The Highline Blog
March 29, 2021, Volume 16, Issue 12
Lots going on this week! To start off we’ll catch up with the latest happenings in the arena. The main goal for me this last week was
getting my ponies to truly turn loose. Des and I both worked on new ways to have our horses become more relaxed through out their whole bodies. We did this by finding the perfect rate with just our seats to where the horse’s head became steady and rhythmic with the body. By doing so, when we picked up on a soft feel, they were already releasing any possible tension before the reins came into the game. It was nice to take some time and experiment with what can be accomplished with just our seat and legs. Often when I come back to these exercises, I find things missing in myself (position and trust in the horse). Once I improved on this, my rides started tying together better and I was able to feel of my horses more.
Tommy has been spending the last ten days with us, coaching Kevin and Scott on shoeing the whole herd of ranch ponies. It’s been great having Tommy back at the ranch. The boys and I really enjoy listening to his stories early in the mornings before work starts and at the end of the day. I learn something knew every-time he comes, not only about shoeing but also life.
Levi has returned to the ranch to become apart of the crew. He has been busy helping Chris with many of the spring projects. It’s great having him back.
At the end of the day Saturday, we all met at the lodge for our first game of laser tag! Shayne set us all up with the coolest laser guns and we picked our teams. We all got super into it, coming up with strategies and hiding spots around the lodge. We set up one flag on one end of the lodge yard and one on another end. Whoever got the opposing teams flag to the other end first won the game. It literally sounded like a battle field with the gun’s sound effects of rounds flying through the air. We played for hours running through the woods or sliding under cabin decks. We all had a blast.
And so the journey continues………..
March 20, 2021, Volume 16, Issue 11
Live like someone left the gate open…This is one of my favorite sayings. Well, this past week, the horses certainly did!
It is always amazing to see the frolic that happens, when the horses get somewhere they just know they
are not supposed to be. Late last week I got a radio call from Randy that some horses had crossed over the bridge into his pasture and were heading North. This is two pastures West of where the herd is supposed to be!
With everyone else out doing different things around the ranch, I rounded up Emily and the two of us headed down the county road to park at the closest gate we could find. It is impossible to drive through the pastures right now, as they are spring thawing, and deep in mud and water.
So we hoofed it on foot (no pun intended), running through the pastures all the way to Randy and Dori’s place. Emily was calf deep in swampiness at times (for me it was knee deep!) but we pressed on. Luckily by the time we arrived at Randy’s house, he had corralled them all into one of his pens. We went around to close the gates to the surrounding pastures, thinking about the best way to get them back to the West Pasture. Randy was kind enough to drive his Kubota around the North side to get those gates so we didn’t have to keep traversing through the muck. He did pretty well until the way back when we heard the radio call for Dori to come down with the backhoe :-).
With Dori to the rescue to get Randy’s Kubota unstuck, Emily and I let the horses out, me directing them with a flag and Em blocking, to keep them headed towards their destination. It all went very smooth, as we uncrossed our fingers, and got them tucked back into their pasture for the evening. We cannot be 100% sure but Taps is always on the suspect list when it comes to opening gates. I have never seen a horse before that can open a rollup garage door, then the latched gate, and then proceed to let all of his buddies in (or out), which such efficiency! Just to be certain, Chris now has all the gates sporting carabineers that I doubt even Taps will figure out. We all sure did get our exercise that day!
In other exciting news on the ranch, Tommy Kilgore is back to help Scott and Kevin continue their farrier
education. It is that time of year again when all the shoes need to go back on. Each day they work their way through the herd, while getting valuable feedback from Tommy. At the end of the day, everyone gets to share their stories from the day and listen to Tommy’s experiences that he has had throughout his career.
All in all, it was a pretty fun week!
Until next time,
March 13, 2021, Volume 16, Issue 10
I’m back from my two week vacation and I’m so happy to be home. So far my first week back has consisted of relentless hazing from the boys, even Shayne has taken part. And honestly, I’ve been loving it. 🙂 They may not say it out right, but I think they missed me just a little bit.
Now that our days have gotten longer and sunnier, we have been tackling our long list of spring projects. The boys have been busy getting our tent set up, (looking forward to dinners outside) and Emily and I have been cleaning just about everything. I’m the kind of weirdo who finds cleaning and reorganizing very satisfying. So it’s been a nice change of pace whipping things into shape.
Back in the arena, we have been preparing our A string ponies for the upcoming season. After having all winter off in the pastures, the crew is ready to get back to work. Daily, we go through our progressions and experiment with different exercises. I’m constantly learning new things and changing my feel with each horse. With the warmer weather approaching quickly, comes the shedding of the winter coats. On Saturday, the boys,
myself, and Brenda gave the whole herd a good brushing. The horses absolutely loved the extra attention. At one point while I was grooming Magoo, Little Red and a few others lined up for their turn of pampering. After the grooming session, all of us were covered head to toe with the various colors of horse hair.
