The Highline Blog

Branding Begins!

May 3, 2020, Volume 15, Issue 17

Randy, Kevin, Shayne, and Des

Welcome back to another edition of The Highline!

And let me tell you, it has been a glorious week here at the ranch! The weather has finally warmed and sunshine has been abundant. With the arrival of consistently enjoyable weather comes the time we have all been waiting for and highly anticipating: branding!!

Go ground crew!

Every year, we brand our incoming herd of steers with our backward Z and O brand. This is done with style and tradition in mind. Our ropers are horseback to rope the steer’s head, hind feet, and front feet. Once the little fella is on the ground the ground crew makes sure the ropes are secure and bring in the branding irons as quickly as possible. Once this is all done, the ground crew clears out as quickly as possible and the ropes are loosened allowing the steer to quietly get back to his feet and return to his buddies. In addition to branding this year, we are also administering vaccinations to our steers and ear-tagging them. It’s really a grand production! So much fun! With two afternoons of branding under our belts we’ve already completed 50 head. Though this year, we are missing our ground crew boss, Trent Marquis, who usually is here every year to give us pointers and keep us safe on the ground, we are doing our best to achieve efficiency.

Some of our all-women ground crew: Brenda, Emily, Anna, Bonnie, and Janice

In other news, we got a reminder this week of how wiley and wild our steers can be- when Anna and Emily went to feed the cattle one morning it was discovered that one was all on his lonesome on the other side of the fence from all the other steers. And it was quickly determined that he was not going to allow himself to be retrieved quietly. Shayne and some of the wranglers set out to find him and it was with the utmost precision that we were able to get him back with his buddies- if we had moved too fast or pushed on him too much he was liable to run or even charge at our horses!

Bonnie and Brownie

Today is sadly the day that we have to say farewell to our intern, Bonnie. She will be traveling all the way back home to England over the next couple of days. She’s always looking for a good laugh and she has also been invaluable to Brenda for the help she gives doctoring the horses. We hope the best for her in her travels and her work with her horses at home.

With another week in the books, we are thankful for the arrival of May and the further presence of spring in our valley. Be well, Friends! We’ll see you soon.

Happy trails,


There are more flowers all the time!

The herd <3

Tricks and Tips

April 25, 2020, Volume 15, Issue 16

Handsome Scotch

What a week!

Jeepers. So much has been going on it’s difficult to know where to start. As you all know by now, our steers are officially settled into life on the ranch. Every morning, Anna and Emily go out and give them their 8 bales of hay spread throughout the pasture in front of Randy’s house. They are content all day long to much and snooze- a routine that a lot of us around here would not mind to adopt for a couple of days.

Des and Shayne

Emily and the miserly Trouble

We are also still hard at work preparing our ranch horses for the season- we’ve been riding out with them and working on exercises that will give them strength and endurance for the coming season. Pro tip: always do transitions. Do you have a horse that overflexes? Do lots of transitions. Have a horse that gets strung out? Transitions. Have a horse that can sometimes get ahead of your leg? Again, I tell you transitions! The movement up and down from gates and rates encourages your horse to engage their hind end. The more they are able to carry themselves using their hind, the less they will push and rush, and the more they will be able to find their balance.

Tucker <3

Earlier this week, a bunch of the wranglers got to ride out with Shayne and Des to further learn from them the ins and outs of sorting cattle. It was a blast! At the end, Shayne and Des decided to be very silly versions of themselves and turn the tables on us! They declared that they were now our guests and we had to teach them as if they had no previous ranch experience. Talk about pressure. But it was all so much fun and laughter was never in short supply for the remainder of the afternoon as they dolled out jokes and funny stories for our entertainment as we attempted to ‘teach’ them how to operate their horses.

We are also working on plenty of projects around the ranch. Scott and Kevin are kept plenty busy checking, rechecking, and fixing fences for us! They’re preparing for when the cattle move into various pastures and onto the mountains around the ranch. Anna is honing her skill in the forge, shoeing our multitude of ponies; she is just a delight to have around and the hardest worker you will ever find. And, of course, Emily is keeping us chugging along with her hardy and delicious meals that we look forward to at the end of the day. There is nothing better than having a job well done and sitting down with your friends (for us it is more like family) to a good meal.

