The Highline Blog
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!
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.
Fair thee well friends,
Volume 16, Issue 26
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.
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!
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.
Wells that’s all for now folks! Until next time…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
Volume 16. Issue 24
“New friends are like new adventures. You never know what lessons they will teach you.”
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.
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!
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.
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!
Until next time folks…
Volume 16, Issue 23
Ride Em’ Cowgirl!
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!
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!
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.
Well that’s it for now but rest assured, there will be plenty of stories to share next week!
Until then, Happy Trails!
Volume 16, Issue 22
“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty”
This week has been such a whirlwind! We finally finished up a long two weeks of haying and the hay crew did a heck of a job getting the meadows mowed and bailed and packed away nice and neatly in our hay barns.
Master Shoer Tommy Kilgore also arrived this week to mentor Kevin and Scott as they worked through our herd of 90 horses, getting each and everyone trimmed and shoed. It’s always such a great time when Tommy comes to visit as he is a wealth of knowledge and always has such great stories to tell. We truly enjoy having him at the ranch.
On top of all of that there are always more projects to be done and this gal got to get out of the office and kitchen for a bit and get on the fencing crew to put up some new fence lines in our cattle grazing areas. I love learning new tasks and fencing is no exception! Each day was more grueling than the last but boy did I slept well!
No one every said moving out to Montana and working on a ranch would be easy. In fact, most people enjoy pointing out just how difficult ranch life can be. For me, the constant challenges that pop up daily from cooking meals on the fly to joining in on the fence crew putting up new fence are what I live for. I thrive on a hard days work and take pride in every task I do, as does every member of the McGinnis Team. We are ranchers. We are cowboys.
Until Next Time…
Volume 16, Issue 21
“Discipline isn’t a dirty word. Far from it. Discipline is the one thing that separates us from chaos and anarchy. Discipline implies timing. It’s the precursor to good behavior, and it never comes from bad behavior. People who associate discipline with punishment are wrong: with discipline, punishment is unnecessary.”
As I look back on the past two weeks that we all just spent with the master himself, Buck Brannaman, I am reminded of just how long the journey to becoming a great horseman is. How long is that you ask? Well to put it into perspective Buck told us that he was still chasing that dream and that it would forever be a lifelong endeavor. I expected no different answer from him and it made me smile, knowing that I am on the right path. The journey down the road to great horsemanship starts with one tiny step forward and an open mind. You must be willing to fail time and time again and learn from your failures, only then will you start to take more steps forward. You must also learn to control your emotions and realize that frustration has no place on the back of a horse. If something isn’t working then you must realize that there is a disconnect between human and horse and that maybe you need to come at it from a different angle to try and connect the lines. It’s never the horses’ fault, only the rider. So we, as riders need to listen more to what the horse is trying to teach us.
Buck worked with us on exactly this. He hammered home how important it was to listen and feel of the horse. He worked with us on allowing the horses feet to become extensions of our own. “His feet are my feet” he’d say as he rode around the arena weaving in and out of other riders with his arms crossed, steering with only his legs.
We would all then set off trying to mimic what he had just shown us and while we were all trying so hard to not use our reins the class looked more like a carnival game of bumper cars than a choreographed dance at first, but everyone remained disciplined in their task and before you knew it the majority of the class had their arms folded and were weaving in and out of one another with big smiles on their faces. As Shayne and Des always tell us, “Trust the process”.
We had an amazing two weeks with some amazing people. Life stories were shared with one another and support given in everyone’s on going journey. It’s amazing to me that people can come from all walks of life to share one common passion. Once you are on that horse it matters not where you came from, it only matters what you do in that moment with your horse.
Here’s to another wonderful year with Buck and we can’t wait for next year and to see Bucks big rig roll on down our McGinnis Meadows driveway once more.
July 19th 2021 Volume 16, Issue 21
We have been enjoying the long summer days here at the ranch. Longer days means more daylight for more adventures.
