The Highline Blog
February 22, 2020 Volume 15, Issue 8
This week was our first winter Horsemanship week and the 2020 debut of riding in the new indoor arena!
What a great group of riders! It didn’t matter that we had a mix of beginners as well as several returning guests. Mike and Martha, who are ‘locals’ from MT made their first visit here. Joy K., Jana, Anne-Catherine, and Kevin’s mom, Bronwyn also joined us. And we even had Anne and Julien all the way from France!
The focus this week was softness and using your seat with as little kicking as possible, to ask for life in your horse. Once this is achieved all the movements become so much easier and the horse keeps a good expression throughout. We are doing something new this season where we take video early on in the week and then another set on the last day so guests have a comparison. Sometimes you don’t see how far you have come!
We had 8 guests plus interns Maddie, and Flora, several wranglers, plus Shayne and Des in the arena each day. It is amazing how much room there is to work! Everyone was able to work on their exercises whether it be circles, straight lines, leg yields without any effect on anyone else- pretty cool.
Mid way through the week, Des invented a new exercise to help everyone to get their seat position more correct.
It really helped set the legs in the correct position and get people from sitting on their butts in the saddle. Shayne would ask everyone, if you placed a cracker between the cantle and your butt, would it be crushed when you were done riding? The best answer is no, because a rider should be sitting up with their legs underneath them 🙂
It made significant changes for everyone and the horses felt it immediately too! Getting their horses to walk out was no longer an issue and the horses were all so relaxed.
The indoor has other perks too. Being that it is climate controlled, the horses that are waiting their turn to be ridden, all are so chill. Often times they choose to take naps, especially Tucker, Des’ little black horse. He is prone more than upright it seems!
We have been having warm sunny days here with pretty cold temps at night. This makes for a beautiful morning van ride over to the indoor with inversion putting a sparkling coating of ice on the trees.
Although we have been having a low snow winter here, several guests opted to rent snowshoes and take to the trails after their afternoon ride. It was a great way to end the day, and they even to visit the horse herd and a few elk residing in the winter pasture!
This coming week we will be heading into an 8-day horsemanship clinic. The Seattle Mounted Police, Flora’s family, and several other returning guests will be busy raising their level of education – and we can’t wait to see and ride with them all!
February 15, 2020 Volume 15, Issue 7
These past couple weeks have been a whirlwind!!!
Shayne and I returned from Costa Rica on Feb 2nd and hit the ground running. We had two weeks to get everything in order for our new guests coming in. That included:
Splitting the herd in half—horses that would be used immediately were taken over to Shayne’s new arena pastures. Originally, we thought with the snow pack we might be able to jingle them over. Except, a day after we got back, the ranch turned to ice and that meant we had to load up 36 horses and make several trips over to the arena. But the trips didn’t start smooth! The driveway to the arena was so icy, the truck got stuck and Anna had to come and chip the driveways with the John Deere while Kevin and I sprinted back and forth from the truck and trailer to the arena pastures in our ice cleats with horses. It was a long, silly day but seeing the horses enjoying their new pasture and rolling in fresh snow made it all worth it.
Deep cleaning all cabins and lodge rooms—we flew Yaz out for a couple weeks to work exclusively on this project. It took every single part of 2 weeks to get this grand feat accomplished!
Food—Emily is preparing for her first big breakout week of winter cooking! She’s been creating menus, ordering food and supplies and doing lots of deep cleaning around the kitchen side of things. We have been guinea pigs to several new recipes that are AH-MAAAAZING. I can’t wait for our guests to try them!
Riding and teaching—LOTS and LOTS of it! Janice and Brenda found some time each day to spend a few hours with us riding. Mostly though, Shayne and I had our base riding crew consisting of Kevin, Scott, and interns Maddie and Flora. With these four, we managed to get through around 30 horses per day. The “kids” probably felt like they were in bootcamp for much of the time! We rode from 8am-8pm most days.
It was so neat to see how far these guys came in two weeks. It would be hard to describe how big the changes were in the riding progressions of each individual. All I can say is that everything culminated into the best couple days of riding that any of us could remember. Every horse got better—walk, trot, canter, stop, leg yield, work the flag. Moving out with ease. With great expression.
Our guest horses are legged up and ready to get to work, both physically and mentally.
Today is another big day—we need to do a deep clean on Shayne’s new arena, plus the tack rooms, etc. We have to haul over saddles and bridles (all freshly cleaned courtesy of our wonderful crew). We need to put the final touches on the lodge and game room and make sure everything is guest-ready. Hmmm…feels like I’m forgetting something!
Have a great weekend!
February 8, 2020 Volume 15, Issue 6
From your friendly neighborhood winter ranch cook, Emily. I thought I’d take this chance as this weeks Highline writer to answer some questions I’ve been asked over the past few months.
