The Highline Blog

Women, Wine and Willpower

We are 3/4 of the way through our 2023 Women’s Ten-Day adventure here at McGinnis Meadows Ranch!

What a great group! They all came here with varying experience levels and ages, but all had the desire to learn and try new things. So far, they have learned the

foundation for getting a good walk, trot and canter, transitions, progressions of lateral work, and competed in an outdoor trail skills course, indoor groundwork competition, and a choreographed musical ride in teams!

Today we are heading out to do cattle work in the meadows and riders will be presented with a new twist. Teams will not only have to gather cattle from the arena, but will then have to drive them through obstacles in the meadows, through several pastures, with the final destination point at the Joanne Wallace pasture. With a bluebird sunny sky day and temps in the 70s it will be spectacular!

It’s not only about riding and horses on this adventure though… The Laser Tag guns were brought out earlier in the week, and with a high level of competitiveness among participants that led to a very active game!

Last night was the popular repeat from last year- The wine and paint party! You can see from the photo that this is a group of talented and budding artists! Holly, our fabulous chef, kept us fed and happy with tapas, desserts and of course, plenty of wine.

Speaking of food, there is no shortage of wonderful dinners here. Holly and the kitchen prep team of Erin, Alex and Micheli do a fabulous job of keeping everyone on the ranch well fed.

Well, we are off for more excitement this afternoon. Stay tuned for an update about the last few days of this really fun adventure!

Do what you love, and love what you do.


Sometimes You’re Just Making Mecates


Hi everyone, Jenna here!

It has been a busy few days since we touched base last, and there has been lots going on in preparation for our Women’s 10-day! We are so excited to welcome back a handful of familiar faces and be joined by some new ones.

Aside from the regular routine of taking care of the herd, some extra time has been spent on getting our indoor arena in tip-top shape for guests. Our fantastic interns have helped us make more mecates to put on our headstalls, so we have plenty of equipment for this upcoming week. It can be a bit of a process to get all of that rope cut, tied with the knot, and poppers attached to the end, but it got done with good fun at the end of our days sitting on the kitchen floor eating pizza. There is never a dull moment!

Shayne and Des have been spending lots of time teaching on horsemanship in the arena with Kitana, Tegan, Margot, Chelsey, and Genna. This week, there has been a lot of emphasis on riding using legs only and using them to create proper flexion. The ground poles have been out almost every day as Shayne has been teaching the importance of being able to direct the hindquarters and front quarters with legs only in a serpentine pattern.

Caleb and Brenda have been spending quite a bit of time on Davis Mountain in an effort to figure out what is causing the fence to have low voltage. It has been a bit of a puzzle, but there is no doubt that these two will sort it out. So far, cattle are still on the right side of the fence!

Our good friend Janice is back on the ranch for a few weeks to help me and Sami learn the ropes in the office. We are happy to have her with us and are grateful for her wealth of knowledge in all that goes on behind the scenes.

Overall, it has been a great week for getting projects checked off the list! There is always more to be done, but we end each day with a smile on our face.


Worth the wait, big update!


Hey everyone, Des here!

Hard to believe it’s been 2 weeks since Buck left the ranch.  In one sense it seems like it was just yesterday…but in another, it seems like we have been going, going, going, so much, that there’s no possible way that we could have fit in as much “stuff” into those mere 2 weeks that we have!  Seems like enough to fill 2 months!  Hence…a missing Highline issue from a week ago.  My sincerest apologies!

So, what have we been filling up our time with?  Well let’s see…. We have had to move cattle from McKillop pasture onto Davis Mountain.  That has involved many days and miles of riding to gather…lots of times we are more or less hunting for the cattle in thick brush and in steep terrain.  As of right now we are still 3 head out!  Now it’s time to check for tracks outside of the fence line—yikes!  Let’s just hope they are playing an exceptional game of hide-and-seek.

There is a new trail that the boys cut out from our McKillop pasture into Davis, via a smaller pasture called Elk Creek.  That took some time and muscle and chainsaw.  And then of course, it took quite a bit of time to get the Davis Mountain fence checked and ready (that’s 40 square miles)!  Water tanks had to be set up, mineral moved out.  It’s no small task, especially after a hard winter with lots of potential trees and downfall on the fences.

Tommy, our master farrier came out for 9 days…a little longer than the norm so that he could spend some extra time training some of our newer crew members—Caleb and Sami.  Shoeing a big herd like ours is no joke but those two really stepped up to the plate and came out the other side with loads more knowledge and feel.