Before we know it, cattle will be occupying the meadows and eventually the mountains. And we’ll be enjoying the hot summer sun and no more ice to slip around on. We are all looking forward to hopefully having you all back at the ranch for more exciting adventures!
And so the journey continues……..
March 6, 2021, Volume 16, Issue 9
Janice gave me the great opportunity to write another Highline so I must have done alright on the last one I wrote. 🙂
This week has felt like spring and winter are having an arm wrestling match and there’s no clear winner yet. We have had everything from 50 degrees with blue skies to freezing temps and snow. As much as i do love the snow and winter time activities, myself and all of us here at the ranch are ready for the warmer days ahead. We have just a few weeks remaining to give us a chance to do spring preparations and be ready to receive our guests coming for the ten day in April.
We have lots to do from opening up the cabins and housing that were winterized last fall; Getting the cabins and lodge yards looking tip top. To riding through and shoeing the string. It will be a busy month but who doesn’t love fun, longer days and sunshine.
Maddie returned from her two weeks off. We are all glad to see her back and have another hand around. With Maddie gone, Emily and Brenda worked on lots of projects.
Scott and I had quite a few days in the arena by ourselves or with just Shayne and des. We shared lots of laughs, roped the dummy and pulled the roping sled as much as possible in preparation for cattle and branding and rode through a tone of horses. Is was a lot of fun for both of us and we are looking forward to next week with the whole crew back and riding together.
That’s all I have for you this week. We look forward to seeing many of you this season and thanks for reading.
Until next time
February 28, 2021, Volume 16, Issue 8
March is nearly here and with it comes longer days and warmer temperatures. (Of course, here in Montana, we will continue to have some cold nights and snowy days, but the hope of spring is on the horizon!)
It is not just the melting of snow and sunnier days that spring brings to the ranch, it is also the shedding of hair of our herd. Being a former biology teacher, I just have to take a few lines and tell you how this process takes place. The eyes of horses pick up the increase in daylight which then alerts the pineal gland (small and located mid-brain) to send hormones that trigger the pituitary gland, which in turn sends a cascade of hormones to trigger the thyroid. The thyroid gland is the one responsible for hair growth and loss (shedding). In the case of our herd, there is A LOT of shedding going on.
This past Saturday, Kevin, Scott, Emily and Brenda took brushes, combs and conditioner out to the pasture to groom the herd. Each horse had masses of hair that came off with just a couple strokes of a curry comb. And, after what seemed like rugs of hair on the ground, all were groomed.
On a different note, this winter has had its share of cold temperatures, but the overall health of the herd has been good and their weights steady and strong. But, don’t take my word for it. Check out the pictures and see for yourself. 🙂
February 20, 2021, Volume 16, Issue 7
There is a small room attached to the indoor arena closest to the lodge that is referred to as the warming hut. It originally was used to keep watch over newly born calves and their mothers back when Shayne raised Charolais cattle. When I am not riding, I spend most of my time in this room. I can usually be found gathering medical supplies for the next day or stocking more medical supplies that are needed on-hand, and in an emergency, drawing up medicine and treating an injured horse right there just outside the warming hut in what we refer to as the hospital. About a year ago, an idea brewed to transform the warming hut from a space once used for watching cattle with stored veterinary supplies, to a space that looked at felt like a veterinary office.
This past week, myself, Chris and Emily went to work on transforming this small space into something new.
There were moments when it seemed we were on one of those home improvement reality television shows with plenty of laughter thrown in. Chris skillfully took out the shower and in its place put in a brand new sink as well as laid new flooring. He is quite adept at using a skill saw. Emily put her master painting skills to use and painted floor to ceiling, colors of which she picked out herself (she once worked in the paint department at Home Depot). I, on the other hand, went to work on transporting a sea of medical supplies from old containers to new cabinets and drawers. On Saturday evening, we finally finished. What an accomplishment! Now, when you open the door to the warming hut, if feels just like you are walking into a veterinary office, and that at any moment, a vet with stethoscope and clipboard in hand will walk through the door.
If you plan to come to the ranch for one of our 10-day experiences, come on over and visit me in the warming hut. It would be my delight to show you around.
February 15, 2021, Volume 16, Issue 6
Jupiter reporting the latest ranch news again. To start out, we had some very cold days this week with temps as low -25. The crew has been doing a very good job of keeping the waters ice free for the herd and I. In the early mornings, the ponies and I come up with games to play to keep ourselves warm. We might wrestle each other or go for a run around the pasture. The cold days make me happy to come into the arena and warm up. I enjoy taking little snoozes under the heaters and feel the icicles melt off my whiskers.