Sunny, sleepy ponies

We’re thinking of all of our friends that we are missing having with us during these weeks. Keep your chin up- we are doing the same.

Happy trails,




Elk in our shop pasture


New growth! Bring on the wild plants!

Horses, Steers, and Sunshine- What Could Be Better?

Catman and Chalkeye

April 18, 2020, Volume 15, Issue 16

It has been an absolutely wonderful week here at McGinnis Meadows! The highlights: horsemanship (obviously), beautiful weather, and… drumroll please… cattle! Our steers arrived! Lets dig in.

Our new buddies

Starting with horsemanship, we have all been having a marvelous time riding with Shayne and Des in their indoor arena. It has been a great environment to learn and be able to focus on the individual needs of every horse that is ridden. Lately we have all been working on the hind-and-front exercise that is so vital to the balance and education of the horses. Around the perimeter of the arena you will see all of us rolling the hind 180o and then bringing the front end around 180o to result in coming out on a straight line. We are learning how important it is to have straightness through every movement. To have a proper soft feel you need straightness. To have a proper leg-yield, you first need straightness. It’s a beautiful transformation when you achieve the feeling of a horse standing up under saddle with straightness and balance.

Bonnie working with Brownie from the fence

In our groundwork department, Janice and Bonnie have been hard at work! Every morning you can find them in the Kit arena going over the fundamentals of proper groundwork. Bonnie says she is having a wonderful time 🙂

These cattle sure love their mineral!

On Wednesday of this week we welcomed the arrival of most anticipated additions to the ranch: the steers. These tiny little guys are settling in nicely to their new pastures. Early on Thursday morning, Shayne and a bunch of the wranglers rode out to sort out any sick cattle so that they can be sure to be doctored and returned to their former health. It was a blast! Once we got them all sorted out, we moved the lot to their pasture in front of Randy’s house where their dinner was set out waiting for them. Since the sickos are now doctored and on the mend, they have also been allowed to join their buddies in the pasture.

Scott and Twizzle had to get their glamour shot

The weather was in our favor yesterday when we went out again to ride through the steers and check on them. We found the ones that had been doctored the day before and were glad to see the amount of improvement in just one day. As we rode through them Shayne also taught us all how to best sort through them to achieve a smooth relay of riders and cattle from one corral to another. It was a delightful afternoon- made only better by the sunshine and fresh air.

Emily and Mighty sorting cattle

I think I can speak for everyone here when I say that we are sincerely hoping that the fine weather will persist. Although we all love the indoor arena, we’re eager to enjoy the world beyond the roll-up-door. I am sure that quite a few of you who read this can commiserate with us on this feeling.

While hoping and praying the best for our friends and our nation, we wish you happy trails.

-Anna C


Sleepy Baby <3


Bonnie and Brownie


The Young ‘uns

April 11, 2020, Volume 15, Issue 15

The stunning ranch roans

Anyone that knows me knows how much fun I have when I get to work with the young’uns!  This past week has been full of colts! 

One is a coming 3 year old named Lefty.  I’ve been getting him good with groundwork for the last couple weeks and finally put my first few rides on him.  So much fun! 

Another is a coming 2 year old named Nicz.  He had to get a quick course in good groundwork because he got a cut on his leg that needed doctoring and he was in desperate need of a foot trim!  Nicz didn’t know much about groundwork and he was not too keen on holding up his feet at all.  So, I started with basic groundwork with the lead rope, moved onto flag and tarp and rope, all in good time.  He’s pretty touchy so we went slow.  He got better and better to doctor each day and by mid-week, he had a perfect trim session with Anna! 

Little Hadlee!

