The Highline Blog

Grateful Heart

Volume 17, Issue 17

May in Montana, to me, is an exceptional month. Rich, nutritious green has returned and with it follow the sights and sounds of wildness coming alive. When I was checking our newly branded cattle a few days ago, it occurred to me how fortunate I was at that very moment to ride a horse and check cattle in the middle of a bright spring day without hunger, fear of gunfire or fear of airplanes flying overhead to destroy this very thing that I deeply enjoy.

 

May in Montana and around our country is a time when people pause to remember those soldiers who have given their lives to keep the United States of America the United States. Some decorate the graves of the fallen with flowers or flags, while others take off their caps, bow their heads in humble gratitude. Here on the ranch, there are no graves of the fallen to place flags or flowers upon, but there are flags hung in each arena- the old and the new- as well outside the dining room. I am really proud of that.

I spend a great deal of time in the old indoor (for that is where the horse hospital is located). Most evenings before I turn off the lights, I look up and gaze at our country’s flag hanging in its glory. I pause, give thanks and often times tear up (as I am now). I know that behind that flag is great deal of sacrifice and selflessness. Being able to work and breathe and live on a ranch in the green of Montana is a blessing given to me by those that chose to protect my way of life now and before I was born. Yes, Montana is a truly special please, this ranch is a special place, but without those that have given their live to protect this land, I would not be walking or riding on its soil.  -Brenda

Rope Em’, Choke Em’, and Smoke Em’

Volume 17, Issue 18

It’s branding week here on the ranch. We received 188 steers last week and had some help come in to get them all tagged, branded and checked for nuts.

Ty Heth came in from the Bitterroot, a long time cowboy friend of Shayne’s. Randy came over on his faithful horse Chip Des and Shayne rode their bridle horses and some younger ones in their string, and Scott and I got to ride some really nice ranch horses like King, Mad Max, and Sprocket.

We had some new riders in the pen this year holding feet and helping set shots. Kim rode Trump and Scotch, Daniel rode Dandy, Jenna on Cheech and Micheli rode Fancy Pants.

While we roped and held down steers the ground crew worked smooth, hard and efficiently with Brenda leading the charge.

We had a good time and finished in four days and the steers are out on green grass with some supplemental hay.

While we were getting through the cattle Bird and Kolten were hard at work keeping the rest of the ranch running, changing out mattresses, feeding the livestock, making sure all the gates were fine tuned, working on equipment, and much much more.

We wrapped up the week with a short visit from our friends at the Seattle mounted police and a few days of horsemanship. 

Until next time, Kevin.

 

The Cattle Have Arrived!

Volume 17, Issue 17

Hi everyone, Kim here!

Last week was a whirlwind!  Early in the week, we still had guests from our first ten day clinic. I cannot believe how much progress they made in just ten days. What an amazing group of people!  I’m so thankful to have the opportunity to meet so many interesting people here and look forward to meeting the other guests who are booked throughout the season. 

The interns are also making progress in their riding. Their dedication, great attitude, and hard work is very much appreciated around here. Jenna and Chavo even helped teach guests!  Micheli had the opportunity to help check cattle on horseback this week during her first week here!

Wednesday and Thursday, we received three loads of black angus steers. All together, we had 188 delivered. We pushed them to the pasture just below Randy and Dori’s house. I love the cattle being here because all of us wranglers get to ride through and check them and the fences each day. I love having a job to do on horseback. All of the work in the arena this winter really pays off when there is a job to be done. 

Today we got everything ready for branding and practiced roping on ugly, our roping dummy sled. We all took turns pulling him around and roping him. We’re pretty excited to get started branding this week!

Until next time!

-Kim

First Guest Week of the Season

Volume 17, Issue 16

Hey everyone, Des here!

We have officially kickstarted our season and are in the middle of our first 10-day ranch experience!

Getting everything ship shape before we opened up was a mini-marathon for the crew. There were cabins to clean, we had to re-open our saddling barn, get it cleaned, put up the tent, clean our red sheds, deep clean and repaint the lodge and kitchen, and rake up the grounds. Our gift shop got a face lift as did the Gameroom. We had a new Vulcan stove installed, and we got a new commercial dishwasher too!

The weather definitely took a strange turn on the very first night of the 10-day. It started snowing and snowing and snowing. It turned into a full-on blizzard and it didn’t stop until the ranch was covered in a fresh layer of snow about 3 inches thick! Definitely NOT expected, especially since we had been having mild temps in the high 50s just the week prior (which is more typical for April weather).

