Well folks, we are looking forward to another special year here at the ranch. It seems most weeks are filled with a mix of new and returning guests and like family, the returning guests embrace the newcomers. There is always an immediate feeling of ease amongst all the guests starting from their first night here. For us, everyone is family.
Here are some quotes from letters sent by our guests.
As always, we are humbled. Enjoy!
We weren’t sure if a month at MMG would be too much but the opposite turned out to be true! It was a completely relaxing time, including the 5 days of quarantine themselves, a sort of special vacation, and the time passed so quickly. We laughed with Alyssa that being in quarantine reminded us of how our dogs and horses must feel, waiting so anxiously for someone to come and feed them! We felt a little bit like that and we were glad to see Alyssa at the door with our lunch or dinner! Too funny! But the service and support during those few days were great and we were able to hike and bike ride each day which made the time go quickly.
It was so easy to get into the ranch rhythm once out of quarantine. Days flew by. We asked, and the ranch (eg Shayne) complied with providing an hour or so of horsemanship starting at 9am each day and then 3-4 hours of riding out at graze. The hour in the ring gave us the chance to run our horses through the progressions we were shown and then most days to get a lesson on something we could work on during the graze trail rides. Out at graze, we checked on cattle, checked water tanks, and on three occasions cut new trails through the brush. The combination, for us, of a brief horsemanship lesson each day and then extended riding out in the country working to practically enforce the teaching was ideal. Meeting our horses at 9am each day and getting back from graze at 3-30pm was ideal. Plenty enough time in the saddle.
We were glad that we got to do three days of gathering on our trip. Wish it were more. The days were challenging but fun. We were in the saddle 8, 7, and 7 hours for those three days covering 18, 16, and 15 miles bringing a group of steers back to the ranch each day. Fortunately, we were conditioned by then and the time-in-saddle was not difficult. We got to do some chasing of wayward steers through the woods utilizing riding skills perfected during the month. That was the reason we came, ultimately.
The horses we rode were some of the best trained we’ve ever experienced at the ranch. And we’ve been coming since 2002 with nineteen visits in total. There were at least 4 horses I’d like to take home. The month-long visit gave the staff time to teach without feeling rushed. And we were able to learn at a more relaxed pace. I think I learned more in this month than in most of the years previously. The ultimate compliment was Des’ and Shayne’s comments that the horses were coming back from graze better than they left. Wow! We weren’t breaking them down but improving them.
The non-riding times were also great. Emily’s food at dinners was outstanding. 32 dinners over our time at the ranch and NO REPEATS on meals. All of them were great. Best cook ever! The rest of the staff were equally good. This may have been the best staff we have ever experienced. They clearly liked each other and supported each other and were very good in their teaching, whether in the ring or with tips and coaching during rides out at graze.
The only conundrum for us was balancing time in the ring with Shayne and Des on horsemanship versus what we love which is being out riding the trails at graze and working cattle. We didn’t get to do as much cutting on the flag or “dancing our choreograph” routine in the ring as we might have liked but we felt we still learned a lot during the ring time.
From not being sure we would like the month long experience at the beginning, we came to love the extended time at the ranch and we left deciding that we would definitely do it again, if the option was offered. We hope it is.-Jane and Terry
Hello all – My pants are looser now that I’m not eating a delicious full dinner every night! I dream of homemade bread bowls and moist baked-from-scratch cookies!
At home, I ride dressage. What benefits could spending a month at McGinnis provide for a dressage rider? Read on!
Prior to my discovering the ranch (and working with my current trainer) I had picked up some bad riding habits, one of which was over-dependence on my hands. Handy dressage riders don’t balance on their horse’s mouth. Un-learning bad habits takes years to do – four (4) – in my case – and I still have more work to do!
When the ranch’s month-long program was initially announced, I wasn’t sure I could make it work. I have a full-time job and am nowhere close to retirement. I was shy about asking other people to ride my “string” of two horses. However, it became apparent that I would be working remotely through year-end. My boss gave his blessings – with conditions. My trainer recruited riders for my horses.
The lesson is that others are invested in helping you achieve your goals – something that I discovered was also true at the ranch.
I rode 10 different ranch horses multiple times – first order of business was to deep-dive into learning/re-learning the vaquero style of riding, and, with input from the wranglers, using the tools that would work best to have my horse and I working together instead of against each other.
Because I had a month, I had time to practice over and over until the movements “stuck”. If I failed with one horse in one session (which happened!) , I could redeem myself in another one. Some of the things I worked with my horsey teachers were:
- Use Legs and Seat First before Hands
- Forward, Energetic Walk is Essential
- Correct Flexion does not happen unless your body is positioned correctly
- Timing – Do You Know Where Your Horse’s Feet Are?
- Loose Rein or Soft Feel, Be Clear
- Rate – Who is Setting It, You or the Horse?
- Legs Create Flexion
- Sit Up, Not on Your Pockets – Your Back will Thank You
- Legs Off – No Nagging or Banging Heels
- Guide with Hands – Lead Out, don’t pull back
- Transitions are Your Friend
- Soft Feel Balances Your Horse
- Stop Micromanaging and Let the Horse Do Its Job
- Have a Plan and Be Methodical in Your Riding
The wranglers had a bottomless well of patience. They always were available to answer questions, coach, encourage and support. They, along with Shayne and Des, want to see you succeed! I tend to bottle up what I feel, but on the days my emotions got the better of me, they rallied to my side. As the month progressed, I became more comfortable with admitting the specific situation/scenario that made me feel uncomfortable or tense (which of course they already knew).
