The Highline Blog
October 31st, 2020, Volume 15, Issue 43
When we woke up this morning the sky was lit up with a big bright full moon, a far cry from our mornings lately, which seems to be growing steadily darker. Spooky! This week we’ve been catching up on quite a few projects around the ranch in preparation for winter.
The boys have been chopping firewood for the wood stoves in the shop, Davis house and Belgard, as well as winterizing all of our ranch vehicles. The foot of snow and icy temps from last week didn’t stay long, but I’m sure will be back soon. The herd has been growing their winter coats over the past couple of weeks and now looks ready for when winter hits for real!
We moved all 216 head of cattle to the Shop Pasture this week from the Belgard and the ride pretty out in the fresh snow. The cattle leave this coming Tuesday, and I think we’ll be a bit sad to see them go. Chris our newest hire has been feeding them everyday along with one of us wranglers. It’s been fun watching all the steers follow the army truck around mooing and playing with each other while we drop hay. Chris seems to fit right in with the ranch crew and we’re all enjoying get to know him.
In the arena this week it’s been back to basics, which has been good for all us. Shayne has us working on the basics on a big circle helping us work on our foundations. In between riding he’s also been regaling us with many stories, about the ranch to before the ranch—before and now, etc. Shayne’s stories are always fun and interesting to listen too, and there’s always something to learn from each and every one of them.
Well that’s all for this week! Tune in for next weeks adventures!
October 24th, 2020, Volume 15, Issue 42
The snow is finally here! The ranch looks like a winter wonderland, as we got over a foot of snow last night. The horses had white eyelashes and everyone pulled out their winter gear.
Chris our new handy man is from Texas and still getting used to this white stuff, along with our intern Levi who is from South Carolina. The rest of us here are seasoned veterans when it comes to snow, and are enjoying it. Sadly my little chevy cruz lacks the clearance to get around in too much fluffy stuff, but oddly enough I get up the hills better than everyone else’s trucks! So at least there’s that. Although my cruz might live at the Belgard for a few days while the snow clears up, ha!
Inside the arena, we’ve been lucky enough to have Tommy Kilgore out for a week to do a farrier clinic. Scott, Kevin and Levi have been spending everyday with Tommy going through the herd and learning how to shoe. It’s been really cool to hear all the stories Tommy has to tell and to hear about how they shoed each horse. The boys and Tommy have been showing us pictures of all the horse’s feet at dinner, and it’s been amazing to see all the changes in their feet, as well as the way they stand. On Friday, Emily, Maddie, Janice, Brenda, and I got to participate in a shoeing demo. It was incredibly interesting to see what Tommy looks for in a horse before he even begins the shoeing process, let alone the shoeing process itself! During the shoeing demo all I could think is how lucky we are that we get to learn from someone as great as Tommy. The same goes for Shayne and Des, we really have the best of the best to learn from and I’m forever thankful for that!
That’s all for this week,
October 17th, 2020, Volume 15, Issue 41
Our real fall weather has rolled in the last week here at the ranch. It’s been in the 40’s-50’s and raining practically all week. Most of the horses are starting to get fuzzy just in time for winter, which feels like it’s just around
the corner now. Hard to believe Halloween is in a couple of weeks! The staff has all been chatting around the dinner table about the best horror/Halloween movies. Sounds like a movie night is in our future.
Brenda, Levi and I moved the last 48 steers from Elk Creek this week to weigh them and gather them all together. Our counts have come out correct and sadly we’re missing just one! Scott, Kevin, Levi and Brenda have been hunting for him all week. Rain or shine! They’ve been real cowboys this week, and cowgirl.
When we haven’t been out on the mountain, the staff has been rotating nights cooking while Emily has been on vacation. Maddie and I made stroganoff meatballs one night, Charity made curry, Levi and Kevin made burgers and shakes which were a big hit! Shayne even said those were the best burgers and shakes he’s had for a good long while. Janice made us some delicious chili, and a full Italian pasta dinner, which was perfect for our current weather. Scott’s parents came to visit and even made ribs and his favorite cheesy potatoes!
As always our projects continue. Charity our housekeeper has been deep cleaning the cabins getting them ready for
winter. She and I also deep cleaned the lodge this week, which was a very satisfying project! I’ve never the seen the lodge look this good. While we’ve been doing that Scott, Kevin, Chris and Randy have started shutting down our graze piece now that we have all the cattle off the mountain, we think? There still might be a lone ranger out there….
That’s all for this week!
October 9th, 2020, Volume 15, Issue 40
The season is changing! We have had an unusual spell of warm weather for this time of year, which has made hunting for cattle on the mountain very pleasant. We do need rain though for the pastures and it looks like there will be some in the forecast for the coming week.
Speaking of cattle, we have ONE lone steer remaining of Davis Mountain. He missed the last train of 8 of his buddies who were moved to Elk Creek yesterday. We will be searching for him and will hopefully reunite him in the next couple of days!
