Des and Shayne’s watchful eye, always guiding us to push through the comfort zone and to challenge us. Our first guest week may be a ways away but we are always working with the horses to get them ready to be put in the guest string. And the most exciting part about it all is starting to think about roping in the spring. We have started working in dummy shots and practicing on the cutting flag. We have even set up some jumps to change things up. What a great week riding.

Emily’s Mustang Hemingway

The weather is starting to change again, heavy winds and colder nights. I guess we will se were the next weeks brings us. Back inside to work on tack and deep cleaning, or into the meadows for fence building and tree pulling. Only time will tell.

Until next time.


Turkey, Taters, and Traditions…

Volume 16, Issue 38

Howdy Everyone!

How was everyones Thanksgiving!? We had such a wonderful holiday here at the ranch with our little ranch family. Holly and myself started the day bright and early with our dinner prep to ensure everything was picture perfect for the feast and man did Holly outdo herself! She cooked up two beautiful oven roasted turkeys and spiral cut ham. Her famous dinner rolls made an appearance along with all quintessential Thanksgiving day sides; fresh buttered corn, fluffy mashed potatoes, green bean casserole and stuffing. Did I mention all the pies? No?! We had pumpkin, pecan, apple and maple cookie pies with homemade whip cream. Needless to say, no one went home hungry.

One of my favorite things about spending the holiday here at the ranch is that while we may all be far from home, we are still among family. The ranch has really become all of our homes away from home and we look after one another. What Shayne and Des have created here really is something special.

This week Kev and myself along with James and prospective wrangler Kim have been able to start riding again and let me tell you, it’s been great to get back in the saddle. Scott has been hard at work trying to button up some last minute projects before he heads home for a couple weeks for vacation. Chris has been hard at work winterizing all of the equipment we keep here on the ranch. Conveniently the weather has actually been quite warm, sticking around the mid 40’s, so it’s been a little more comfortable for the boys doing their outside projects. We know that cold weather is on the horizon though. It’s only a matter of time before the snow settles in and truthfully I can’t wait. The valley is always so beautiful and picturesque after the snow falls.


Until next time!


Time with family…

Volume 16, Issue 37

Happy Birthday Des!!!

Howdy Everyone!

Before I dive into this past weeks adventures theres a very special announcement I need to make. IT’S DES’S BIRTHDAY! Everyone be sure to wish this magnificent gal a happy day!

People often ask me how often I make it home to see my family. Truth is that I usually go home, back east, once a year to check in with everyone but the ranch has really become my home away from home. We all share everything together. Birthdays, holidays, accomplishments, loses. Everyone is so supportive and caring of one another and always there when you need a helping hand. McGinnis just feels like home and I’m excited to be sharing the holidays with everyone here.

Thanksgiving is this week! Where has the time gone!? Holly has been busy putting together a traditional Thanksgiving menu for us ranch staff and needless to say we are all very much looking forward to it. I will be sure to take plenty of photos for everyone! What are you all looking forward to most? For me, aside from the cranberry sauce, I am looking forward to sharing our years favorite stories with one another and reflecting on far we have come in such a short time. This was a huge year of accomplishment here at the ranch and it will be fun to look back on each others favorite moments.

Chalkeye and Fox

What does your family do for Thanksgiving?

Until next time folks!



Winter is coming…

Volume 16, Issue 36

Hi Everyone!

Life continues on here at the ranch and there is still much to do but there is the calmness that has started to find it’s place in our little valley, a hint that winter is just around the corner. I’ve always been a fan of winter in general and I am no stranger to cold temps and snow as I am originally from New England. If some of you are sitting there wondering how you could compare a Montana winter to one from New England? Well my friends, once you’ve lived through a TRUE Nor’easter then you’ll know. This will be my third winter here and it might just be my favorite season on the ranch.

In the mornings, after a night of fresh fallen snow, there’s this fairy tale feel about it. The sun starts to hit the snow covered meadows and everything just sparkles and glistens. Mist hovers in the low areas and everything just looks magical. I always find myself pausing before I enter the lodge to look out and smile at its beauty.

While we have had a few flurries we haven’t had anything substantial….yet. This is good for us however because we still have a couple projects to button up outside before the snow flies. Today all the boys gathered at Shayne’s pond to help relocate some beautiful cutthroats to the larger pond where there will be able to survive the winter. Chris is just about finished dragging our pastures while Kev, Scott and James continue cutting firewood. There’s nothing quite like a warm wood stove with a cup of tea after a long day and the boys efforts are beyond appreciated.

What’s your favorite season here at the ranch and why?

Until next time!