The Highline Blog

If He were to come here.

Most of us, if we turn on the radio, will hear the tunes of Christmas carols and Christmas songs – some old, some new. There is one Christmas song that my mother used to sing to me as a child. The song is called “Away in a Manger.” One of the verses reads, “the cattle are lowing, the poor baby wakes, but little Lord Jesus no crying He makes.” Our cattle here at the ranch are long gone, having been shipped months ago. But I wonder, if we still had cattle this time of year, would we have made room for a mother in labor if she and her husbandappeared at the ranch searching for a warm place to deliver their child?

They most likely would not come on a donkey way out, but what if they drove up in a small car that was way past its prime? Would we make room? Well, of course, if such were to occur, we certainly would make room. Our hospital is plenty warm,and we have blankets and horse pads for the birth. But what would we have for him to rest in? There is nothing suitable that we have that I can think of except one of our galvanized steel water troughs that are stored for the winter. Yes, horses have drunk out of them, but they are cleaned in the fall. We could put blankets in it that are soft and warm. The troughs are also heavy, so there would be no danger that the Christ child would fall out. How marvelous it would be to peer into that trough of steel and see the Son of God. Would he be glowing? Would angels be singing in our old, dusty indoor? Would legions of angels be walking in the meadow singing, “Glory to God in the highest. Peace on earth and good will to men.” Would their glow be seen by our neighbors a few miles away?

And then there is this question: what could we give that is fit for a king – the savior of the world? I search in my mind what we could give from our ranch that is of great worth. Could we give him one of our saddles? No, he is way too small for that. Could we give him a horse? Well, He would not need one for a long, long time. Here on the ranch, we don’t have gold, frankincense or myrrh. What we do have is devotion – devotion to our horses, devotion to our land, devotion to our guests. It is the foundation of what we are about here at McGinnis. Yes! Yes! We could give him our devotion! Devotion that would not last for a few days, but for a lifetime.

As I sit here writing down my thoughts listening to the crackle of our wood stove and instrumental Christmas music, I think about the presence of God at the ranch where there is not much to break the silence, except for a horse squeal now and again and the sound of coyotes in the middle of the night. It is a beautiful place, a peaceful place. A place where stars gleam. It would be a good place for the savior of the world to be born. His arrival would be sacred out here.

I like what CS Lewis once said: “Once in our world, a stable had something in It that was bigger than our whole world.”


The Project Party

Hi Everyone!

We are deep in our usual winter project mode here at the ranch!

We finally finished our year end deep clean on the indoor arena. I can tell you there is nothing quite like the level of clean in any arena, that we have here at the ranch. The arena is a 150×250 building and every inch of the ceiling & walls get wiped down. We make sure the beams, sprinklers, heaters, cross braces, mirrors, rails, and every other piece of the arena you can think of are like new by the time we have finished cleaning. Even the shingles on the top of the tack rooms are vacuumed to remove the layer of dust that has accumulated over the season. The most time consuming portion (other than cleaning the ceiling) of our deep clean is making sure all 34 panels of mirrors are clean and spotless. These always prove to be a test in patience because we battle hard water stains, dirt, and streaking. Just the mirrors took 3 entire days of cleaning to get them sparkling new. Next time you step into the arena, just take a look around and imagine the level of meticulous determination it takes to keep it looking beautiful.

The other major project that is still underway is the deep clean of our cabins, lodge rooms and all of the items within! Brooklynn has been hard at work getting every sheet, bed spread, wool blanket, decorative pillow, rug, towel, and anything else organized, washed, and put away for the year. She goes through every piece of every cabin to make sure it is in good condition to clean and store for next year. Inventory is taken, lists are made of what every cabin has and needs. Every single pillow, rug, mat, and decorative textile gets a year end wash. She even makes a spreadsheet of every wool item that needs to go to the dry cleaners, so that nothing gets lost in the drop off. By the end there’s an entire year end inventory of everything you can think of. Every cabin/room has its washable items neatly folded in a labeled storage bin ready to go for 2024!


