The Highline Blog
April 18th, 2021 Volume 16, Issue 15
As the days get longer and the sun shines brighter the ranch has come alive with our first group of guests who have joined us for our first 10-day horsemanship stay of the year. Their experience in the saddle varies from those who ride daily to those who have barely been on a horse before, but they all share a great eagerness to learn all they can while they are here. It’s been a joy thus far sharing stories and experiences with them all.
With guests returning that means that things are heating up in the kitchen (no pun intended). I have been busy getting back into the full swing of a guest week but thankfully our wonderful new working intern Brooke has been assisting me. She has been helping out with maintaining the lodge and cabins and has started working in the kitchen with me prepping our large evening meals. She has such a bright attitude and has been a joy to work with.
Our second batch of cattle arrived this week and yesterday we tagged and vaccinated them with the help of our guests. The sun was shining bright and the 70-degree temp was incredibly welcome. It looks like spring might finally be here! Kevin, Levi and Scott, with the assistance of several of our guests, were like a well-oiled machine running the cattle shoot with perfect timing and precision. We ended the day with a classic BBQ meal of slow roasted pulled pork sandwiches with baked beans and coleslaw with cold refreshing watermelon for dessert. As a cook you always know that your food must be good if all you hear during supper is the clinking of forks on plates combined with the sight of people going up for seconds.
Until next time my friends,
The ranch has experienced just about all four seasons this past week. Snowy days, bluebird sunshine and warmth, and today it is sleeting! We do know that spring and summer will be arriving- it is just a question of when.
An exciting event each year is the arrival of our new yearling Black Angus steers. The first of the group came in on Wednesday, with a total of 76. All in all we should have about 250 this season, which is about thirty more than in the past.
This group looks stellar! All have nice weight, (the average was 695!) and are so far, very quiet and willing to move where they are guided. As with humans, cattle can go through phases, so we will see if this behavior holds! Yesterday we put the cattle through the chute and got them all shiny new ear tags. Then they moved on to the weigh scale for us to gather their individual base weights.
From here on in, weighing’s will be compared for monitoring purposes so that we know if they are gaining as they should be.
We are getting ready to welcome in our first official 2021 Ten-day guest stay. This afternoon guests will
arrive and they will get to spend the next ten days riding and experiencing ranch life. We are thrilled to be back in action here at MMR and looking forward to a season filled with laughter, making new friends and seeing old ones.
Have a great week ahead!
April 5th, 2021 Volume 16, Issue 13
The last two weeks we had Tommy Kilgore certified master farrier, out again to help us put the first set of shoes on for the year. Tommy started off the trip shoeing some of Shayne and Des’ personal horses, as well as a few client horses. It was humbling to see the skill and efficiency of a master farrier. It was his third trip to McGinnis Meadows; the last two we mostly worked on the foundations and trimming, along with anatomy and confirmation of the horses.
On this trip however, we got to focus more on doing the shoeing. Using the aids Tommy was providing and showing us, we worked on training our eyes to spot the signs of the foot and body, and any corrections that would need to be made. A few examples of this are:
-Keeping the trim balanced and level.
-Shaping the shoe to support the leg and confirmation of the horse
-Setting the shoe to the center of the leg, as well as the break over and stride length to fit each individual horse’s needs.
Being able to work with Tommy for an extended period of time has been a privilege and a great experience during the last three visits. He has had us working not only on the technique of trimming, and shoeing but also our awareness of the conformation of the horses and our surroundings while shoeing.
We have some special guests this week, the Chief of Seattle Police and his lovely family. They are joined by Dale and Renea who have taken advantage of our month long horsemanship stay experience.
After all the long days and a physically and mentally challenging week, we got to end it with a test run of the new Laser Tag guns Shayne bought for the guests/staff to play with this summer. The battle started at 6PM Saturday night– the teams split up and not surprisingly, we were so competitive that we continued playing almost until dark!
Until next time,
Kevin & Scott
March 29, 2021, Volume 16, Issue 12
Lots going on this week! To start off we’ll catch up with the latest happenings in the arena. The main goal for me this last week was
getting my ponies to truly turn loose. Des and I both worked on new ways to have our horses become more relaxed through out their whole bodies. We did this by finding the perfect rate with just our seats to where the horse’s head became steady and rhythmic with the body. By doing so, when we picked up on a soft feel, they were already releasing any possible tension before the reins came into the game. It was nice to take some time and experiment with what can be accomplished with just our seat and legs. Often when I come back to these exercises, I find things missing in myself (position and trust in the horse). Once I improved on this, my rides started tying together better and I was able to feel of my horses more.
Tommy has been spending the last ten days with us, coaching Kevin and Scott on shoeing the whole herd of ranch ponies. It’s been great having Tommy back at the ranch. The boys and I really enjoy listening to his stories early in the mornings before work starts and at the end of the day. I learn something knew every-time he comes, not only about shoeing but also life.
Levi has returned to the ranch to become apart of the crew. He has been busy helping Chris with many of the spring projects. It’s great having him back.