Did you come to the ranch as a cook?
No. I came to the ranch this past June as a working intern. The working part of my internship had me placed in the kitchen where I was allowed to put my previous kitchen experience to good use. As the months progressed I was able to take some pressure off our peak season chef, Miriam. I started cooking during our off weeks and my recipes were so well received that I was asked to stay on through the winter to feed our hard working winter crew. How could I say no?!
Is it hard to come up with recipes that everyone will like?
I actually found it quite easy to come up with recipes everyone would like. I simply pulled ideas from good old fashioned comfort food recipes, with my own personal twist of course. Some of my tried and true recipes are pulled pork, garlic chicken pasta, Chinese take out, beef stew with mashed taters and Marry me chicken.
How do you handle cooking for those with special diets?
Creating menus for those who have special diets has really been a lot of fun. I have a background in bodybuilding and actually have a good amount of healthy recipes under my belt that fit the requirements for those who are keto, paleo, and gluten and dairy free. The best part is that I have been incorporating them through out the winter menus and they have been a hit with everyone, and they don’t even know that they are considered “healthy clean eating”! I always consider it a win win when I can not only feed this hard working crew good hearty meals, but that I can keep them healthy as well.
I’m excited to see what new favorites we can cook up this season and I look forward to starting an official MMGR cook book. What do you all think? Would you like to have your very own McGinnis Meadows cookbook?
As always on Monday, I was excited to see what the week had in store. We had to wrap up our last week before we start riding full time to get horses ready for guests who will be arriving in two weeks, so the crew has been busy!
As Janice mentioned last week I have been spending all my free time on the shop doing a complete redo on it,
When I wasn’t working in the shop this winter, I was doing a number of things from setting mouse traps to de-limbing the west pasture to helping randy replace a water pump on our (dumb) truck; checking the housing that is not in use to make sure heat and water were still running properly; keeping fence hot and intact, to pitching in with tack whenever I could.
Knowing we had lots of little things to wrap up and get the
shop finished this week kept us motivated. We were able to get it done by Wednesday. After the shop was done we were able to do a clean and organize of the warming hut in the hospital, and we also got all of our bridles cleaned and oiled. With saddles and bridles done that pretty much wraps up our tack!!
Winter staff were all assigned a horse to ride over the winter and I got King. He has been so much fun to ride!!! He taught me a LOT. Below you can see he waiting very patiently for his grain.
I’m excited to start up our winter horsemanship and have guests again. Thanks for reading along.
Until next time,
January 25, 2020 Volume 15, Issue 4
What’s happening at MMR? Well, it has been raining a bit and warmer at the ranch this past week. The horses are liking the warmer weather as are the humans. There is still snow on the ground so if it sets up a bit you’ll see me finally out xc skiing!
The ranch projects continue- ALL of the saddles are cleaned and shiny. The crew did a great job getting through all 37 of them! Now the mecate reins are getting freshened up and headstalls taken apart and conditioned. Next come the saddle bags and chinks- There is a lot of leather in use here!
Kevin is just about finished with the big project of cleaning and reorganizing the shop. He won’t release photos until he is all finished, so we’ll just have to wait a few more days to see the magic. 🙂
Anna-Banana and Scott just returned from a week at shoeing school at Lazy U Quarter Horses in Nebraska to further their education. Anna is very excited and we can’t wait to hear all about what they learned.
Brenda as always, is diligent about keeping our horse family safe, sound and healthy, among all the other things she does here at the ranch. I know of nobody else who puts as much heart into the care of their horses than she. With the changing weather patterns she has been ever watchful for signs that the horses might be uncomfortable, and she checks the herd daily — each individual horse– to make sure no cuts, bruises or scrapes get left untreated. We are so lucky to have her here!
As for me, I’ve been making progress with office projects, booking guests and thinking of ways to enhance guest
stays even more. I love being able to take a little time to chat with returning guests as well as meet new ones via phone and email. Meeting so many wonderful people is the nicest part of my job. And, since marketing and media have always been items of great interest to me, I never find “office” work boring. It is quite the opposite really, because there is always something new to develop or learn. I’m also excited to be working on some de-cluttering up here so that guests can enjoy the quiet, cozy atmosphere.
Emily has been riding little Gunner in the mornings and in the afternoon is busy putting together recipes for our winter guests who will be arriving in Mid-February. Her cooking skills are awesome and we look forward each week to see what goodies she has in store for us. Although it has been productive being closed here for two months, our guests arrival will bring the ranch back to life with fun activity, and we are all looking forward to it!
One of the things I really do love though about the “downtime” in winter is being able to spend time with the horses in a quiet setting. Observing them out in the herd, grooming them, and just spending some extra time with them, reminds me of why I became enamored with them in the first place. It sure is a rewarding way to start and end the day.