With the temps so low, the work load is lighter in the arena as not to get us horses sweaty before going out into the arctic. I’ve really liked the slow work this week. It’s given me the chance to understand Maddog a bit better. I’m understanding where to place my feet while backing, leg yielding, turning etc. During one of our dances, Maddie and I were experimenting with the refinement within a leg yield. I’ve done many leg yields in my years, so I was ready to nail the exercise. As Maddie’s leg touched my side I put a big bend in my withers and gave to her hands. I glanced up in the mirror, yep the big bow in my neck made me look stunning, I thought. Just as I was about to cross my legs over, Maddie walked me forward and straightened me with her hands and legs, taking out the arc in my neck I was so proud of. Well she sure doesn’t know future bridle horse form thats for sure. I mean with that bend in my neck, all I was missing was the silver bit and bridle to complete my look I had going on. But I guess Maddie didn’t agree on all the flexion I was showing off.
Each time we approached the mirrors, I took my form but then Maddie would straighten it all out. And we would
start over. “I just need your jaw to roll buddy, not your whole neck” Maddie would whisper to me. After a few more tries, I decided to give Maddie’s idea of a leg yield a go. We came into view of the mirrors. I gave to Maddog’s hands putting slack in the reins, and ever so slightly rolled my jaw but kept the rest of my body straight. I was surprised at how good this felt. I moved my head back and forth exploring the new feel. Maddie’s hands gently corrected me back to center. My legs crossed over underneath me with much ease and Maddie stopped me as a reward. I stood there processing. Without all the flexion in my neck, I was able to lift my withers, making me taller. My legs then flowed in the movement since my weight was correct. I felt so much looser in the movement too. Even though my stellar head positioning wasn’t the way to go in leg yielding, I’m sure I can incorporate it in other movements.
Well, I’m sure hoping to see some sunny days soon. I’m ready to shed this thick winter coat and sport all the muscles I’ve been building. I can almost taste the sweet green grass that will cover the mountains and pastures.
And so the journey continues…..
February 6, 2021, Volume 16, Issue 5
Howdy everyone, it’s Jupiter here, one of the ranch horses. Some of you may know me, I’m the stunning bay roan that stands out among the rest of the herd. I’ve been enjoying my time off this last year, but now I’m back on the payroll so I thought I’d give you guys a ranch update from my point of view.
So this last year I’ve been spending my days in the herd, getting fat on the lush grass and taking in the wide open spaces. Recently, I was moved to join the other herd of horses behind the new arena. I was very excited to join the cool kids and get put back to work. My first day back, I was led into the arena and tied in one of the spacious stalls. I took in the new smells of pine shavings, grain and leather saddles. I greeted all my buddies who were tied beside me and watched some of my other friends getting ridden. I took a few naps as well, enjoying the warmth of the heater on my back. I was soon taken out of my stall and one of the wranglers, Maddie, began brushing me. I closed my eyes and focused on the soothing feeling of every brush stroke on my coat. Maddie also put this weird gel in my mane and tail that smelled like a pasture full of flowers. I noticed the gel increased my handsomeness by adding shine and flow to my mane and tail. I felt extra special as I walked into the arena with my new hair do.
Maddie started with groundwork with me. As I circled this goofy human, I started remembering all the
dance moves as I tried to figure this gal out. At first, I felt out of balance as I tried to understand what this girl was asking of me. With every movement, I found ways to convey to the girl what I needed. Maddie and I soon started having a conversation with our movements. Like any first conversation, it had it’s awkward moments but also big breakthroughs. I licked my lips and took a big breath telling Maddie I was understanding. She paused and gave me soft strokes on my forehead. The next step was the saddle. Maddie swung her pad and saddle on my back and it felt new and familiar all at once. I stood quietly as she adjusted her gear to my very round belly. We went through our dance steps again and I listened to the rhythm of the leather squeaking on my back. Once the saddle was snug like a big hug around my body, I lowered my elegant head for the bridle. I felt like a stud sporting shining metal conchos on my headstall. Maddie swung her leg over the saddle and I felt her settle into place and the work began.