We’ve had FIVE new interns start with us in the first week of August.  They are a pretty fantastic crew too!  Margot, Tegan, Chelsey, Kitana and Genna have been getting earfuls of horsemanship from all sides between their work in the arena and their work outside with the cattle.  They’ve even helped me in some of my earlier rides on one of the colts I’ve just started.  I’m really enjoying their work ethic and discipline.  This is a group that is going to get pretty far in short order.

Riding, riding, riding…I have been riding my tail off trying to get a few more ponies into the guest string who are pretty close.  In our herd we have our A string who are our Guest String horses.  Then we have our B string…those horses have all been ridden and can be ridden by a wrangler or an intern but need more consistent rides by myself to be qualified for a guest.  We also have a C string that consists of colts or horses who just need a lot more help—those are just Des string horses until they make it on up to the next list.

So, I’ve been focusing in on about 5 B-String horses who just need a little more refinement and consistency to be able to “fill in” in any given scenario.  A guest horse in our string has a pretty massive responsibility—they have to fill in for their riders as well as for themselves in a way.  They have to maintain balance and composure despite sometimes having it taken away…they do ultimately learn how to sort this all out.  That requires a deep foundation that they can draw back on.  Which is why even when a horse is in the guest string—Shayne or I will ride them for 30 min or so before any guest gets on in a given day just to bring that foundation right back up to the surface.  It’s what keeps them all operating at such a high level. Anyway, enough about me…there’s more going on beyond that!

We had a massive windstorm a few nights ago and had some of our very old Aspen trees topple down by the cabins into the lodge meadow.  About a half dozen!  Willy has been taking care of those.  We also got our final piece of the “NEW” land that Shayne purchased last year fenced this past week!  The last piece of it was actually finished up yesterday and we are live now.  It’s called the 420…. Clever name, huh?  Hint…it’s 420 acres!

We drug Janice back home (willingly!) to train some new and old staff members on learning the ins and outs of the office.  Kim is off to new adventures taking over a hunting lodge in Idaho.  It was an opportunity she couldn’t pass up and we are more than happy for her.  We hope to be seeing her around here in the off season.  For now, when you contact the office you may be seeing a few new names…all very qualified once Janice gets done with their training sessions.

Photo by Micheli

Last but not least, we said safe travels to little Kevin, who has been with us since he was 14 and just turned 21 this week!  He’s off to some new adventures and is going to continue some schooling.  With his tenacity and work ethic, he’s certainly going to go places.  We are looking forward to following the journey.

That’s all for now!  We gotta keep pushing to get this place in tip top shape for our Women’s 10-day starting on Saturday!  It’s going to be a hoot!  Even Dori is going to join in on the fun for this one.  Lucky us!

~ Des

Buck Clinics Galore!

Meanwhile, Back at the ranch…

What a fabulous month it has been! I had the opportunity to travel from NY back to the ranch to help out with the Buck Brannaman clinics during July. While Buck’s clinics were the focal point for staff and guests, it was equally fun for me to see friends and guests that I have come to know over the years, to meet new ones, and to spend time at the ranch in this beautiful part of Northwest Montana.

Three of the four clinics were held at the ranch, and one in Kalispell at Majestic Valley Arena.

It was a full house for the ranch clinics, with Horsemanship 1 in the mornings and Cow Working in the afternoons. Even after 40+ years of teaching clinics, Buck continues to evolve his horsemanship and his teaching methods. Each year I think how light and soft and balanced his horses look, but he still continues to refine every movement in his horses while keeping a nice soft expression. He also finds ways new and innovative ways to explain movements to help riders understand and apply the info.

The Kalispell clinic at Majestic had full classes for both AM and PM, and a string of 10 MMR horses attending, it kept Jenna, Michelli and myself busy. Plus, we got to ride in the afternoon class with Buck! This is always the highest educational experience, and I am grateful to take part in it whenever the opportunity arises. It was a fabulous group this year, with a mix of returning riders and people looking to gain first time exposure to Buck’s teachings.

Now, back to the ranch for the first ever Invitational clinic held at the ranch! This is the only clinic in the country that Buck teaches in this format, and the first time that we had auditors attending . For two days Buck focused on advanced horsemanship with Des, Shayne, Ty Heth, and Joel Connor. Roping played a big part in this clinic and it was really fun to watch these riders and their horses operate in such a fast paced and dynamic environment.

