The HIghline Blog
August 10, 2019, Volume 14, Issue 30
Hey there everybody,
What a wonderful and eventful week we have had! This week we moved all of our steers from McKillop pasture all the way to Davis Mountain! Every morning the horses and riders set to go out on the hunt would pack up and trailer out to the mountain. They would then unload and set forth on a day full of playing hide and seek with the steers. After a week of searching, our devoted guests were successful in their conquest- the entire herd of steers were found and moved! Although the expedition was technically led by Roby and Sue, we all know it was really Genna who was the leader- Genna is a dear little friend from Germany and has been coming to the ranch for years to help us gather and move our cattle. Next week we will be able to celebrate her 12thbirthday with her!
Many of our guests this week also found a great benefit from participating in horsemanship class with Des and Shayne. Des led many through her round pen exercise where our guests were given the opportunity to really practice their seat at the trot and canter- this exercise is great because it allows the rider to simply focus on getting their balance straight and correct without having to worry about rein management. Without fail every person that has come out of the round pen from their time with Des are either more confident about what they have to offer a horse or are sure about what they need to work on to be as great a support to their horse as they can be. It’s really like magic sometimes seeing the guest’s blossom on horseback through this exercise.
Horsemanship with Shayne was just as accomplished this week- on Friday we had a competition but it wasn’t the sort of roaring and racing that one might usually think of when competition on horseback is mentioned. In horsemanship, we all worked on finding the best rate to fit our horses at the walk and within that rate be able to work with them correctly in and out of a soft feel. It was a great time and the horses all responded so positively- every horse wore an expression of sheer relaxation through every movement.
To take full advantage of the beautiful weather this week, we had a number of groups headed out to the lake! Kayaking and paddle boarding are favorite pass times of many of us around here at the ranch so its always fun to share it with our guests. Janice always makes sure that everyone going to the lake is prepared for a day of fun- she even makes sure that we have apple and orange slices packed to enjoy as a snack out on the water. It’s a great way to escape this dry heat.
This week we got to welcome to the ranch our newest intern, Jenny! She’s from the UK will be with us for three months. This is just the beginning for her and we are so excited to see how she will improve from her training with Shayne and Des 🙂
That’s all for now, folks. Hope to see you all down the road!
August 3, 2019, Volume 14, Issue 29
Now that the clinics with Buck are over haying season is in full swing here at the ranch! For days now our team of hardworking women and men has been out mowing, raking, baling, and storing all of the hay from the freshly trimmed meadows. Altogether they made over 2000 bales! All the grass that was previously tall enough to overshadow some of our smaller horses is now sheared short like a buzz cut. The bales they are making are nothing to mess with either- each square bale is close to 600 pounds! No wonder it takes so much work. Once all of the hay is stored away and the crew has a moment to rest we will be able to ride out into the meadows and do cavalry exercises and other fun games in all the newly opened space. Oh the anticipation!
Apart from haying, the rest of the staff is hard at work getting projects done around the ranch. Up in the office, Janice and I are prepping for 2020 already! Finalizing our schedule and taking in reservations for the new year has allowed us both to become excited for what next year will bring- and its hardly August! Be sure to check out all of the great opportunities laid out on our newly updated website.
Downstairs around the kitchen our faithful kitchen crew are yet hard at work making sure that the rest of us have hearty meals to come to at the end of the day- we would all starve without them! I am sure you are all familiar with the quality of cuisine that we are given here at McGinnis Meadows- we’re spoiled with so many thoughtfully prepared meals. Hands down. No question.
Since unveiling his new indoor arena last week, everyone has been itching to get over to Shayne’s new ring! It’s breathtaking and BIG! Every detail has been considered and executed with mastery. The footing is great and the space ideal with enough pens set up to accommodate any ranch and personal horses that would be lucky enough to cross the threshold.
Although it breaks our hearts to think of it, this week we have the excessively miserable job of saying goodbye to some beloved members of our ranch family. Dave and Adrienne will be moving away… some of us are handling it better than others. The impact they have made on this place through their devotion to their work and friendships will always be felt and cherished. In the words of Shayne, “They’re leaving this place better than they found it.” And we all know this to be true. We wish them well and send all our love with them down the road.