We have two yearlings on the ranch now, Rip and Hadlee.  These two are pure and I am enjoying being able to do everything from “scratch” so to speak!  These two colts are brothers (their daddy is Metallic Rebel) but they are like night and day! 

Rip is quite sensitive, like most of the colts I’m used to working.  He’s gotten more accepting of brushes, throwing the lead rope on his back, the flag, seeing the tarp and learning to lead up nicely.  But we go slow and he’s going to have to see these things lots of times before they become “old hat” to him! 

Hadlee is a little different from any colt I’ve worked with thus far.  It seems like I only have to show him something once and he’s got a handle on it.  He’s quite bold and is becoming very independent!

Anna has been busy keeping up with the care of our horses feet each day

The “kids” (lovingly referred to as Kevin, Maddie, Scott and Ahna) have been riding with us each day, and have been camping on the new Lazy U horses.  Each day they run through the basic moves that you might do in a Buck clinic—hind 180/front 180, soft feel, leg yield, stops—and then they progress to roping, riding with flags and working on the cutting flag.  Some of these horses are getting VERY hooked onto that cutting flag!  Be ready to hang on!

Big King loving the opportunity to bask in the warmth!

Temps bumped up into the 60s by mid-week and all of the snow from the winter officially went away!  Of course, that makes both horses and humans quite happy!  But it also made clear that we needed a second deep clean on our new arena winter pasture, as some sticks had come up to the surface from the pasture being used all winter.  So each day, a crew would assemble to deep clean the pasture from top to bottom.  I think they took out something like 10 loads of sticks!

Janice has been personally working with our English intern Bonnie on the refinement of groundwork.  Bonnie has a big interest in it, and Janice will teach her the intricacies of flags, tarps, ropes, work from the fence…you name it! 

Easter goodies

Hard to believe that Easter is upon us already. We wish everyone a safe and peaceful time, and we will catch up with you again next week.


April arrives dressed in white

April 4, 2020, Volume 15, Issue 14

Who would have thought we’d get more snow now than we had almost all winter!

Early morning sunrise

While we are eager for green grass and warm temps, it sure is pretty here. The birds are singing each morning so spring can’t be too far off.

It is quiet at the ranch without guests but we are making the most of the time by riding a lot, catching up on projects, and creating new ones!

We now have a new set of stadium seats for guests wanting to watch lunchtime rides, and as I write this the crew is setting up a trailer at the new arena which will house gear, feed, and brand new shelves for stashing our lunches each day.

stadium seating 🙂

Staff has been fortunate to be riding with Shayne and Des most days and we are all learning a lot. The 6 new horses that came in from Lazy U are getting ready for the guest string and have been rotating through staff each day. It is pretty cool to see what each person puts into a horse and how we can all help each other improve. These horses are all so sweet and very fun to ride!

Some of the things Shayne has us working on include walk, trot and cantering over logs in preparation for lead changes; getting our horses really straight (up and down in the shoulders and withers), practicing our roping, and working through our individual trouble spots as we ride. Each day he will ask us what are the two or three things we need to be thinking about. These are different for each of us

The elk are still here, including 3 large bulls

and a good reminder of what we need to be focusing on every second!

Shayne and Des have also been working with their new colt Lefty. She is preparing him with a bit more groundwork and then Shayne works with him from horseback. He is making great progress under their guidance.

That is about it for now. We hope that you are all staying safe and healthy, and we can’t wait to see you again soon.


Happy Trails,


Shayne working with Lefty

One of the wonders from our kitchen, courtesy of Emily

Des, showing us some roping tips

Kate secretly wants to drive the army truck

Parting shot

8 day horsemanship clinic

March 29, 2020, Volume 15, Issue 13

Following the completion of our 8-day clinic (which ended on Tuesday) everyone was still working hard to finish the week strong and work hard. However, by the end of this week we were all ready for a blessed rest.

Scott and Yellowhair- Scott gets upset when we call him Old Yeller

As the corona virus continues to loom over the nation, we are so very thankful for the bit of peace that we have in knowing that we are tucked away among the mountains; although, this does not go without taking necessary precautions. Having restricted our trips to town we are doing our very best to avoid sickness and contact with the outside world. To that end, our dear Anna is no longer able to do our town runs! Thank God for FedEx and UPS!