The sky has gotten bluer and the sun has been shining but boy it’s still been chilly. We hope we can get outside during the second half of this session but in the meantime, we are keeping things interesting in the arena. Our guests have all made great strides in their horsemanship since day 1.

We made a point this 10-day (and we plan on doing this for each one this season) to take videos of everyone riding on the first day so that we have a comparison as the days carry on. Kim and the crew have been diligent about taking videos and every night at dinner the crew and the guests get to watch each other during our riding patterns to see how many improvements have been made and to get some tips on what to focus on more for the next day. It’s a wonderful learning tool!

We’ve been working on refining posting the trot, our stops, cow turns, leg yields, a press off, trotting serpentines, backing arcs, reaching feet and just a little bit of cantering. We are really going to bear down on cantering for the rest of the time. Today the guests had a roping session in the morning. In the afternoon they were able to watch a colt starting demo with Kev, Scott and I with Shayne helping/coaching.

We also had a new intern named Micheli start this week, as well as two new ranch employees named Dani and Kolton. Our heavy equipment operator extraordinare, Willy, will be here any day. We are just waiting on Alex to show up in another week and a half (you guys might remember him as one of our interns from last year) and then our crew for the summer season and officially complete.

I think I speak for everyone in that I am so happy to have our guests back again. Things just get to humdrum around here without you guys!

With much love, Des

First 10 Day Clinic

Volume 17, Issue 15


Spring has finally come upon us as we get ready on the ranch for cleaning outside. Snow has melted, birds are singing and horse hair is everywhere.

Today, we started our first ten day but while we are getting ready for that we started cleaning our spring cleaning outside around the ranch. Working on cleaning up yards as the days are as nice as they can be with spring weather sometimes trying to beat the rain.

The horses are happy being able to finally explore a bigger pasture with some grass here and there but they still have their other furry companions hanging around almost like they are part of the herd still.

Those elk are looking for that last bite to eat from the hay before their  feed on the mountain starts growing and they disappear only to be seen on the mountains.

Til next week!

Happy trails, 

Scott

Springtime at the Ranch

Volume 17, Issue 14

Spring arrived on March 20th, well according to the calendar anyway. I have been looking forward to this date for weeks. Naively, year after year, I imagine that the transition between winter and spring would carry with it a magical wand of warmer weather. But here on the ranch in Northwest Montana that magical wand leans on the seasonal wall quite a bit past the March 20th date. Over the past couple of weeks, there has been a few days of snow and freezing rain, but fortunately not enough to throw a scarf around your neck and wear heavy gloves. There have been other days when the sun burns bright and spring seems well on its way causing the snow to melt, creeks to rise and birds of many kinds to return to their summer home.

With the change of winter to spring, comes many changes at the ranch- from coats to shoes. Our herd of horses are now shedding their winter coat requiring layers and layers of grooming. With the snow melting, bare ground exposed and trails to ride, most all of the horses need a full set of shoes (some of the retiredhorses only need a front set). This past week, our farriers were busy forming shoes, hammering nails and assessing each foot as they went about their work – all under the guidance and counsel of master farrier Tommy Kilgore who comes to the ranch every six weeks, except in the deep lull of winter. To Tommy, shoeing a horse in not just about nailing metal to hoof, but in balancing the whole horse. Each foot is studied to get the end result of overall balance in the horse. This requires sharp mental focus, stamina and a great deal of patience. Under Tommy’s master craftsmanship, the ranch horses have had far less injuries and look and feel better overall.

After all the horses were shod or trimmed, you could see the pride in our farriers’ posture, the tiredness in their eyes and the smiles on their faces for a job well done. As for all the horses that still need another few layers of hair brushed away, well…that is another matter. That job will continue on for a few more weeks. But, by the middle to late spring, they will have shed out their fluffy long hair and grown shiny, slick coats.

Update from Kevin

Volume 17, Issue 13
Kevin here, been a busy week on the ranch. From deep cleaning the indoor arena, to riding and prepping for shoeing the herd.

We did our quarterly clean in the arena. The crew came together and knocked it out in record time with Des leading the charge.

With us finishing the arena it gave us two days to finish the week up with some riding. Shayne teaching horsemanship to the interns while we work through some guest horses to get them ready for the spring branding and guests.
While Jenna, Daniel, Kim and myself were riding with Shayne and Des, James and Scott were getting shoeing supplies ready for Tommy Kilgore our shoeing mentor, to arrive.
Bird stayed busy all week fixing appliances and some things here and there in buildings. So everything will work and look top notch for the guest season.
That’s all for this week, I will catch you next time.
-Kevin

Preparing for Guest Season

Volume 17, Issue 12
Hi everyone, Kim here. We’ve been super busy this week with guest season just around the corner trying to get projects completed. The snow is starting to thaw and signs of spring are beginning to show. I’m pretty sure there is not a more beautiful place on earth than northwestern Montana.