Over the past few weeks we have been getting ready for the Buck Brannaman clinics here at the ranch. So you can imagine we have been crazy busy prepping for his arrival. We have been making sure the arena is extra clean, preparing cabins for guests, wrapping up projects and riding the ponies!
We were all very excited for Buck’s arrival and ready to absorb everything he had to teach like a sponge. I have to say it was surreal watching Buck ride in the arena I have spent almost everyday in for nearly 3 years now. The crew and I lined up along the arena fence as we watched Buck ride in our new indoor arena for the first time. We were completely still and silent as Buck danced with his horse to his playlist. 😁
After Buck’s opening ride we brought in our guest horses and bridled them all as they stood in a perfect circle at the center of the arena. The guests mounted and the clinics began! Our clinic days consisted of horsemanship in the indoor arena, then out to the big outdoor arena for some cattle work. It was so fun to watch the guests improve and figure out how to operate around mischievous steers. Overall our first group who attended the first ranch clinic did fantastic and were a blast to be around. For the following clinic, Shayne & Des headed into Kailspell for 3 more days of horsemanship at the Majestic Arena clinic. We are about to start our next clinic here at the ranch and we’ve got a whole new crowd of guests to teach and I’m excited to watch how far they will come.
With the end of July approaching, comes haying season. That means our hay sheds will soon be stacked to the roof with fresh feed. Along with our beautiful meadows trimmed and square hay bales sitting in perfect rows. Add in one of our summer sunsets and it looks like a movie scene.
And so the journey continues………….
June13th 2021 Volume 16, Issue 20
I am a new intern at McGinnis Meadows, and I will be writing the high line today to tell you all about what has been happening at the ranch lately!
I recently started my internship last week at the ranch to learn more about the Buck Brannaman style and approach of horsemanship, ranching business, and the active lifestyle that is apart of them both. I came to McGinnis Meadows because I wanted learn the Buck Brannamn style and approach of horsemanship in a ranch setting, and this program develops people both professionally and personally. That’s something that makes it great!
So what been going on at the ranch?!
To start, last Tuesday (which was the first day of my internship), we all drove cattle from different parts of the ranch to the corrals to count them up and doctor them.They were everywhere and we rode out in small groups to find them all! There was one pesky steer that got away, had to be found, and then brought back to the corrals.
The Seattle Mounted Police Unit also came to the ranch last week to practice and refine their horsemanship so they can deploy at a moments notice wherever they are needed with their horses in Seattle. They’re a great group of people, and they all did an excellent job riding and learning!
The arena horsemanship done here has very high attention to detail when being taught by Shayne and Des. They have eagle eyes and fox ears when it comes to seeing and hearing everything you do as a rider, and that makes them see what you are familiar with and what you need to work on. Shayne, Des, and the wrangler crew are all great teachers and have helped me and all the interns improve our horsemanship a lot in the past few days. I have never met a team of horseman and horsewomen that can teach as effectively and efficiently at an accelerated rate like that, and that is something special and unique. They all truly care about developing each and every horse and rider to be their best, and be set up for success.
Well that is all for now. There will be much more to write on next time from horses, to cattle, and riding on the mountain!
May 24th, 2021 Volume 16, Issue 19
We ended our second 10-day this past week with 13 guests with an assortment of riding backgrounds. We did horsemanship to start the week out strong, focusing on the fundamentals and the importance of getting life in our horses and how it applies to moving cattle. We then moved cattle from Shayne’s pasture to the Joanne Wallace piece. We had two groups go out at
separate times and were able to get all 227 head of cattle moved in 1 day! To end the week out we took a beautiful scenic all day ride to the top of one of the mountains where Emily, Chris and Levi had a fire pit set up with hotdogs for everyone to roast. It was a great way to finish up a good week.
After the guests left I was able to finish up rest of Shayne’s mountain fence line while Levi and Chris took
care of Ferguson and the other ranch fences. The views can always be a reward doing the fence and it’s really one of my favorite things to do on the ranch. Being out on the top of the mountain with that clean air and big blue sky really is something special.
Well, that’s all I have for this week. Maybe next time I can tell you all about how Emily has been training me to help prep in the kitchen!