Anna on Trump and Scott on Yellowhair practicing with the roping dummy

While we are shut up here at the ranch, let no one be worried for us- there is still plenty of work to do. Boredom is never an issue 🙂 This week we’ve been practicing our roping from horseback. The other afternoon, Des got her rope on one of the roping dummies and was dragging it around the arena for all of us to try to heel and head as she rode by. It was so much fun! Shayne also gave us plenty of tutorials on the proper technique and angles to rope from- all vital components to a successful loop and catch.

Emily’s newest masterpiece

Since that day, we have been getting down our ropes every morning and afternoon! It’s been a blast! One evening after all the chores were done we met back around the roping dummies on foot to continue our technique practice. Shayne and Des showed us tips for getting our loops stronger and more consistent. Shayne even showed us a trick shot that he said everyone had to get before going to dinner! I’ll just say that we were pretty hungry by the end of the session.

Quite a few of us (though mostly Emily and Anna) have been diving into the world of macate making! They are already quite accomplished- the beauty and quality of their work is a sight to see. Be sure to let them know if you’re looking for a new set! They would be happy to help you out!

Kevin and King

Roby has also found his way back to the ranch after a winter of travel. Its nice to have his goofy self around again; he is also hard at work in the Kit arena riding our ranch horses to prepare them for the season.

Its nice to be stuck in one place with people that mean so much to you; the other night after dinner everyone was reluctant to leave the table and we all sat around telling and retelling stories, reminiscing about the past seasons and the memories we have all had together. What a good family we have all found in each other.

That’s I’ve got for ya this week. Next week is bound to bring more adventures so stay tuned.

Be safe,


Des and Tucker on the cutting flag

Anna and Trump

No better view

This Too Shall Pass

March 23, 2020 Volume 15, Issue 12

It seems like everywhere one looks, there are people talking about and feeling the effects of this COVID-19 virus.  Our hearts go out to individuals who are sick, families who are locked in quarantine with no means to work, those who are elderly and immune-compromised and at risk. In this tough time, we can only hope and pray that “this too shall pass,” and in short order.

At the ranch, we are taking the utmost precautions in the safety of our staff and our guests!

Des working with Angel

At the ranch, life goes on.  I guess being in a quarantine isn’t much different than a normal day on the ranch in our little corner of the world!  We are riding each day, getting outside for walks and hikes (the weather has been quite warm and sunny for March) and just carrying on with our normal schedules.

Eager students

We are currently coming towards the tail-end of an 8-day clinic.  As always, these clinics prove to get our riders to levels of horsemanship they hadn’t thought possible before!  Our guests have been doing lots of riding with legs only, learning the refinement of the soft feel, cutting hard on the cutting flag and watching some colt demos.  And much, much more.  The changes in seat position, life in the horses and focus compels us to continue on in this journey of teaching.

This week we also had a very special treat!  Former McGinnis Meadows employee and well-known clinician Ricky Quinn joined us for a couple days!  Ricky manages the Lazy U ranch in Nebraska and he brought us 6 head of well-bred horses, who will one day become new Guest Horses!

Ricky teaching Anna, Scott, and Randy

In addition, he worked with Anna and Scott on shoeing some of the ranch horses.  This was a continuation of the clinic Anna and Scott attended in Nebraska earlier this winter with Tommy Kilgore.  This is an adapted version of shoeing a horse that truly incorporates a feel for the horse’s natural abilities.  Shayne and I rode several horses who had been shod and there was an immediate difference in how comfortable and freely they moved! We are very grateful that Ricky has such a heart for our ranch horses that he wanted to continue to help us to explore their utmost potential in the shoeing.  We’ll see him again in 6-weeks for another tune-up!