Following on the heels of the H2 clinic was the final ranch clinic. The riders worked on everything from perfecting balance in their horses with circles and short serpentines, to jumping them out with promptness, and getting them soft and timely. By the end of the clinic both horses and riders were doing a great job on the cutting flag and with the cattle- the improvements were impressive!

We sadly said bye for now to Buck at the end of the clinics, but the guests were not done yet!

The final day was a cattle drive to find and move steers from the state piece to McKillop. The guests were super excited to experience this aspect of the ranch. Small groups headed out to different parts of the state piece and started the hunt for cattle. These allotments are not typical cattle country—there are many steep draws that horse and rider need to negotiate. For some it was the first time they had ever ridden through country like this. When all was said and done they moved 50 head and came back to the ranch exhilarated at what they had accomplished.

It was a blast being back at MMR and I look forward to my next visit. In the meantime, I will be working hard at putting to use all of the good feedback I received to help my journey with my horses.

All for now,


Our hay crew has been busting their butts working on putting up a bumper hay crop this year!  We are soooo thankful!

Volume 17, Issue 20

This week at the ranch has been a busy one in preparation for all the excitement coming up this month!

All last week, Kevin and Scott got the entire herd trimmed and reset with new shoes. Tommy was there to help and teach everyone along the way.

The crew got to spend some time together for the 4th of July, and some of us even rode out in hopes of getting a location on the last of our cattle up on Shayne’s Mountain. It was a fun day wrapped up with an all-American dinner of burgers and fries prepared by our brilliant chef, Holly.

Come Tuesday, it was back to the hustle of getting the ranch tidied up and ready for our guests. We knocked out our quarterly arena deep clean in two and a half days! The arena is smelling fresh and looks brand new.

Now we are finishing up some of the little tasks that keep this ranch in the best of shape. From weeding pathways around the lodge to replacing broken washers, this team does it all. We are excited for all the learning that will take place this month with Buck here and cannot wait to share along the way. Until next time! Jenna.

Summertime at the Ranch

We just got finished up with our June 10 Day this past week.  What a fun group to ride with!  We couldn’t have asked for more perfect weather with daytime highs in the 70s and nighttime lows down into the 40s.

We practiced horsemanship in the arena with Shayne and Des,

gathered cattle that were scattered on the mountain and pushed them to greener pastures,

picked colorful wildflowers to decorate our hats,

watched newborn fawns play in the tall green grass on wobbly legs,

played in the cool mountain water and breathed in the fresh air,

and explored breathtaking views on the mountaintops.

We even celebrated guests Neal and Aga’s 24th wedding anniversary with a special private ride!

We love it when we have guests here at the ranch!

Days are long here this time of year with the sun rising around 5:40 a.m. and setting at almost 10 p.m.  It’s almost 11 p.m. before the last rays of sunlight slip behind the blue mountains.  My eyes have never seen anything quite so beautiful as Montana in summer.  All the colors that appear in the warm sunlight and the abundant wildlife that dance in the meadows among the tall grass is nothing short of magical. The hours of daylight will only start to get shorter with each passing day now.  A lot of work can get done between those hours and there is always plenty to do!

Until next time!



Greener Pastures

Volume 17, Issue 18

Howdy everyone! How are y’all doing?!

Alex here, I am a seasonal wrangler at the ranch. Summers and Falls are here at the ranch and Winters and Springs are at home in the northeast doing personal trainer work

We have been very busy at the ranch, Everyone has been going in many directions and lending a helping hand a little bit of everywhere to prepare the ranch for the next 10 day so that our guests can have an amazing time riding and practicing the style of horsemanship we teach here at the ranch!

Scott and Kevin have been working on the fence on the Ferguson piece. They are doing a really good job getting it put in and solid for the routes it has to be on. I have seen them do fencing work before, and they are very good at navigating in the wilderness to establish a well made fence.

Jenna and Micheli have been taking care of the hospital horses checking on them and making sure they are healing up well. They have also been doing a lot of riding with Des to develop and further their horsemanship and they are doing an excellent job at it. They recently went out to drive cattle with Shayne. Our recent intern, Daniel was a part of this cattle drive on his last day here.  He has done an excellent job with the time that he was here at the ranch. We already miss him dearly. Their 5 person crew did a really good job driving the cattle to where they needed to go to and it was a good learning experience for everyone on that drive.