Our next major project was washing all 50 5 Star pads, 20 Navajo blankets, 18 Woolback pads, 50 cinches, 20 mecate reins, and 20 neck ropes. Everything can go in the washer except the 5 Star pads and cinches. These have to soak in woolite & chlorohexidine for a few hours. The cinches are all mohair so they are delicate when it comes to washing. So we soak them in the solution to help lift the dirt and sweat from the fibers. The cinches are then put on a soak and spin to rinse them out after soaking. We hang dry them on the rails to help them maintain their shape. The 5 Star pads are a much longer cleaning process! After soaking in troughs, they are rinsed out top and bottom. For many of them this is not enough to get them truly clean. Many need to be spot scrubbed for dirt that is stuck on the wool fibers. These are scrubbed with Woolite on a hard brush, rinsed, and repeated until the spot comes clean. Might I add that soaking wet 5 Star pads are extremely cumbersome, wet, and heavy! These get hung to air dry once we feel they are sufficiently clean and rinsed. This endeavor was a two day project while we multi tasked cleaning our farrier area, veterinary room, and pens in the old arena.

There have been many other side projects going on in the midst of these things, but we won’t bore you with the details. We hope this gives you a little insight into the question. “What do you guys do in the winter?” LOL A LOT.

-The McGinnis  Crew

2023 Wrap Up!

Hi Everyone!

Long time, no post, but we can officially say the 2023 season has concluded. I would love to say that I’ve been a diligent Highline writer for 2023, but as anyone who knows me and the ranch, knows that I juggle more than a few plates. We are long overdue for an update, so here we go!

We were blessed to have an incredible group of guests this year, and many of them signing up for round two as soon as they finished round one. We LOVE meeting new guests and seeing old friends. As anyone knows, if this place became a place special to you, then you know you left as family. We are already excited for 2024 because we know we are seeing a TON of friends who are coming back one, two, and three times in 2024. If you haven’t looked at 2024 dates and plan on coming, you might want to jump on it before you miss your spot!

We got to host 190 wonderful smiling faces this year who we are very thankful for. We watched so many people overcome obstacles, learn new things, dig deep for more, test their courage, work hard, bring adventurous spirits, refine their riding, change their learning mindsets, do something new, challenge the status quo, and overall be fantastic students. We live to have students who are as excited to learn as we are to teach and willing to dig deep for the good stuff. Boy we got the overflow of that all season long. It seemed as the season went along that somehow each guest week was better than the last, which I’m not sure how is even possible. We thoroughly enjoyed each one we hosted.

This fall we finished up with us wranglers doing the final gather off of Davis mountain and brought all of the cattle home in record time. We spent 6 days non-stop as a crew hunting 116 head of cattle on 40 square miles and managed to find, gather, and move all of them back to the ranch meadows in time before our final regular guest week. We had a blast as a crew doing a job together but we may have also finished out with chaffed butts, busted knees, and overall whooped. I don’t think we would have traded it for anything and we will have stories for days. So when you see us next, just ask! I’m sure you will get a good belly laugh from our adventures together. The cattle were shipped out just after the October guest stay. We gathered, weighed, sorted, and loaded them in groups horseback first thing in the morning. The process was smooth and only took a few hours start to finish. The goodbye is always a little bittersweet as we’ve gotten to know them throughout the season. We are thankful for our time with them nonetheless.

We finished out the fall season with two October and two November guest stays. We had some incredible & fun guests join us! We were able to do cavalry in the meadows, weigh cattle, work the cutting flag in neck ropes, work on lead changes, ride to music in neck ropes, and so much more! Des was able to officially advance Lefty from the Hackamore to the Two-Rein after working diligently to make sure she didn’t miss anything in the Hackamore. The journey is a beautiful thing to watch, and will be such a treat for everyone to see next season when he’s straight up in the bridle. Shayne was able to join in quite a bit more towards the end of the season which made for some FUN horsemanship lessons. He came in with electric energy and passion and got everyone amped up in their horsemanship. Needless to say Shayne’s lessons got everyone pumped up and pushed out of their comfort zone. Des and Shayne put some of their personal bridle horses in the guest string which was such a treat for the guests. A handful of guests were able to see what it feels like to ride a horse that is masterfully educated and has more buttons than they could imagine. Des also graduated a few more B-string horses into the guest string which was exciting as they made their debut and were able to teach riders. She’s been working hard at getting the final group of B-string horses ready for guests. I’m sure this winter she will probably round out the list and finish the last handful.