We’re back to our normal schedule next week with a couple of changes- Dani finished her internship this past week and is heading home. We are hoping to see her again very soon. On a happier note, Kevin is back! Amidst all the sadness of saying goodbye to good friends, it’s a nice change to be able to welcome one back home to the ranch. In regard to our upcoming week: it will inevitably be very eventful as we prepare to move the steers to their next grazing allotment and welcome a whole new group of guests to the ranch.
July 27, 2019, Volume 14, Issue 28
So many amazing things went on this week at the ranch!
For starters, Buck did his second ranch clinic with us and our guests, starting on Monday of this week. It was such a pleasure to be able to watch him ride varying levels of horses—from Manny, his three-year-old to Finn, his snaffle bit horse to Eddie, his bridle horse.
Buck started his day with Manny each morning, doing groundwork at the start. Manny only has a handful of rides and we were able to watch Buck work through some areas in the arena that he found a bit scary. Buck made no drama out of it, but he made sure to address the spots and get Manny through to the other side in a good frame of mind.
We were able to see Finn working cattle this week. He’s only done it about 3 times so far, so it was really neat to see the progressions of what Buck expected of him—but more so, how well he worked one with hardly any experience at it! It’s a testament to all of the arena work that Buck teaches—always with the thought in mind of one day putting it to use working a cow.
Of course, he and Eddie seemed flawless, both in his warm-up rides and when working cattle. It’s so beautiful to see how soft Eddie remains in every single movement. And to watch him working a cow compared with last year—Buck has to grab leather now because gets hooked on so well and turns so hard!
I learned so much and enjoyed every minute with Buck. He has certainly become a great friend over the years and Shayne and I were so sad to see him load up his ponies and head down the road on Wednesday. I wish we could have followed him on to Bozeman but we had some big responsibilities here at home. The biggest responsibility of all—The new arena!
On Friday, we and our guests put the VERY FIRST hoof prints in the new indoor arena! It was everything we hoped it would be and more. It was 90 degrees outside, but the indoor was a cool 60. The footing, the air quality, the atmosphere was PERFECT!!!!! The guests and horses loved it!
In-between all of this—we managed to work on cantering without reins in the roundpen, finding the last 4 head of cattle in our State Section and getting them to our McKillop Piece, and heading out on several trails.
In addition to the riding, we also started HAYING! The meadows are thicker than ever and we are going to be haying ground that we’ve never even hayed before, because the grass is so lush! I think we are going to have a record year.
Randy, Willy, Nolan, Dave, Anna and Scott have been working around the clock to get everything mowed, raked, baled and put away while we have this window of warm, sunny weather.
Next week is an “off-week” and we’ll be focusing on our interns and re-riding through guest horses on the riding end of things. We’ll also be full speed with haying, pasture clean-up and lots of other projects that we don’t always have time for in a given week. We never stop finding ways to improve this ranch paradise of ours 🙂
Have a great weekend!
July 20, 2019, Volume 14, Issue 27
Hey there everyone,
The anticipation has been mounting and finally the time has come. Buck Brannaman is with us here at McGinnis Meadows Ranch once again for his annual July clinics. I am sure you all are familiar with the feeling of Christmas morning- right before everyone gathers around the tree to exchange gifts and sip steamy cups of coffee there is a great feeling of anticipation and quiet excitement for what the day could bring. Welcome to Buck week here at McGinnis Meadows! The feeling that consumed the ranch before the start of the clinic on Wednesday morning was just the same- everyone a little bit giddy and a little bit nervous as they waited for the gift of learning from our accomplished teacher.
Once the clinic started in earnest, guests each morning started with a short demonstration ride given by Buck on one of his three horses that he brought with him; it was fascinating to see the progression of education exemplified through each of his horses. Buck’s colt, Manny, was still very green and before coming to McGinnis Meadows had not worked cattle. A bit more experienced was Buck’s next horse, Finn. Although Finn is still green he is further along and more accustomed to the demands of a snaffle bit horse. Finally, everyone was given the chance to watch Buck ride Eddie who is currently working in the two-rein. Through each of his horses, Buck demonstrated the importance of consistency; although the movements asked of the horses and precision with which they are performed may vary as the horse advances in his education, the consistency and promptness with which Buck asked each of them was noticeable.