The weighing will begin in earnest as preparations are made for the boys to leave the ranch in late October.
It feels great to be contributing to the Highline again. I just returned from an extended trip home to visit family, and it was a wonderful opportunity to be able to do this. Arriving back at the ranch though, I have quickly been reminded of a few things…
-The fall colors here in NW Montana are unique and breathtaking. The Larch and Aspen are in full color down in the meadows while the mountains are just starting to show their glory. We may not have the reds of the maples and oaks here in the west, but the range of green and yellow is spectacular in their own right.
-We have a fabulous crew here at the ranch this season. They way they blend together while still maintaining their individuality makes for a some very fun, and funny times! Our newest intern Levi, we came to find out, is quite talented on guitar and singing. We were treated to a concert at family dinner this week and look forward to hearing more from him. He is also teaching Kevin guitar so maybe a dueling guitar duet is in our future! And Chris, our new ranch hand (a fellow Texan, like Levi) fit right in, in just a matter of hours.
-The horses, oh the horses! Did you ever look into a horse’s eyes—I mean really look? When you pet on them, do you notice the change in their expression? Even if they are already with you and content, there is a distinctive calmness, or appreciation, if horses feel that emotion, that you can see in their eyes. I realize how fortunate I am to be able to have 100+ horses here to observe things like this. Each one of them is special and teaches us all a gazillion things every day if we will take the time to listen.
It feels good to be back. Take time each day to look around and see all that your life has to offer. I try to remind myself of this often.
Gratitude turns what we have into enough.” – Anonymous.
Until next time,
October 2nd, 2020, Volume 15, Issue 39
The trees are finally starting to change colors here in the meadow. It’s been frosty in the mornings lately but still getting up to 70 degrees during the day, perfect riding weather if you ask me!
Wranglers and guests have been continuing to gather cattle and push them to the Belgard pasture, where we’re holding them. As of this week we’re down to less than 50 head on the mountain! The guests have been very gun ho about going out and looking for them, and have been doing a great job.
This group of steers has been a bit wiley from the beginning, but have been fairly easy to move as of late, except for on Wednesday this week. Guests Verena and Jack and Sharon came back that night regaling us tales of their pesky steers at dinner. Apparently their 9 head kept squirting off in all sorts of directions and then they would have to go re-gather them, but everyone cowboyed up and got them back on track. Never a dull day out on the mountain!
The last couple of Saturdays we’ve had Dr. G out here to do the horses teeth, and to checkout any horses that are injured. I personally love when the vet comes because it’s always so interesting to see what he does to help our injured horses, or what they look for in a horse’s mouth in terms of good teeth as of late. We’re so lucky to have such a good vet available and that we get to learn so much about horses, from the riding, to the shoeing, to the vet work etc. There are so many opportunities here!
Well here’s to hoping as our season comes to end the weather stays nice as long as possible!
See you next week,
September 26th, 2020, Volume 15, Issue 38
Our cattle have been eating away gaining weight in Davis Mountain for about a month now, and they’re all looking really nice and FAT. Just the way we like em!
To see how much weight they’ve gained we took a sample from Randy’s pasture and weighed them on Wednesday with Shayne. It was interesting to learn how much refinement and subtleness there is to weighing cattle. All your horsemanship skills are put to the test when you’re in the scale house, but that’s good because then it becomes clear what you need to work on in the arena. Shayne also taught us the importance of keeping the cattle calm when cutting one out to push it onto the scale. We weighed 20 head and they all gained an average of 50 pounds, which Shayne said was a good amount.
While we were weighing, wranglers and guests began pushing steers back to the Belgard from Davis Mountain. It’s a long day of cowboyin, but everyone was happy to be out and really enjoyed our fall weather. The sunshine was short lived though as we’ve gotten some much-needed rain the last 2 days. We had the quintessential dry Montana summer this year, and experienced quite a bit of smoke, but a couple of good rains later and the smoke has left us. Thank god!
In the arena Des has had us working on figuring out how to move our horses feet in order to get them soft. This has
really helped Yellowhair and I, especially on his harder side. Des reminded us that softness comes from the feet, not from the head. We’re always learning here at McGinnis Meadows, I’m lucky that Yellowhair, Des and Shayne are all such great teachers.
Happy Trails until next week!
September 19th, 2020, Volume 15, Issue 37
Things have been busy as usual here at the ranch. A smokey haze blew over the ranch last Saturday and has been hanging out here in the meadow ever since. The smoke has dissipated a bit since last Saturday but still seems
determined to stick around for a bit. Despite the smoke, guests and wranglers have still been going out to graze and enjoying what views they can still see. To keep the horses safe, the wranglers and guests have been going at a steady walk keeping it slow, but steers still need to be checked!
Back in the arena, we’ve been continuing our work with the neck ropes. Everyone who’s ridden with one has made a big change in his or her riding. Each day this week Des has been having us do all kinds of different exercises with the neck rope; some of us even took our bridles off and rode with just the neck rope! I think the horses have really enjoyed using the neck rope as much as we have; it’s been a great exercise for all of us.