April 9th is our first 10 day and we couldn’t be more excited to see our guests. The cattle will be arriving right after that and then we will be branding. Exciting times are ahead!

We’ve spent a lot of time riding in the arena this week and have started getting horses conditioned for the guests. Des and Shayne are riding their personal horses and client horses. Des and Kev have also been riding some of the horses that are being prepared for the guest string. Interns Daniel and Jenna are riding horses that help improve their skills. I have been riding my personal horse, Shiloh and ranch horse Jasper. I am still amazed with the quality of horses and horsemanship here at the ranch!

Besides riding, everyone has been hard at work on spring cleaning and chores.

James finished cleaning all the headstalls, breast collars, chaps and saddles for the guests. This was quite an undertaking!

Holly has painted the lodge and has it looking crisp and beautiful for the guests! She also made some of her delicious homemade rolls.

Dori has been cleaning and working hard to get everything organized for guest season.

Scott has made sure all of the ranch vehicles are clean and serviced.

Kev has made sure the new arena stays in top condition and even helped Holly paint.

Bird has done everything from painting to cleaning drains to building shelves to fixing gates and doors so everything is running smoothly.  There is a lot of upkeep and maintenance here and he gets the job done right.  There’s not much he can’t do!

Brenda takes the health of the herd very serious and makes sure each horse is in top condition. Taking care of 85 horses is no easy task!

Daniel and Jenna have jumped right in and helped with all kinds of ranch chores from fencing to feeding to cleaning stalls. We have a new intern, Mecheli joining us soon.

I have been hard at work getting guests booked for the season and making sure we have all their paperwork in order. I have also been making mecates and new lead ropes out of tree line and even helped with organizing and cleaning the lodge.

As you can see, the horses are enjoying the warmer temperatures and have been relaxing in the pasture.  They’re also shedding their winter coats!

I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to work with such a dynamic crew and experience this level of horsemanship!

Until next time,

Kim

All Smiles

Volume 17, Issue 11

We got some fresh snowfall at the ranch this week!

Hi everyone! Jenna here. This was my first week at the ranch as an intern, and the smile plastered on my face as I write this says it all. It has been a busy week with lots to do to get ready for the fast-approaching guest season, but everyone has continued to move ahead and work hard in good spirits.

The wranglers have been busy making all new leads for the season and Jenna got to try her hand at leather stamping on some of the poppers.

So far, the majority of my time has been spent in the arena gathering every morsel of horsemanship I can from Shane, Des, and Kevin. Every chance I get to ask a question or even just watch them ride makes me even more grateful to be here. I get out of bed every day excited to learn from them, and something tells me there is never going to be a day that I am not.

For me, this week has been all about learning the ropes. We bookend our days with chores to keep the horses in the best condition, and there are lots of things that need to be done in between. Let me just tell you, whether it’s working in the arena or out around the ranch, this team is the spitting image of discipline. I am fortunate to learn alongside all of these wonderful people in such a beautiful place, and I am looking forward to the long days ahead.

The deer have been very active this week!

Until next time!

-Jenna

Plan to Adapt

Volume 17, Issue 10

Hello everyone, it’s Daniel here. I’m one of the interns. Man, what a week it’s been at the ranch. One thing you find out really quick here is that things don’t always go as planned. When you’re dealing with live animals and mother nature; things are very dynamic and can occasionally be unpredictable. Right off the bat, we started the week strong with a lot of rain most days this week. There was some snow, and also some freezing temps occasionally sprinkled in.


Being we’re in such a remote area, our team has to make sure we take the necessary precautionary measures to keep roads and paths safe for the team and the animals. Kevin did a great job grinding the roads out each morning and night this week to keep the roads in check.

We also lost power two nights in a row here at the ranch due to heavy rain, which made things interesting. Fortunately, we were prepared. Bird, James and Scott fired the generator right up to keep us going with power while the electricity came back.

The chores were still taken care of, as usual, and we got a lot of great riding in the indoor arena. We didn’t even bat an eye to any of these circumstances because one of the strongest aspects of our team is our ability to adapt. No matter what is thrown at us, you can be sure that we’ll adapt and figure out a way to keep moving forward because we have chores that need to get done and a lot of great horsemanship to learn.

You never quite really know what surprises each day may bring, yet one thing is for certain: you’ll need to plan to adapt to whatever the day brings in order to make the most out of it.

Until next time!

Daniel, Chavez, Chavo, Dan