Joining us for our first Buck week this year were a great group of old friends as well as some fresh new faces. Marcus and Stormy came back all the way from Germany for their 4thBuck week. Stormy is the artist behind many of our most treasured photographs- her eye and timing to capture beautiful moments is a great gift. We also got to welcome back Gail, Kevin, Anne-Catherine, and Ruth to name a few! It was a wonderful reunion of friends. Quickly welcomed into the family were our first-time guests Samantha and Zoe, Tim and Ruth, as well as Margaret, Eileen and Senta. After speaking with our guests this week and hearing their take on what they had garnered from the clinic, every one without fail gave me the response that their eyes were opened to what they needed to work on in themselves and with their own horses. The ranch horses they were riding for the clinic performed with excellence as they were entrusted to carry the guests through the days of horsemanship and cattle working; as the guests improved their skills, the horses responded in kind and everyone had a great experience in identifying their strengths and weaknesses.
Before the start of the clinic this week, the guests got an opportunity to ride out and help the wranglers and interns move the steers from the State section where they were then living over to the next mountain, McKillop Pasture. With the help of Roby and Buck’s assistant, Isaac, we were able to move over 100 head! We all had a lot of fun working together!
Overall, this week was a lingering delight- every moment of every day was the perfect chance to learn from Buck, our horses and each other. There is no better gift than to be allowed to be present in this environment and to share it with friends. The feeling of Christmas carried itself throughout the entirety of the clinic; as everyone heads home it is as if bidding farewell to family with promises of seeing one another at the next holiday. I hope you can join us for our little Christmas-in-July next year 🙂
Stay tuned for more about the second week of Buck clinics starting on Monday!
July 13, 2019, Volume 14, Issue 26
This week at the ranch we dove headfirst into horsemanship… but with a twist. We practiced cutting! As some of you might recall, Hall of Fame cutting horse trainer, Doug Jordan did a private clinic at the ranch last month. Shayne and Des have been working hard to incorporate everything learned into getting their personal and ranch horses much more “hooked on” to the cattle and on the cutting machine. Shayne wanted to be sure he was not only able to get his riding horses better, but he also needed to be able to teach his best version to our interns and to our guests so that we could get the entire herd more “cowy.”
This week, Shayne and Des put all of their hard work to the test and incorporated guests and interns into the cattle and cutting flag program. We must have rotated through at least 40 guest horses! When it comes to cutting, Doug says you know you are on the right track when you are doing less and your horse is doing more on his own. You don’t demand that the horse hook onto a cow, you suggest it via pressure and release and in no time, the horses figure out the game and start hooking on and cutting on cattle because it’s actually the most peaceful thing to do! It’s amazing what these animals can do when we simply get out of their way.
To join us in our fun this week we had the beloved Binninger family who brought their personal horses along for the adventure. We always have a wonderful time with this handy family and they picked up the cow working really quickly. We also had with us again this week Jane and Terry Lynch who were game for anything we threw at them; this week they worked in the arena to learn cutting and also rode out for full day rides to check on cattle and explore the country. Terry was even so kind as to teach me how to fly fish this week! He is a great teacher 🙂
And not to be forgotten is our friend, Madi! This week she visited the ranch as Des’ apprentice to learn horsemanship and cattle work. We all had a great time with her! She is quickly improving in her riding ability- more than once wranglers had to tell her to slow down because she was cantering with such gusto around the arena! And to think she’s only 11 years old! Madi was also a great helper this week and was eager to be of assistance in whatever capacity she was able. In fact, she excitedly offered to help write the highline this week! Please enjoy this excerpt by Madi about her adventures here at McGinnis Meadows:
This week I was an apprentice of Des. I learned a lot from her and had fun along the way. I learned a lot about working cows and getting the horses straight and soft in a circle. I rode two horses this week, Mighty on Monday and Tuesday, and Boone on Thursday and Friday. Mighty was a very forward horse. He was easy to ride and had a very nice gallop. Boone was a good horse as well. He wasn’t as forward as Mighty, but I did get him to trot and canter multiple times. Boone also did very well on the cutting ball for his first time. I also got him to hook on to the steers. He did a very nice job and would want to follow them everywhere. On Wednesday, we did not ride, but we did some pretty fun things instead. For example, a group of people rode up Shayne’s mountain and saw some beautiful sights and some cattle. Another group rode through the state piece and checked on steers, water tanks, and mineral tubes. I went with Janice and some of the interns to Horseshoe Lake. We rode paddleboards and kayaks around the lake and Josie and I jumped into the middle of a little cove. We also saw a little tiger Muskie swimming around a sand bar out in the middle of the lake. We had a great time there. The wranglers I stayed with were really nice and caring, even though they might have sent me to the lake without sunscreen or almost forgot me at the ranch one night 🙂
As we head into the upcoming week, everyone here at the ranch is working hard to prepare for the arrival of Buck Brannaman. We are confident that everything will be wonderful for the clinics: the horses are ready for their guests, the ranch overall is being given an extra shine to ensure pristine accommodations, and, of course, Miriam has planned out extravagant and exceedingly delicious meals for us all to enjoy at the end of the day.
