The Highline Blog

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!


There’s always work to be done…

Volume 16, Issue 35


Hey Y’all!

Here on the ranch we have started to think about all of the winter tasks on our lists. We may not have anymore guests for the season but there is always work to be done. I am as busy as ever booking guests for out 2022 season. We have something special planned for our 2022 year and we are eager to share the news with everyone. You’ll all have to wait just a little bit longer though. Don’t worry, we know you’re going to love it!

Emily and Sophie

The boys have been running around wrapping up hot tapes, cleaning out trailers and storing them away for the season, and cutting wood to stock up all of the houses for the long winter ahead. Now that the cattle are gone Chris has been busy dragging the grazing pastures to ensure better regrowth in the spring. James has started in on cleaning each and every nook and cranny of our Freckers guest saddles. We take extra care in how we clean our tack to ensure it will last for generations.

Holly has been cooking up a storm in the kitchen, always making sure we have plenty to eat to keep us going through the day. Each dinner always has homemade bread and some sort of sweet treat to finish the night with. She’s currently  working on her Thanksgiving day menu for us. While it’ll only be the staff here at the ranch this year for the Holidays we take no shortcuts for the holidays. As far as we are concerned we are all family here and we enjoy creating memories for years to come.

We’ll until next week folks…


Load em’ up, Move em’ out!

Volume 16, Issue 34

Hey Everyone, Chris here.
Load em up and move em out. Cattle season just came to an end here at the ranch with the trucks loaded up and heading down the road. It was all smiles on the last day even though the weather wasn’t exactly short sleeve appropriate, but it’s October in northern Montana so cold and wet is to be expected. The day started out with the wranglers riding through the herd just before sunup to get them moving and watered before driving them to the corrals.

The crew sorting off steers

Once in the corrals they would cut out 10 at a time so Shayne could get them on the scales. Moment of truth…….. how much weight did they put on since April? After each group ran across the scale a weight would be called out, you could tell by the expression on everyone’s faces that it had been a good year. All the work and effort, days in the brush finding those one or two Mavericks so you’d have a full count; hours running fence and checking water; it’s all paid off.

Brand inspector Tom and Ranch hand Chris

The pastures are shut down, water tanks drained, fences turned off, mineral pots stacked ready for another year. That doesn’t mean the work is through though, winter is coming……

Soggy ponies

But that doesn’t mean we can’t have a little celebration. Shaynes and Des threw a Fall/Halloween party for everyone at the ranch. That’ll be a story for next weeks high line.

Shayne and Cooley waiting on the 1st batch of steers

Until then, Your pal Chris

Before that winter chill sets in…

Volume 16, Issue 33

“As a rider, you must slowly and methodically show your horse what is appropriate. You also have to discourage what’s inappropriate, not by making the inappropriate impossible, but by making it difficult so that the horse himself chooses appropriate behavior. You can’t choose it for him; you can only make it difficult for him to make the wrong choices. If, however, you make it impossible for him to make the wrong choices, you’re making war.”
― Buck Brannaman

 Where has this week gone!? It felt like just yesterday we had started our October 10-day and now everyone is on their way home and we are gearing up for winter. This week has been all about tying up loose ends on projects that we were hoping to accomplish before the winter weather sets in. And for us that includes putting rides on some of the young colts we have here at the ranch!

Shayne helping Des put her first ride on Hadlee

Des has been working tirelessly to get several young colts, between ages 2-4, ready for their first rides and it’s something I have always been eager to be apart of. The method Shayne has taught her and her unwavering dedication to the process have produced horses that don’t know trouble. Sure, some might be a little touchier than others and some might be a bit more independent but in the end the horse trusts the human 100% because she has never put them in a situation to show them otherwise.

Shayne working colt Hadlee

Watching her and Shayne work these babies on the ground and under saddle has really been eye opening and you can bet I’ve been taking notes! I recently picked up a started 4 year old colt who while very friendly and gentle to ride proved that his foundation on the ground was nonexistent. It’s ok though because after working with Des and Shayne and watching them work their colts I know what I need to do to get through to mine. I have all the time in the world and no agenda, I just need to make sure I don’t get him into trouble and that I focus on that connection.

Lefty on the Mountain

Kev also has a 2 year old he has been getting ready and soon he too will be on his colt working him through the process. It’s really cool how we have such an opportunity to learn and to share what we have going on with one another and to have the support of Shayne and Des who have helped us every step of the way.

Emily and her colt Tig sharing smores on the mountain

Aside from working the colts we have also been prepping for the departure of the cattle. We have pulled them from the mountain and they are now down in our meadows grazing until they ship out next week. They all look really healthy and have certainly packed on the weight but we will still cross our fingers until we get them on the scales for the final weigh in.

Well that’s all for this round folks. Until Next time!





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.

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…