I hope you can make time to do the same.
January 18, 2020 Volume 15, Issue 3
Hey guys! Its Anna Banana here. I begged Janice to let me have a shot at the Highline for the week!
Balance. That was the word that stood out to me this week. Balance in the horse industry is sometimes a trigger word. People hear it and they think they understand what it means, but it can end up with different interpretations. Balance means everything to the horse. It is apparent in every facet of their life. As Shayne and Des always say “Balance means life or death to a horse”. To me this week it really hit home for some reason. I think about it a lot when I’m at work. I think about it when I grain horses. I think about it when I medicate or treat a horse. I especially think about it when I am shoeing and riding.
As a Farrier, I understand balance. I know the foot must support the weight of the horse. I know that when I reach for a horse, they must be balanced, so that I can be balanced. As a rider, and I’m going to be honest here… I am still trying to understand balance. I am still
searching for my balance so that I can help balance the ranch horses. We have been riding some of the ranch horses over the winter, and my lucky steed is Dunny. Some of you might know, he is my favorite horse on the ranch. When I found out Dunny was my horse for the winter, I jumped at the chance. This week Shayne and Des have us working hard on our teardrop exercise. Where I was struggling was, by letting him drive his front end into the ground, I was disuniting the horse. I was taking his balance away. Bless these sweet, sweet horses and their ultimate patience.
I believe that somewhere deep in our hearts, balance means the same thing to us that it means to horses. That’s why we get along so well. We find ourselves in our horses. This year showed me that I was not balanced as a person. I will always do more, try more, give more. That’s just the type of person I am. My body had paid the price of my lack of balance. Being a farrier you always hear “Take care of your back”. But you don’t understand what they mean until you
must do it yourself. Luckily, I have people to BACK me up (Haha get it?) Shayne and Des have taught me so much about what your body needs to thrive when you do what we do. Shayne, with his decades of masonry experience, has given me so many tips about body position that I’ve lost count. Des, who is fluent in all things nutrition, has changed my view on what my body needs to become stronger. Because, here’s the kicker folks- IF I CAN’T BE BALANCED AS A HUMAN, HOW CAN I BALANCE A HORSE?
So here’s the point. Think about what you are giving to the horse. Are you as a person balanced in your heart, mind, and body? So do more that feeds your mind, try more so it grows your heart, give more to yourself and your horse. Search for the balance in your life.
‘Til next time,
January 11, 2020 Volume 15, Issue 2
This week we are finally getting some snow- about 7” and more on the way!
The crew here has continued delimbing pastures and really made a super effort to clean as many of the 36 guest saddles as they possibly could. They made great progress with only 3 remaining! Then it will be on the bridles, reins, saddlebags and chinks 🙂
Temps have been very kind to us this winter but it looks like a cold front will be moving in this coming week. I expect we will see even more hair on the horses- they are already quite fluffy. One thing for sure, they know how to prepare for a Montana winter!
The elk have returned as well, now that the ground is covered with snow. I think they are in the wings waiting for this to happen as it seems they magically appear with perfect timing to join the horse herd in the hay feast each day.
Des and I have been super busy working on the marketing and office end of things. Maybe you have seen some of the posts on FB and instagram? Stay tuned because there will be a lot more to follow! We have got some exciting things planned for this season.
Kevin’s dad has been visiting him this week and it has been fun to see them hanging out together. It is always so nice to have staff family visiting the ranch!
These are photos that Emily took, in between all of the awesome cooking she does to keep us well fed. We can never say we go away hungry!
Until next time, happy trails,
January 4, 2020 Volume 15, Issue 1
Cozy by the fire…
Not the folks at McGinnis Meadows Ranch! Winter for us is a time for completing some of the bigger projects around the ranch, so we are most always out and about, or busy in the office – but we prefer it that way.
We have a small but very fun group of staff here this winter. Anna, Brenda, Emily, Kevin, Jon and I comprise the crew. Even though the ranch keeps us really busy (and out of trouble, some might add), we still are intent on being the best we can be- and not only with horsemanship, but personally as well. You know the deal- your personal being is a direct correlation to how you interact with the horse, so self-enrichment pays deep dividends on both.
Our staff here is much more than co-workers to each other, we are truly like family. So it is not uncommon that we know a lot about each other. It always interesting to hear what we each are working on, and we try to be supportive whenever we can.
I asked our group to let me in on some of the things they have on their priority list for the near future. Kevin shares with us here what his motivation is for the New Year…
“This winter I decided I was going to challenge myself to better my health and fitness in the hopes it will make myself a better asset to the ranch. So, I decided to focus on three things. One is eating healthy no preservatives/minimal sugar/and no breads. Lots more veggies and proteins!!!!