Well, folks, that’s everything for now! Stay tuned for the tails of our adventures with Buck this week!
July 6, 2019, Volume 14, Issue 25
Happy Independence Day everyone!!
It has been a great week here at McGinnis Meadows- the kind of week that makes you really stop and think about how truly blessed we are to live in the great state of Montana surrounded by mountains, lakes, and that big sky. Being witness to its beauty never gets old. And being able to share it with people that you have the pleasure to consider your family and friends makes it all the sweeter.
Here to celebrate the 4thof July with us this week was a great group of women from Australia- all friends and all accomplished riders. This set us up well for getting to business working cattle and moving them from one property on the ranch to another. Although coming to the ranch for the week not knowing anyone, our new friend Vanessa quickly blended in with the staff at the ranch as well as our Aussie guests. It was so nice how much everyone became fast friends. We also got to welcome home our dear old friends Jane and Terry Lynch. They have been coming to the ranch for years and are always keen to move a few steers with Roby or one of the wranglers. And of course we can’t forget Merle! An old friend of Shayne’s, at 86 years of age he trekked out to Montana and visited the ranch; after a day or riding he opted for a more relaxing vacation experience and rode around with Dave, helping him do chores, and taking some great photos.
On Tuesday almost everyone at the ranch rode out and moved cattle- there were just a few elusive steers left on Shayne’s mountain so one group rode out to find them. Other groups of guests and wranglers set out to the State section where the majority of the steers are now held to gather as many as possible and push them up to the water tanks. The final group set out to find a couple of lame steers and bring them back closer to the ranch for doctoring- don’t worry, folks, they’ll be just fine. Overall it was quite the day! Everyone came home just in time to unsaddle and grab some refreshment from the beer fridge before the thunderstorms
started rolling in.
Later in the week we all got to apply our horsemanship when Shayne and Des let the guests work cattle in the outdoor arena and practice with the cutting machine. Everyone had a blast! And it was the perfect day for it too- after what seems like weeks of rain, the sun finally came out and gave us the perfect day to practice with the steers. The horses are all really getting hooked onto working with the cattle; under Shayne’s guidance the horses and the steers are getting quieter and more efficient in their work- it is really something special to see.
To top off the week, we had a live concert from Boulder Creek Band on Friday evening! Everyone really enjoyed the bluegrass selection they offered and there were more than a couple people up dancing to the music 🙂 Following the music, Scott set up the bonfire and everyone gathered around for a laughter filled night- we even got to introduce our new Aussie friends to s’mores! Anna Banana even showed them her version of a s’more in which you ditch the graham cracker and just eat the marshmallow between two pieces of chocolate! And would it really be the 4th of July without fireworks? Dave made sure we were stocked with sparklers and gave us mini fireworks show as everyone lounged by the fire.
Well folks, we here at the ranch hope you had a great holiday. Stay tuned as wet get closer and closer to welcoming Buck Brannaman back to the ranch! The countdown has begun and our anticipation is growing 🙂
vibe about this group. Also, one of our long time friends and guests, Joy, has returned to the ranch! We are very excited to have her with us. She has three of her adorable personal horses here, Cisco and Hildago and Angel. Lynn N. also returned this week. Her horse, Andy, has been in training with Roby and she finally got to come ride him this week! And boy did she ride him, Roby had her doing everything from jingling the horses out to climbing the mountain to look for cattle. Her and Andy seemed to get along really well, and she’s very excited to bring him back to her home soon.