At the end of the day Saturday, we all met at the lodge for our first game of laser tag! Shayne set us all up with the coolest laser guns and we picked our teams. We all got super into it, coming up with strategies and hiding spots around the lodge. We set up one flag on one end of the lodge yard and one on another end. Whoever got the opposing teams flag to the other end first won the game. It literally sounded like a battle field with the gun’s sound effects of rounds flying through the air. We played for hours running through the woods or sliding under cabin decks. We all had a blast.
And so the journey continues………..
March 20, 2021, Volume 16, Issue 11
Live like someone left the gate open…This is one of my favorite sayings. Well, this past week, the horses certainly did!
It is always amazing to see the frolic that happens, when the horses get somewhere they just know they
are not supposed to be. Late last week I got a radio call from Randy that some horses had crossed over the bridge into his pasture and were heading North. This is two pastures West of where the herd is supposed to be!
With everyone else out doing different things around the ranch, I rounded up Emily and the two of us headed down the county road to park at the closest gate we could find. It is impossible to drive through the pastures right now, as they are spring thawing, and deep in mud and water.
So we hoofed it on foot (no pun intended), running through the pastures all the way to Randy and Dori’s place. Emily was calf deep in swampiness at times (for me it was knee deep!) but we pressed on. Luckily by the time we arrived at Randy’s house, he had corralled them all into one of his pens. We went around to close the gates to the surrounding pastures, thinking about the best way to get them back to the West Pasture. Randy was kind enough to drive his Kubota around the North side to get those gates so we didn’t have to keep traversing through the muck. He did pretty well until the way back when we heard the radio call for Dori to come down with the backhoe :-).
With Dori to the rescue to get Randy’s Kubota unstuck, Emily and I let the horses out, me directing them with a flag and Em blocking, to keep them headed towards their destination. It all went very smooth, as we uncrossed our fingers, and got them tucked back into their pasture for the evening. We cannot be 100% sure but Taps is always on the suspect list when it comes to opening gates. I have never seen a horse before that can open a rollup garage door, then the latched gate, and then proceed to let all of his buddies in (or out), which such efficiency! Just to be certain, Chris now has all the gates sporting carabineers that I doubt even Taps will figure out. We all sure did get our exercise that day!
In other exciting news on the ranch, Tommy Kilgore is back to help Scott and Kevin continue their farrier
education. It is that time of year again when all the shoes need to go back on. Each day they work their way through the herd, while getting valuable feedback from Tommy. At the end of the day, everyone gets to share their stories from the day and listen to Tommy’s experiences that he has had throughout his career.
All in all, it was a pretty fun week!
Until next time,
March 13, 2021, Volume 16, Issue 10
I’m back from my two week vacation and I’m so happy to be home. So far my first week back has consisted of relentless hazing from the boys, even Shayne has taken part. And honestly, I’ve been loving it. 🙂 They may not say it out right, but I think they missed me just a little bit.
Now that our days have gotten longer and sunnier, we have been tackling our long list of spring projects. The boys have been busy getting our tent set up, (looking forward to dinners outside) and Emily and I have been cleaning just about everything. I’m the kind of weirdo who finds cleaning and reorganizing very satisfying. So it’s been a nice change of pace whipping things into shape.
Back in the arena, we have been preparing our A string ponies for the upcoming season. After having all winter off in the pastures, the crew is ready to get back to work. Daily, we go through our progressions and experiment with different exercises. I’m constantly learning new things and changing my feel with each horse. With the warmer weather approaching quickly, comes the shedding of the winter coats. On Saturday, the boys,
myself, and Brenda gave the whole herd a good brushing. The horses absolutely loved the extra attention. At one point while I was grooming Magoo, Little Red and a few others lined up for their turn of pampering. After the grooming session, all of us were covered head to toe with the various colors of horse hair.
Before we know it, cattle will be occupying the meadows and eventually the mountains. And we’ll be enjoying the hot summer sun and no more ice to slip around on. We are all looking forward to hopefully having you all back at the ranch for more exciting adventures!
And so the journey continues……..
March 6, 2021, Volume 16, Issue 9
Janice gave me the great opportunity to write another Highline so I must have done alright on the last one I wrote. 🙂
This week has felt like spring and winter are having an arm wrestling match and there’s no clear winner yet. We have had everything from 50 degrees with blue skies to freezing temps and snow. As much as i do love the snow and winter time activities, myself and all of us here at the ranch are ready for the warmer days ahead. We have just a few weeks remaining to give us a chance to do spring preparations and be ready to receive our guests coming for the ten day in April.
We have lots to do from opening up the cabins and housing that were winterized last fall; Getting the cabins and lodge yards looking tip top. To riding through and shoeing the string. It will be a busy month but who doesn’t love fun, longer days and sunshine.
Maddie returned from her two weeks off. We are all glad to see her back and have another hand around. With Maddie gone, Emily and Brenda worked on lots of projects.
Scott and I had quite a few days in the arena by ourselves or with just Shayne and des. We shared lots of laughs, roped the dummy and pulled the roping sled as much as possible in preparation for cattle and branding and rode through a tone of horses. Is was a lot of fun for both of us and we are looking forward to next week with the whole crew back and riding together.
That’s all I have for you this week. We look forward to seeing many of you this season and thanks for reading.
Until next time
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…..