Anna can explain this in better detail.  Here’s what she had to say:

This weekend was an amazing opportunity to get another chance to practice what we learned in Nebraska.  We got to train our eyes to see what the horse is telling us it needs.  For example, a horse with contracted heels needs support on his heels to help carry his body weight appropriately for his conformation.  Opening his heels and giving him a larger perimeter to support his body would ease pain!

Grace and Ray

With Ricky’s help, we spent a lot of time on our hard cases, finding patterns we—the human—have put into our horses. Each year of horseshoeing is so different!  I am excited to help these horses carry themselves more confidently!

And that’s a wrap!

Stay safe out there and please contact Janice at info@mmgranch.netor feel free to give us a call at 406-293-5000 for any questions regarding a current or future reservation.


The cutting flag…

March 14, 2020 Volume 15, Issue 11

Hi all, it’s Kevin here again.

The ponies!

We’ve just wrapped up our third week of our winter horsemanship program. We had a smaller group, which means we were able to give lots of one on one attention. We started the week off with some beautiful almost spring like weather, but by Friday afternoon we had howling winds and freezing temps. Maybe this will be the last cold snap!!! I’m ready for some warmer weather even though I enjoyed winter very much.

With this group of guests we were able to get them, along with several ranch horses, prepped on the cutting flag. The past few weeks we haven’t used it as much do to the fact we were working on other things and had much larger groups. But our guests Wendy, Shayne R., and Joy did fantastic and got lots of ‘go time’ on it, as well as all the wranglers.

The cutting flag is truly an amazing teaching tool plus it’s one of the most fun things you can do on a horse. It

Scott and Chalkeye on the cutting flag

only takes a couple of turns and you’re hooked! The crew and I got a lot of horses on the flag leading up to the start of the winter horsemanship season, and some of these horses are really starting to get good.

Allowing the guests to have a blast cutting is one of Shayne’s big goals for the horsemanship sessions this year. We were happy to see that our work is paying off, only making us want to improve and refine it even more. This involves making clean stops; getting our horses to reach and turn on their own without help so the guests can feel when one is really hooked on; as well as a press off or leg yield to set up your next turn. When all for pieces of the dance come together with the flag or cow it is a great feeling and hopefully on your next stay at the ranch you will have a chance to experience it.

Shayne’s R.’s first week of riding lessons. She did great!


In other exciting news on the ranch, we had new arrivals this week- Des’ new colts, Lefty and Nicz arrived and are the cutest! Brenda also returned from a well deserved vacation and we are happy to have her back J.

That’s all the news for this week. Until next time,


Tucker never misses a chance for a nap 🙂

Joy riding Booker.

Wendy and Mighty did fabulous throughout the week!

Wisdom from the Hearth

Emily manning the feed truck!

March 7, 2020 Volume 15, Issue 10

Welcome back everyone to “Who cooks for you?” brought to you by McGinnis Meadows guest and cattle ranch. I’m Emily, your trusty winter cook, and I’ll be your host for this edition of this weeks Highline! Come on down!!

The guests have returned and we are starting to see the first signs of a potential early spring. The song birds are returning, the snow is melting and the temps have been warm, near 50 some days! With the return of guests I have amped things up in the kitchen to ensure that after a long days ride the guests have something warm and comforting to look forward to once they return for the evening. This means fresh baked breads for hearty soups and stews and warm cookies for an after dinner treat.

I get asked often “But Emily, I saw you ride with us this morning. How do you have time to get all of this done?!” For me, creating meals means coming up with recipes that play off one another and feel complete. For example, a hearty garlic roll goes great with stuffed shells, meatballs, and roasted parmesan broccoli for soaking up all that extra homemade marinara sauce. And to top it all off there is always a full cookie jar with varying flavors and styles of homemade, fresh baked cookies. For me its all about time management but its also about having fun with it. I love to push the limits of what I can do and to see where I can do better. Its like a big game to me. I have a lot of fun seeing what flavor combinations I can come up with, how I can incorporate special dietary needs without loosing that special feel, and to see where I can improve from the last time I tried a recipe.