We continued with the task of moving cattle from our pasture land on Shayne’s mountain to the state piece. It’s getting harder to find the cattle on Shayne’s mountain because there are only a few left. Our guests did a fabulous job at moving all the cattle we did find though. Our Guests Camella, Nadejda, Carol, Kim, Morgan and Kelly really took this job on. They got several groups of cattle down off the mountain and onto the state piece. They are some tough cowgirls! We only have 9 steers left on Shayne’s Mountain now, so the work will continue next week.
with your body and not being so dependent on your reins for steering. You really have to have a high level of body awareness to be able to do this; but, It’s so much fun when you finally can guide the horse without the reins, you feel like you can go anywhere and do anything. The interns and guests who decided to stick with horsemanship really seemed to have fun. Beth really improved as the week went on; Her and Mighty were an awesome duo to watch, they really seemed to get along. Wendy, Kendall and Joy also really took to the horsemanship. It was very cool to see how everyone improved as the week went on.
On Thursday this week, many of the guests joined Anna Banana, our farrier, back in the forge for a half-day shoeing demo. These demo’s are very informative, about everything from anatomy of the horse’s hoof, to the actual process of fitting and tacking on a shoe. Everyone seemed to really enjoy it. In addition, we also got to watch Anna Banana trim one of Shayne and Des’ colts, Buzz. Des did a demo about how you prepare a young horse to have his feet done. It was very interesting to see how much work it takes to get a colt to where they are safe for the farrier.
June 22, 2019, Volume 14, Issue 23
This week at McGinnis Meadows has been filled with extremes: from moments of taking cover from large and looming thunderstorms to relaxing and laughter filled evenings around the fire- its been a great week. We got to welcome some old and good friends this
week as well: the Klipsch family was here for more cattle fun and horsemanship. In addition, Kara and Carol brought their horses with them for a third annual week of horsemanship training.
One of the major priorities of this week was to move cattle from Shayne’s mountain over to our state section. The Klipsch boys took on this project full force- with the help of Roby, Scott, and Shayne they devoted themselves to cattle work. At the end of the week nearly 100 steers had been moved! The boys also are great fisherman; whenever they were not horseback they were off catching fish out of Shayne’s pond or the creek. They even taught a couple of our interns their technique!
Although the first day of summer has come and gone, it doesn’t quite feel like it here in Montana; with all the rain this week, the normally sunny afternoons gave way to clouds and wind. However, all the weather we rode through during the day did give everyone great appetites for Miriam’s masterpiece of a meal every night. This week alone we were treated to crème brûlée, key lime pie, and chocolate mouse. And of course, Rachel is always baking to keep the cookie jar stocked- even though I’m afraid it’s a losing battle. We all eat the cookies too quickly! Her problem would be solved if she did not make us such delicious treats 😉
Horsemanship this week was, as always, a great time to learn and grow in our education; Des led a lot of the horsemanship classes in the indoor arena where we all worked on being excessively consistent with our horses in a soft feel. As we moved around the arena, we were charged to pick up a soft feel on our sweet ponies, ride with quality, and then reward the horses with a loose rein and peace. The slow pace at which we were able to practice all of this vital work was highly beneficial for everyone present.
The ranch horses here at McGinnis Meadows never cease to amaze us with their gentleness and ability; we are truly grateful for the opportunity to learn from such beautiful teachers. We got to welcome our newest intern, Bailey, into the fold this week. She is quickly learning the value of the horses that she has been allowed to ride as she adjusts to life at the ranch.
Well, another week has come to a close. We sadly exchange goodbyes with our friends as they go home and hope they come back to visit us soon. This week we have to say goodbye to our old friend, Bernie Ziegner. After staying for three weeks he is headed on back home. While we are purposefully here to learn from the horses, it is evident that we learn almost as much from the wonderful people we have the joy to meet along the way.
June 16, 2019, Volume 14, Issue 22
What an exciting and eclectic week!
I’ll try to remember everything in order here…
This was one of a handful of “off-weeks” this summer at the ranch. These weeks are open to stayover guests (we had two, Bernie and Lynn) and our focus during these weeks is on our internship program, continued education for our wranglers, catching up on ranch projects and re-riding through our guest string.