We are in project mode at the ranch for December while we aren’t riding. Everyone is here for the winter, Me, Max, Jenna, Brenda, Holly, CJ, Brooklynn, & Zach. Noah is home for the winter and will be back in the spring once we thaw out a little bit. I’ve been catching up in the office and preparing for 2024. We worked on the deep indoor arena cleaning as a whole crew for a handful of days, and now Jenna, Max, & Brenda are finishing up the last portions. Zach & CJ are working on winterizing all of the unused buildings and vehicles for the winter. Brooklynn is doing the final cleaning and shut down of all of the guest rooms & cabins. If you saw our winter project list, you would be amazed how much we work on and get done in the winter that during regular season we don’t have time for. We catch up on all of the to-do’s in the winter around the ranch. We are looking forward to January when we get back to riding and are able to dive into learning mode for us wranglers. It is probably the sweetest time of year because everything slows down a bit, is quiet, and we get to hunker down learning in the saddle and checking off our project list.

Anyways, until next time!


Beyond the Mid Season Mark

Hi Everyone,

It has been a while wince we’ve posted, but we have been hard at work around the ranch and have finished up our August Women’s Weeks. We are rolling right into fall season with guests arriving today! We had an incredible month in August, our ladies moved the cattle to McKillop from the State piece and finally to the final grazing allotment at Davis mountain which is our largest space of 40sq miles! August was filled with some smoking hot weather, fun activities, and friendly competition. We held a charcuterie board competition, horseback scavenger hunt across the ranch, obstacle challenges, ground work competitions, cattle games, and many other fun activities across our guest weeks.

The not so fun portion of the second guest week is 1/2 our staff ended up with COVID! We had a guest who was unaware they had it and so that put a damper on our week, it made us feel a little like we were in the twilight zone. Nonetheless we were able to finish the guest week strong! Our hospitality/kitchen staff was down for the count, so Sami and Alex were called in to have a menu and dinners for the second half of the week. Might I say, we were creative and it turned out pretty good, especially the CHURRO cake! Max & Jenna were able to keep the riding side of things going with Des and the ladies were still able to have all of the horsemanship and outside experience they hoped for. Somehow our staff makes the miracles happen when nothing looks right.

We rolled into a week of shoeing with Tommy right after our guests left, Max and Sami were the shoeing crew while we awaited everyone to test negative and feel better. Horses are shod, everyone is now healthy and we are looking forward to a cooler September with lots of cattle work and time outside. We finally received multiple days of rain which helped knock down the dust and green up the meadows. We are in the final stretch of caring for the cattle until they ship out October 10th.  We will be sad when they go, but everyone is healthy and thriving. We are prepped and ready to roll into September with crisp days and beautiful views.


Too Blessed to be Stressed




Des here!

We just wrapped up the first of our two Buck clinic weeks!  I look forward to this time with Buck all year long.  How many people are privileged enough to spend time with their real-life heroes?  At the ranch, all of us count ourselves extremely blessed.

We had about 10 days between our last 7-day clinic and the Buck weeks.  And let me tell you, it was a whirlwind!  We had a tall order to fill…do a deep clean on the arena, get ponies ridden and ready, SHOE 85 head, get around fences in the next cattle and horse pastures, gather cattle for the clinic—and somehow in there find time for some shuteye and a shower or two!

Of course, we killed it and got everything completed.  This crew of ours is absolutely relentless and dedicated.  Buck even noted that he thinks it’s the best crew we’ve ever had out here.  Everyone works hard, plays hard, is compassionate, friendly and can maintain the best of attitudes no matter the circumstance.  I’m a lucky ranch manager!

I made the decision to put Pard and Tucker, my former bridlehorses into the guest string.  With so many youngsters and B-string horses to ride, I just can’t give them the time they deserve.  And they (Pard especially) are fat as ticks.  Some very fortunate guests were able to ride them in the clinic this past week and enjoy horses with a few extra buttons.  Taps also made his debut in the clinic!  We’ll have a couple more newbies added in this week.