There has been much cleaning in the horse and cattle pastures to make sure that they are all clean, smooth, and open for the horses to move around and relax.

Holly has been making a lot of delicious food lately with some new recipes she has been utilizing in the kitchen. We all love her cooking and baking, She works very hard to make sure everyone is well fed with delicious and nutritious meals during the day. I have been helping in the kitchen learning the kitchen/restaurant process, and it is a very good learning experience to see how meticulous someone as culinarily seasoned as Holly can be to make sure a kitchen is as ship shape as possible.

Dani Has been doing much housekeeping to take care of all the cabins so that they are always warm, cozy, and vibrant for every guest that comes here to experience what we do. Dani is very detail oriented when it comes to making sure a cabin is at its coziest, and shining best!

One of my projects has been to mow and weed eat the Belgarde bungalow yards and the shop equipment yards to make sure the grassy yards are as clean and crisp as possible. After much work on them, they are now cleaner, and more open for everyone to go do any type of work that needs to be done on them.

It has been a collective effort to making sure that things are ran as efficiently, effectively, and as smoothly as possible here. We always work hard and as a team to complete every project and do every job with total teamwork, communication, and fine attention to detail. Everyone has done an amazing job!

Until next time…


The May 10 Day

Volume 17, Issue 18


We started our May 10 day and let me tell you it was a blast with these guests from all over North America.

We started off by teaching our seat, management of reins,  learning about soft feels and using your body to help the horse.

It was great group going through the progressions of riding and eventually we even had some nice days out so we rode outside.

We did our first 3/4 day ride up to pier for a day and had a good lunch in a different spot and did some trail rides. We even moved some cattle to different pastures.

At the end we cut on the flag,  cattle and the y did Des’s canter exercise in the round pen a couple times.

Everyone really enjoyed and progressed really well.

Happy trails and  memorial weekend!

Til next time!


Grateful Heart

Volume 17, Issue 17

May in Montana, to me, is an exceptional month. Rich, nutritious green has returned and with it follow the sights and sounds of wildness coming alive. When I was checking our newly branded cattle a few days ago, it occurred to me how fortunate I was at that very moment to ride a horse and check cattle in the middle of a bright spring day without hunger, fear of gunfire or fear of airplanes flying overhead to destroy this very thing that I deeply enjoy.


May in Montana and around our country is a time when people pause to remember those soldiers who have given their lives to keep the United States of America the United States. Some decorate the graves of the fallen with flowers or flags, while others take off their caps, bow their heads in humble gratitude. Here on the ranch, there are no graves of the fallen to place flags or flowers upon, but there are flags hung in each arena- the old and the new- as well outside the dining room. I am really proud of that.

I spend a great deal of time in the old indoor (for that is where the horse hospital is located). Most evenings before I turn off the lights, I look up and gaze at our country’s flag hanging in its glory. I pause, give thanks and often times tear up (as I am now). I know that behind that flag is great deal of sacrifice and selflessness. Being able to work and breathe and live on a ranch in the green of Montana is a blessing given to me by those that chose to protect my way of life now and before I was born. Yes, Montana is a truly special please, this ranch is a special place, but without those that have given their live to protect this land, I would not be walking or riding on its soil.  -Brenda

Rope Em’, Choke Em’, and Smoke Em’

Volume 17, Issue 18

It’s branding week here on the ranch. We received 188 steers last week and had some help come in to get them all tagged, branded and checked for nuts.

Ty Heth came in from the Bitterroot, a long time cowboy friend of Shayne’s. Randy came over on his faithful horse Chip Des and Shayne rode their bridle horses and some younger ones in their string, and Scott and I got to ride some really nice ranch horses like King, Mad Max, and Sprocket.

We had some new riders in the pen this year holding feet and helping set shots. Kim rode Trump and Scotch, Daniel rode Dandy, Jenna on Cheech and Micheli rode Fancy Pants.

While we roped and held down steers the ground crew worked smooth, hard and efficiently with Brenda leading the charge.

We had a good time and finished in four days and the steers are out on green grass with some supplemental hay.

While we were getting through the cattle Bird and Kolten were hard at work keeping the rest of the ranch running, changing out mattresses, feeding the livestock, making sure all the gates were fine tuned, working on equipment, and much much more.

We wrapped up the week with a short visit from our friends at the Seattle mounted police and a few days of horsemanship. 

Until next time, Kevin.