I’ve been riding a client horse named Romeo, and I also had the pleasure of having his owner, Kathy, stay here for the week to ride him before taking him home.
We had one wild steer on our Ferguson pasture, and had thrown a handful of steers in the big mountain pasture to try to lure him to join up with the group. But spotting him and bringing the small herd to him each day was a task that involved climbing tall mountains and riding through tough, brushy country! Romeo confidently took Kathy all over the mountains and never missed a step. She did all of the advanced horsemanship maneuvers with him in the arena and even got to work cattle with him towards the end of the week! The two of them got along famously and I’m excited for the two of them.
By the way…ultimately, it was Janice and our guest Lynn who finally spotted the cattle all together as a group and were able to get them off the mountain—a tricky task! With the help of Sue and interns Josie and Dani, the herd was finally relocated to the other side of the valley. GREAT JOB LADIES!
Shannon Lawlor did some paintings for Shayne and I of our horses and she came over from Canada to hand-deliver them to us! We were able to host her overnight and she was able to spend some time with us taking photos and watching the riding/horsemanship/cattle work.
Speaking of cattle work…We had a private 3-day clinic with Doug Jordan, National Cutting Horse Association hall of fame rider! Randy, Shayne and I were Doug’s students, and we were joined by Kathy on Romeo, and a several interns and wranglers who either audited, or held herd.
The clinic was SOOOO informative and Doug worked with us both on the cutting ball and on cattle. As a student of Tom Dorrance and Ray Hunt, Doug was like a kindred soul to everything we work towards at the ranch with our horses and in our horsemanship. Everything was approached with a feel and with the horse’s expression, willingness and comfort at the forefront. We are so excited to practice what we’ve learned and to share the knowledge with our guests too!
Roby has been away at Buck’s colt starting in Sherdian. He called me this afternoon and said it went great and that he was able to start 4 colts who all came along really nicely.
It sure is nice to be able challenge ourselves in our horsemanship journey in order to expand our potential in what we have to offer the horses. I’m loving every minute of it!
Till next time,
Hey there everyone,
I hope your week has been as great as ours has been here at McGinnis Meadows! This week we have been given the task of moving all of the steers off of the Ferguson piece behind the ranch all the way to Shayne’s mountain across the country road. It is quite a feat but also quite fun. This week we have had a great crew of guests to help us get the job done; returning to help are McGinnis Meadows veterans Brian and Pam Frey- their love of the ranch and kindness will be missed when they go home. This week the ranch is also able to welcome back our old friend, Bernie Ziegner, who has been coming to the ranch since 2000.
The ranch had two birthdays this week! We celebrated with Adrienne on Monday night with chocolate cheesecake and we celebrated Anna on Wednesday with angel food cake. Two great women. Two great workers. Two great friends. The ranch is blessed to have them on staff.
Although moving the cattle to their next grazing allotment was the objective of the week, other classes were also taught by wranglers to reinforce the foundation horsemanship class that Shayne gave on Monday morning. Janice has taught groundwork classes showing the guests how to guide the horses’ feet, roll the hindquarters, and back up- all vital movements for a horse to safely perform with and without a rider on their back. Horsemanship trail rides have also been a lot of fun!
We also welcomed three new interns to the ranch! For their first week, Josie, Dani, and Yaz have had a great opportunity to ride some of our ranch horses, learn how to move cattle, and have been in a number of horsemanship classes. Dani and Josie even got to go out on a ride with Brenda to learn all of the gates, water tanks, and mineral tubs on Shayne’s mountain! This information will be important when they head out to check on cattle next week as well as when we have to gather them up for their next move. Per tradition, these interns are also required to practice throwing their saddles on the high wooden fence behind the mounting block. They must do this job smoothly and cleanly before they are allowed to try it on one of the ranch horses- they already are doing a great job!
Although we have had a good bit of rain this week, the clouds have not stopped us from having a week chock full of breathtaking views and critter sightings. The first fawns of the season are starting to be seen lying in the grass or under trees. Randy even got some photos of black bears nearby! And of course, the view from the top of the lookout never gets old 🙂
Doing so much good work has brought this great group of guests, interns, and wranglers close together. When everyone comes to dinner at the end of the day you are no longer sitting across from strangers you are sharing a meal with friends.