The horses did fabulous.  Shayne has really been bearing down this year on the flag work/cattle working skills and all of the preparation for them to make the horses get handier cutting.  It’s really paying off!  Several of the guests really got to feel what it means for a horse to be “hooked on” to where they could just turn them loose and let them go to work.

Buck always brings on the WOW factor with his horses.  Watching him ride and seeing his horses progress really helps me as a rider to get back in balance.  Shayne and I study so many nuances that ultimately make monumental differences.  I told Buck that seeing him was like seeing an oasis in the desert after so many months!

Friday after our guests left, Buck, the crew and a couple stayover guests played 3 hours of laser tag with us!  It was SOOOOOO much fun.  Normally we go for like an hour, but our teams were really well matched and very competitive.  We didn’t shut down our guns till after 10pm.

Today the crew is just wrapping up the final touches on the ranch for our incoming Week 2 clinic guests.  Orientation is going to be starting pretty soon!  It was great catching up with all of you.

All the best,


A Season of Go Go Go has Begun!

Hey all!!!

Des here! I know we are a little behind on our Highline, so let me just recap what has been going on the last couple of weeks!

For starters, we have had a ROLLERCOASTER of weather! This is certainly the strangest spring I’ve ever seen since I’ve been out here (almost 15 years)! It goes from dry and almost 90 degrees, to thunderstorms, to pouring rain the in 50s or 60s and then does that on repeat every few days. We even had smoke from a forest fire in Canada a few days last week! Thankfully all of that has been rained out…we are currently getting buckets of rain.

We had our SECOND guest stay of this season. During orientation, we knew we were in for a treat with the characters seated around the table. It’s not often that we have tears in our eyes from laughing in the first 30 minutes of meeting our guests. We were in for a lot of fun!

In addition to having our riding guests, we also had two friends come in to help us rope and brand—Ty and Will! This made for an extra special week, because guests had the option to ride each day, but they also had the option to run ground crew for our ropers—some would set ropes on front feet and hind feet, and some would give shots of wormer while others would run irons and lay on the ZO brand. Shayne, Ty and Will would rope each morning, with Noah giving relief holding front feet. In the PM, I would trot over and try to hog as many head shots and heel shots as I possibly could! We were done in 3 days with the last day being just fun, slow and easy. I was pretty sad for it to be over.

On the last riding day, we did our big ride with the guests to the top of Pier Mountain. I rode Chulo outside for the very first time and by the time we had ridden past the lodge, he was settled in and happily leading the group. We got LOTS of great pics up there, saw sooooooo many wildflowers—AND—picked off a few ticks—EWWWWWWWW.

Holly made our guests (VERY HAPPY) guinea pigs by trying all kinds of new

main courses, side dishes, specialty salads, breads and desserts! Even though the guests have left, we are still trying several more dishes in the shaping of our next guest week menu. So far, we have had some super yummy saltine breaded bone in pork chops, and a couple of fun desserts—Montana TRASH pie (think a melty cookie pie with coconut, melty chocolate chunks, pretzels, butter—lotttts of butter) and tonight we had a NUTELLA cheesecake with a BISCOFF cookie crust. I just love being one of Holly’s guinea pigs!

Tommy, our master farrier is back for several days to guide us in shoeing the herd. We are on a roll, having already gone through 22 horses in 1.5 days! Tommy is such a fantastic teacher. Besides Sami, we are a fairly green crew, but Tommy keeps us on track, gets us better each time and keeping the horses feet on the gain with every shoeing. This week it’s me, Sami, Noah and Max in the program. PLUS, Brenda is shoeing with us this go around! And hopefully in every other round from here on out. She is doing fabulous and Tommy is super happy with her. JENNA is working with our guests, Lynn and Joy, keeping tabs on jingling and cattle, and basically filling in every gap since we are all pretty tied up.

Besides that, the ranch just keeps rolling in projects. Brooklyn is keeping the place looking shiny, Alex and Nolan are keeping up with the yards…things are growing at a pace that’s hard to keep up with! CJ seems to be juggling so many different plates, I’m not sure how he keeps track of everything…but somehow water tanks are getting turned on, fences are getting around for horses and cattle, and about a million other projects are getting done and getting done well. And Zach, well he’s keeping everything running!