At the end of each day everyone always looks forward to seeing what Emily has whipped up for dinner each night. She never cooks the same thing twice! It’s something different, from breakfast for dinner to Chinese Takeout, we’re always well fed here.
We finally got some much needed rain on Friday night, so here’s to hoping that will help with the smoke! Like I mentioned last week fall is right around the corner, it’s getting darker earlier and the temps are starting to drop, it won’t be long before there’s snow on the ground.
Well that’s all for this week!
September 12th, 2020, Volume 15, Issue 36
We had our first dose of cold weather this week Monday night here at the ranch. The next morning we all pulled out our jackets, gloves and hats, and there was even a bit of frost on the ground! Brrr! Since then it’s been steadily a bit colder
here in the mornings, fall is definitely around the corner. Despite the colder temps at night going into the mornings it’s still been getting up into the 80’s during the day, but it’s supposed to drop down to the 70’s and even 60’s next week, a welcome change!
Our wranglers and guests have been going out to graze all week, putting eyes on the cattle and enjoying the views. Graze, which is also known as Davis Mountain, has beautiful views of the Cabinet Mountains, and in some spots you can see the whole valley! The guests have really been enjoying going out and getting to explore our extraordinary country. Scott, Brenda and Kevin have been taking them out for ¾ days, eating lunch with the beautiful sights on their long days out at Graze.
Back in the arena we’ve really been working on riding with our bodies and our LEGS. To practice this, Des has been having us work with neck ropes. They really force you to use your hands less, and your body more. And they show you how much you rely on your hands when you don’t even realize it. At the end we did a few relay races with the neck ropes and everyone did a great job! It’s always cool to see everyone’s progress, including the horses.
Well that’s all for this week folks, tune in for next weeks adventures!
September 5th, 2020, Volume 15, Issue 35
We had quite the celebratory week here at the ranch! Both Maddie and I had birthdays this week, and to celebrate Emily put on two big birthday dinners. For my birthday on Tuesday, Emily went all out and prepared a burger bar, cauliflower mac and cheese, fries, coleslaw and topped it off with my personal favorite part, a beautiful rainbow cake.
Then, on Friday it was Maddogs (Maddie) birthday, and so Emily blew us all away again by preparing a bar food themed dinner which included nachos, onion rings, steak, and a BLUE Velvet cake, tailored to Maddogs tastes. Emily never fails to impress us with her dinner, we count ourselves lucky that we get to eat so well here at the ranch. Family dinners are always an especially fun event with all the stories Shayne and Des tell, they usually have us laughing all through dinner.
Besides the birthday celebrations, we worked on our horsemanship skills in the arena. One thing we’ve talked about and worked on this week that stuck out to me was riding with only your legs. To practice this we played follow the leader, with Maddie leading the way, weaving around the arena in a line with our arms folded. This exercise really shows you how much or how little you use your legs, something I personally need to work on! But the exercise made it fun.
We also got to watch Shayne flag some of the colts while horseback, it was interesting to see how little was needed and how much the horses would change. There are so many little things going on when watching that I almost feel like I could watch it all day and still never run out of things to learn.
Our new intern Levi, had his first week with us and he already feels like family. He’s been making jokes and even gives us crap back when we give him crap, which as Anna always says is a form affection around here….
Well that’s all for this week’s ranch ramblings, tune in for next weeks adventures!
August 29th, 2020, Volume 15, Issue 34
This week in the arena, Shayne spent a lot of time talking about how riding is like a dance. It’s something I’m sure we’ve all heard before, but it’s always good to hear it again. To demonstrate this, Shayne had all the interns and guests do choreographed ‘dances’ with their horses to music. It was so cool to watch each and every rider mesh so well with his or her horse and really look like they were both partners in the dance. Watching some of our guests do their solos, it was clear how much progress they’ve made from the first day they got here until now. It was so great to watch both the riders and the horses succeed.
When we weren’t dancing in the arena, wranglers, guests and interns have been going out to Davis Mountain and checking on the cattle. The steers have been moving around through the piece, and Scott has been checking to see where by looking for footprints and cowpies. These are all signs we look for every time we go out to check cattle, not only are we looking to see where they’ve been hanging out we’re also looking to see if they’re getting the nutrients they need, are they still gaining weight etc. There is just as much to learn about cattle as there is about horses around here!
In preparation for selling the steers in the fall, Shayne taught Maddie, Sophie, Emily and I how to weigh them this week, and it was so much fun! Shayne really taught us about the finesse of moving cattle and keeping them quiet and relaxed when they get on scale, but not just on the scale but when you’re moving them in general. It was an eye opener to see how little it takes to move the steers in the right direction. It was a pretty fun week here at McGinnis Meadows, never a dull moment!
Well that’s all for this week!