The second would be doing a 30 day push-up challenge of 100 push ups through out the day. They don’t have to be all at once but now they have to be done by the 18th ( 30 days!)
The third is one I’ve just started which is a twice a day workout/stretching to try and better the rest of my body, not just my arms. I’m on day two of that so we will see how long it lasts. :-)” Nice work Kevin!
As for me, I also am focused on getting back my fitness this winter. XC skiing and lots of it, is on my list (hopefully Mother Nature will cooperate)!
I also have one more focus to add to the study of horsemanship, and that is continuing to expand my skills and knowledge in business. I’ve discovered Udemy, an online platform with a myriad of courses available, and I can’t get enough! So far I have taken an excel course and some marketing courses. It’s great fun and it will continue to help me help the ranch. So much to learn, so little time!
On the ranch and the great outdoors, big kudos go out to Brenda, Anna, Kevin and Emily, the Ace delimbing crew. The West Pasture is now finished and looks pretty darn nice! Next on the agenda is tack cleaning…
Stay tuned next week for more on staff goals.
Until then, happy trails,
December 21, 2019, Volume 14, Issue 48
Winter continues to sparkle here at the ranch. Everyone has been bustling around doing their chores, helping each other out, and being rightfully tired at the end of the day.
Despite the newly fallen snow, Kevin persists with his drive to delimb the west pasture. While it is somewhat futile to try and pick up the sticks once they have fallen and are covered in snow (the already behemoth sticks and branches become excessively heavy) it is still possible to work your way around the trees with a full saw. Thus, Kevin faithfully continues on this project.
Around here we have recently given Kevin a nickname: Kebinezer. This is for the reason that he has decided to dislike Christmas. While the rest of us are happily singing along to the carols on the radio, he likes to pick on us and complain about how many times they’ve played “Frosty the Snowman” in a morning. But we know its all an act. Of course he doesn’t really hate the blessed holiday. We’ll work the jolly spirit out of him yet
Every morning while the radio is one, Brenda and I also like to play a game: the station is full of great old songs sung by famous singers such as Bing Crosby, Johnny Mathis, and Dean Martin. Whenever a new song comes on, she quizzes me on who is singing. Sometimes I get it right- Brenda always gets it right!
Our saddle cleaning project continues in earnest. Everyone follows the technique that Des taught to us and all of the saddles are returning to their beautiful and gleaming glory. Its great to see what a bit of hard work, oil, and sheepskin can do to transform a dry and dirty saddle into a glowing picture of health.
While everyone will of course be celebrating Christmas on the day, I am returning home to spend time with my family; therefore, we had to celebrate before I go! On Wednesday after work we all gathered at Anna and Emily’s house to sit around their tree, watch Christmas movies, and open presents! One of my very favorite moments of the Christmas season is just getting to watch other people open their presents. It is so special to be excited for others and the little bit of happiness that a token of love and friendship can bring upon them.
Even though I am going away, the good news is that Janice is coming back! She is returning from her vacation and will be back at her post in the office. After spending so much time here, I am sincerely going to miss all of my friends, the work, and of course the horses.
Merry Christmas, friends. I hope it is full of peace, joy, and the very happiest of memories
December 14, 2019, Volume 14, Issue 47
Merry Christmas everyone!
Around here work continues as usual. Lots of chores to do. Lots of projects to continue and complete. But all is well and all is beautiful not that the snow has started to fall!
Earlier this week it was fairly warm and with no snow the team took advantage of the weather and continued the project of delimbing the west pasture. Some of you might remember riding through this piece on the way to or home from the state piece or Shayne’s mountain; when we would ride through it during the season, it would always seem to me to be a very expansive pasture. And, I’ll tell ya, walking around it on foot, picking up fallen branches and debris has only made it seem bigger. But, the work is good and worthwhile for the sake and safety of our beloved ponies.
Every morning it is a delight to step out and see a fresh dusting of snow. Even though it has practically melted once the sun truly comes up, this morning it decided to stick. Never in my life have I lived somewhere so beautiful when it snows. You can see the snow all over the trees, all over the mountains, and all over the horses! It’s a sight to behold- I don’t think that photographs can do it justice.
Another project has been underway in the past days: tack cleaning! Our beautiful saddles are deserving of this attention. We blow them out, wash them thoroughly, and oil them to a shine. It is very satisfying to see the finished product! Once all of the saddle are clean, we will turn our attention to the headstalls, macates, saddle bags, and chinks.
Now that we have a bit of snow, we have already been construing a plan of what sort of snow creation we can make! Of course, a snow horse is our top priority. But, Kevin and I have also been advocating for a snow fort! A great big one with a tunnel structure. Admittedly, we will have to wait on that one for a bit more snow- the couple of inches that we currently have on the ground I’m afraid will not suffice.
Happy trails and Merry Christmas!