Willy continues his ranch beautification projects. He is currently on Shayne’s mountain, clearing roads and getting rid of thick brush and trees. It’s kind’ve become a jungle up there.

Shayne just got a sweet new sweeper attachment for the arena. A couple of passes and the cobblestone walkway looks like new! He is fixing up roads around the ranch, and has been working on completing our new 100ft roundpen! He helps me keep track of anything and everything. If you know Shayne you know he doesn’t miss much! His keen eye is a huge reason for this place running as smoothly as it does. He has ADD—Attention to Detail disorder, ha!

And of course, Randy is always close by with his cape tucked in, ready to come to the rescue for so many minor emergencies that seem to come up in this business.

We certainly have a fabulous crew this season! I’m excited to share them and this place with so many of you who will be visiting this season! And if you can’t make it this year, just keep reading and following on social media. We’ll keep you in the know.


Wild Cattle and a Little Yeehaw

We received our cattle in two phases over the last couple of weeks and found out that they were pretty feral and touchy! This made for an exciting time getting them moved around and put in their appropriate pastures. Our second load of cattle did not travel as planned and had no respect for the wire hot fence so they took a tour all over the ranch unexpectedly. The crew was able to reorganize and gather the majority of the herd that was loose and use them as bait for the cattle who were on the loose. We had two cattle run off on their own up into the 420 piece on the mountain. With two loose, this meant all hands on deck to find our cows. Maintaining the main herd in the Winter Pasture next to the 420 piece proved to be a good lure! CJ was out checking fences and saw one cow hanging out near the fence line in the evening. Brenda and I went out on foot after dinner at about 9pm and were determined to get this steer back in with the herd. We had to be thoughtful, because his bubble was about 100′ in all directions to influence him in any direction. After some thoughtful maneuvering we were able to trot him right in through the gates to his friends. The other steer was no where to be found so this meant that we would ride out horseback the next day to go find him on the mountain. We counted the herd in the morning with hope that maybe the lost steer would appear in the group, but he didn’t. A group of us rode out and gathered the herd holding them near the fence line while Des & Noah rode the fence line looking for tracks. Once they found evidence of the steer they tracked him until they found him. Meanwhile Max and I held the steers in a rodear with Nadine in an attempt to keep them quiet and nearby. When the steer was found, the goal was to push him down the fence line to a gate. We began to move the rodear down the fence line as well in hopes he would get his eyes on his friends. With some luck, des pushed him down the mountain and as soon as he saw his buddies, he trotted himself down the mountain, and right through the fence back to his friends. The fence stayed up and we finally had all of the cattle back together. With this new batch of cattle, they’ve taken time to get them more gentle and comfortable with us walking through on foot to check health in the evenings or riding through horseback for health checks. We’ve had a wild couple of weeks. The cows have settled and we are ready for our second guest week!


Shoeing into Spring

We all know Spring is upon us when the snow is melting and its time to get shoes on all of the horses! We spent 8 days with Tommy, our farrier and teacher we fly in every 6 weeks, on all ends of shoeing. By the end of his first trip to the ranch this year he had everyone in the shoeing pen! Even Des joined in for a 1/2 day every day and learned trimming, shoeing, and finishing. We were able to learn how the science of balancing the horses feet leads to better comfort, soundness, and performance for them. With Des knowing how each of the horses ride, she was able to put together the things she feels under saddle with what we saw in balance and conformation on the ground. We had a great 8 days learning every nuance of the balance of the foot based on how the horse was built and how the foot wanted to grow. Noah & Max our working interns joined in for the duration of shoeing and got their fill of education in not just shoeing, but having good feel with the horses throughout the process. Jenna was able to stay in the shoeing sessions and finesse her trimming and nailing skills. She even wore a ‘hoof necklace’! We all learned a lot, learned new skills, refined our skills, and realized shoeing relates to more than just the foot. When you get tired, frustrated, or struggle the feel still matters to the horse so they can have the best experience. We all found that feel has to be carried in everything we did whether it was how we got under the horse, running the rasp, or nailing on shoes, it mattered. Everyone came away albeit tired, with a new found respect for the process of shoeing and balancing the horses. Now for the final countdown to our first guest week in 6 days! Cattle arrived yesterday and the tent went up today. We are in the final push to have this place polished for guest season. See ya’ll soon!