I could feel Maddie was hesitant as she touched my body with her legs or slid her hand down a rein. She was seeing what I had to offer and I was doing the same with her. Just like the the groundwork, we gradually found ways to communicate with one another. Not long after Maddie found ways to shift my balance and become a better dance partner, we had a serious job to do. All of a sudden I noticed there was a steer in the arena! I had no idea where this bugger came from but Maddog and I had to get him. I realized there was something different about this steer, another horse had to drag him around in order for him to move. And his body was made of metal but still wrapped in cowhide. I was wary of this steer, he could not be trusted. As Maddie and I got closer, I held back slightly letting her know this steer could be a trickster. I felt Maddie’s legs against my body and I pursued the cow until my lips were on his back. I got strokes of encouragement and I stayed hooked onto that steer. Soon Maddie’s rope started to swing by my side. When I saw her loop wrap around the steer, I ran up closer and kept that little guy in check until we got him stopped. Even though I was incredibly focused on my job, I was having so much fun. I forgot how satisfying it is to feel useful. At the end of the day, I glanced in one of the mirrors and saw my reflection. I let out a proud whinny at the stunning creature that was myself. Maddie laughed as she stepped off and brought my attention back to her as she took off my headstall. After another grooming, I inhaled a tasty bucket of grain and took a snooze under the heaters.
I’m looking forward to more rides in the arena and getting my muscles built back up so I can put the other geldings to shame with my good looks. I’m ready for the long summer days and hopefully I can chase some cattle in the mountains. The rest of the crew here (both horses and humans) have been doing good as well. Saddles have been getting cleaned for the upcoming season and projects are wrapping up. Our little patch of Montana is receiving a few inches of snow this weekend. The herd and I are very happy because that means we get extra food. 🙂
And so the adventure continues………..
January 30, 2021, Volume 16, Issue 4
This week in ranch happenings, we have been continuing to expand our horsemanship horizons with flying lead changes! The first time I tried the pattern Shayne was teaching, I was on Leroy, another favorite pony of mine. I think they are all my favorite at this point, hahaha.
Our pattern consisted of a leg yield at the trot to pick up the canter, to a short circle and coming out on a straight diagonal line to change leads. Shayne has been encouraging us to challenge ourselves to the next level and explore cantering short circles. For awhile, I didn’t believe I could canter short, not with elegance any way. But after an empowering dad talk from Shayne 🙂 I trusted myself and did the exercise. I found that by cantering Leroy short, it caused the hind end to step up and underneath himself giving us a new kind of power. As we came out on our straight line, I gently switched my legs asking for the new lead. With a little bit of thought, Leroy switched to his new lead and I was grinning ear to ear.
Up next for the exercise was Des, starting out with a beautiful canter depart. I watched intently as Des cantered a perfectly balanced small circle and came out with a gorgeous lead change. By setting up the hind end in the small circle, it’s
easier for the horse to change leads because the hind is already engaged for the change. Changing leads in this manner is more comfortable to the horse and they start “hunting” the change because it feels good to them.
Throughout the rest of the week, we continued to revisit this exercise. Or “refry the bean” as Shayne now says. Between our roping routines and cutting flag sessions, we practiced flying lead changes out of our short circles. All of the horses became more balanced after this exercise. Some even standing with their hind more underneath them. At the end of the riding week, we refried the seat position bean. Yep the quest for the perfect position of balance still continues!
With a light dusting of snow over the last few days, the mountains feel fresh and we had our first full moon of the year. To finish out the week strong, the new arena got a deep cleaning. With the tack rooms organized and the rails shining, the arena is ready for another week of horse and human connections.
And so the journey continues…….
January 23, 2021, Volume 16, Issue 3
Hey everyone! Here’s this week’s ranch update.
We are continuing our roping practice daily and we are finding more and more ways to get creative with our exercises. Earlier in the week we cut on the cutting flag with our ropes in hand. This simulated running up on a steer with ropes attached. Anyone who knows me knows I enjoy going fast, so I had a blast with this exercise. Not only do you have to be quick physically, but also mentally. With only one hand to keep the horse hooked on to the flag, you have to rely more on proper positioning of your legs and knowing when to reach for a rein with your other hand. It was a great job for both us and our ponies. Later on in the week, we spent a whole morning breaking down each movement in the cow turn. As we each had a session on the flag, the rest of us would study the balance of each foot. This was really cool for me to see how weight distribution changed the cow turns.
After studying the feet, we were able to adjust our dry work to balance our horses to the next level. By watching the patterns in other horses, I was able to imagine what I was feeling my own horse’s feet do underneath me. This helped me quite a bit with a few of my horses and I was able to hook them on to the cutting flag better. I’ve noticed that by understanding where to place my horse’s weight, I have been able to focus more on getting the job done with feel rather than just mechanics.
In other ranch happenings, our project lists are slowly getting shorter. Trouble also got stuck in a tree the other day, but with some encouragement and patience, he was able to get down on his own. 🙂 He likes to keep us on our toes for sure. The sun is starting to stay out longer each evening, I think we are all looking forward to longer and warmer days.
And so the journey continues!