Rowdy boys

I thoroughly enjoy cooking. It’s not a job to me, It’s a outlet in which I can express my creativity. Where I really like to do this is with bread making. A year ago if you had asked me what temp the water needed to be to activate yeast growth I would have stared at you blankly with a bewildered look on my face. Bread making was incredibly foreign and extremely intimidating. But these days it has become one of my favorite things to do! I mean who doesn’t like a slice of warm scratch made bread with dinner? I have been able to really explore bread making and have great success with creative twists. It’s really not as intimidating as I had once thought. Some of my favorites have been a Boston brown bread, a cheddar herb Irish soda bread, herb butter clover-leaf rolls, and a good old fashioned garlic herb Italian loaves. I could go on but I might be here all day!

Simply majestic

The season has only just begun and as the winter cook that means I’ll soon be shifting to breakfast cook once peak season begins. But rest assured folks, this Winter cook is already coming up with new and exciting things to come. Until then, be happy, eat well, and never stop chasing your dreams.


Anna with her new armitas made by Will

Trying on the new armitas!

Elk sighted from the cab of the new excavator

Its a hard life for Sparky

Shayne sharing is knowledge with the class

Flexibility Rules!


February 29, 2020 Volume 15, Issue 9

This past week started the first winter 8 day horsemanship clinic. What an awesome group of riders! The Seattle

Karmen working with Monty, a Seattle Mounted Police horse

Mounted Police joined us with their mounts, and Flora (our beloved apprentice) is fortunate to have her family of Jon. Hannah and Clem here riding with her! Our longtime guest Joy, also joins us along with two riders new to the ranch but not new to riding.  There is still three days remaining in the clinic but so far, everyone is looking really good. They are working on seat position and how it relates to getting their horse to work off their seat and legs, (no reins) and setting up their horse’s transitions for cantering on the proper lead- and lots of other stuff of course 🙂

This week, Anna Banana gives us her perspective on returning to the ranch from a well deserved vacation…


Kevin riding Catman

Hey guys! I just got back from vacation this week and hit the ground running. While I was away, I had time to think. If you know me, sometimes thinking can be overwhelming. My mind is constantly going, going, and going. My mind works in lists most days, which is wonderful working at the ranch. My brain is quite like a Google Map-guided directions. It’s like missing a turn and “rerouting” shouts out in my head. It might sound silly, but it has taught me a lot about flexibility.

I thought about it a lot while on vacation. I thought about how I can take that same mentality, being prepared for anything and always have a plan A- B-C, and how it can change my horsemanship. Shayne talks about it all the time, how to always be ahead of everything sets your horse (and you) up for success.

The best way I could think of to start was making small easy changes. I started out with how leading my horse to

Clem on a pony he is training named Cheyanne

grain, or to saddle up should be as active as if I needed to get a gate closed before the cattle get through. Then I started with how my horse starts out on a circle. Small changes lead to big changes. I try to keep my brain going, re-evaluate, plan A didn’t go right? Go to plan B. Shayne had been teaching us a similar theory over the winter. Know what you want, know what you got, and know where your going.

This week was one for the record books when you talk about being flexible. With an 8 day clinic upon us, and Brenda going on vacation, I had to be at the ready for whatever comes up for the day. I spent the week shoeing, housekeeping, riding, reorganizing, and even spent a day in the kitchen to help Emily. As overwhelming as it might seem, it was actually one of the best weeks I’ve had.

Bo, of the Seattle Mounted Police riding Max


Being flexible doesn’t mean you become less decisive. Some might even say if you are too flexible you are a pushover. Man, are they wrong. I believe that being flexible puts you ahead of the pack. So challenge yourself to think more, do better, and stretch the heck out of the box to take the chance!

Anna Banana


Clayton looking very handsome (Anna K. Photo)

Hannah riding her horse Shorty, working on no reins, legs only

One very fluffy cat, Trouble!(Anna K. photo)

Bill Elk, (Anna K. Photo)

Joy K. riding Scotch working on a soft feel