As I Climb

Noah was brought onto the McGinnis team after participating in the working intern tryouts. He wrote a piece of poetry for the Highline this week. Enjoy!

Amidst the mountains of Montana’s grace,

The Scion climbs with strength and pace,

It’s tires grip the rugged terrain,

As I, a rookie, tend the plains.

But though I’m new and lack the skill,

To climb the mountain with my own will,

I take pride in my work each day,

As the Scion climbs, come what may.

For the ranch is my home, my place,

And though the Scion may trail the race,

I know my work is vital too,

In tending the land, all fresh and new.

So let the Scion climb the heights,

As I work hard with all my might,

For together we make a team,

In this land of a Montana dream. 


Working Intern Insight – Two weeks of learning!

Hi, my name is Brooklynn!

I do not come from an extensive background in the horse world, and only began my journey into the horse world around two years ago. I was super excited and nervous to apply for the intern tryouts. Having no experience with roping or cattle, I knew the stakes were going to be high, and the chances of being accepted to try out were very slim. Despite my lack of qualifications, I took the leap of faith because I just knew the experience would be worth any discomfort – and I am so glad I did! 

The working internship tryouts were two weeks of immeasurable knowledge, hard work, comradery, success, failure, and amazing home-cooked meals. All seven of the potential interns trying out were immediately welcomed by the staff and brought into the McGinnis Meadows family as if we had always been a part of it. The two-week trial was essentially boot camp for horsemanship, but with the best amenities you could ask for. The stakes were high, but everyone put his/her best foot forward and gave it everything he or she had. One of the most special parts of the tryouts was how every single day we got to watch Des ride every horse being used for the day, and how she would maintain the standard set of skills every horse needs to have to be able to do the job asked of them. No matter what horse, Des would get the same output on each horse. To see that level of consistency, from one horse to another, all maintained by Shayne and Des was eye-opening. Getting two weeks of essentially private lessons from some of the best horsemen in the world, for free, is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Shayne welcomed each one of us into the best part of his world, and the two weeks spent in his world were worth more than anything money can buy. Shayne and Des do not just teach you how to ride a horse – they teach you what it means to truly be a horseman, and that teaches you to be a better human not only to the horse – but also others.   

As a greener rider, I knew I was going to be the underdog of the group, but I knew no matter what – this was going to be worth every grueling, embarrassing moment. To be introduced to what it means to really be a horseman is awe-inspiring. To know and see that the person running the show cares more than everyone in the room about all of our successes is a unique feeling. Nothing was always sunshine and rainbows, but nothing good in life comes without hard work. Every day I failed on at least one activity if not all, but none of the staff gave up on me or anybody else out in that arena. I knew after the first week that the chances of me being picked over the other interns were not high, but I knew that I did not want to leave this magical part of the world. My goal was to show how good of a student I could be, and hopefully, show how much I cared about the horses and being a better horseman. To my disbelief, my hard work and good attitude shined through and caught the attention of both Des and Shayne, and I was given the opportunity to join the McGinnis Meadows staff as a housekeeper while still being able to learn whatever I can from the wealth of knowledge McGinnis Meadows has to offer.

At the end of the two weeks, we were tasked with a follow-the-leader exercise. All the interns plus the wranglers were split into two groups, and each one of us had to take turns leading our group. The goal was to do any exercise we had learned within the past two weeks. It was hilarious while still productive, and we even had Des cracking up at all of us leading our group. We may have turned into drill sergeants at the same time, but we had to motivate our troops! Not only did we show that we had learned the exercises, but we also showed that we can teach others too! We all had a good laugh as a team. The hardest part was taking yourself and your peers seriously! All in all, these two weeks was an experience of a lifetime, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. 

I am excited about this upcoming season and everything it has to offer. I look forward to meeting some of you and being a part of your journey to becoming a better horseman.