Over the course of the month, I achieved confidence-boosting activities such as:
- Using a neck rope at all gaits – walk-trot-canter.
- Riding bridle less!
- Riding 17 miles in one day
- Moving cattle on uneven and mountainous terrain – including steep descents
- Cutting Machine
Outside of riding, with the more relaxed pace that staying a month offers – I spent my free time hiking the trails on ranch property, sitting on my porch and watching the deer in the meadow, and working….a lot of working…but the fantastic view of the meadows and the mountains sure helped. The Wi-Fi is not blazing fast, but it supports email and Instant Messaging, which was enough for me to get my job done. Everyone was extremely supportive and understanding of my work schedule, which I really, really appreciate.
I realize how fortunate I was to be able to spend a month at the ranch. Thank you to all that kept the ranch humming, both on the front lines and behind the scenes (you see a lot more when you are staying for a month!).-Marisa
Cowboy Heaven in Montana!
We have visited McGinnis Meadows Ranch on three different occasions for one week stays, always leaving wanting more. This year the opportunity to stay for the month of September was offered and we took it without hesitation.
During the first two weeks, each day started in the new state of the art indoor arena where we enjoyed an hour’s worth of horsemanship and adjusting to our horses, which proved to be a very valuable addition to the usual routine. The rest of the day was filled with personal horsemanship training, trail rides, or heading to graze to search for and move cattle to different areas where better feed was available. Beginning on the third week, the focus was entirely on rounding up cattle and bringing the herds down from graze in the mountains to McGinnis Meadows. This was a real challenge. however, the wranglers gave us guidance while letting us do the work, which enhanced out experience and excitement. By the end of the month, most of the cattle had been brought down.
With a limited number of guests (8) at the ranch for a month, it was a significant departure from the usual one week routine, in that we quickly became part of the ranch team, rather than simply guests. Like the ranch staff, we made our own breakfast and brown bag lunches, and we all sat down together for amazing dinners each night during which we had long discussions with the fantastic wranglers about the day’s work and experiences on the trail. All of this together made us feel that we were part of the McGinnis Meadows Ranch family. If you have the desire to learn the Buck Brannaman style of horsemanship while working on a real cattle ranch, this is the place to be!-Bill & Sharon
My month long stay- This uncrowded and accurate format of a very high level of teaching allows the experience gained to be practiced and learned at a proper pace. There is no time stress. Students are allowed to chase cows, trail ride, or study the art of horsemanship.
The absolute best part of being a student at McGinnis Meadows ranch is watching the passion and sensitivity of the two main teachers, for the horse. The lesson here, is that the horse, is indeed, a spiritual animal with a very deep and forgiving soul.-Joy
I was fortunate to be in Montana at McGinnis meadows Ranch for a month- August of 2020, and it was so wonderful. I had specific goals to achieve and the extended time helped me get them and then some. I wanted the communication with the horses that I couldn’t seem to feel in past visits. At my request, I helped with some ranch work, and participated in horse care.
Living at this paradise with the ranch crew made me comprehend the essence of being a horsewoman. On my last day to ride, I knew my soul had found itself seated in the saddle and my mind operating my horse. I had finally put the right signals together to guide with my body.
The accommodations are great.
I could sit on my cabin porch and recharge while being mesmerized by the meadow between the mountains, the wildlife activity, and the beauty of the environment. I watched the ranch herd of horses at a distance in their nighttime pasture.
Also, my body got completely in sync with dawn to dusk existence and I ‘adapted to being able to ride most of a day with no soreness and full flexibility. With the longer time frame I had the luxury of opting out of an activity that would impede physical recuperation. It was amazing how a half day of observing on sidelines in the arena revived my body; and watching Des and Shane work their magic with horses was an absolute study of equine communication. I’ll be back ASAP.-Carol
I came to McGinnis Meadows expecting an elegant and beautiful show of horsemanship… and boy was I BLOWN AWAY. Within the first few hours I was learning what a true soft feel was and by day two I was executing advanced maneuvers such as cow turns, crossovers, and leg yields. On the last day, every single person in that arena was riding their horse only using leg and seat: no reins at all. I am amazed at the quality of horses and teaching that I experienced this week. I couldn’t be happier.
Thank you so much Roby, Des, and Shayne.
Peace. In the short time I’ve been at the ranch, I think I found something I’ve been hunting: contentment and peace. Within that, I understand what we were learning here more than I think I could have anywhere else. There is a blanket of calm laying over the focused and intent actions of the day-to-day labors here that truly breeds humility and honesty.
The staff and interns have been so incredible. The smiling and uplifting spirit Ali brings everywhere she goes; the quiet confidence which with Jenna answers questions; the persistent and calm aid Scott provides; the humor and frivolity Kevin brings to the arena; the humility and presence of Sydney; each one of these individuals has someway impacted my thoughts and my actions in a positive way. And of course, Shayne, Roby and Des, not only the horsemanship, but also about how honest we are with ourselves. I know leaving here I will continue to hunt this peace for both my horse and myself.-Liz
On my third trip to McGinnis Meadows I have to say it gets better each time. The lodge and the cabins make me feel comfortable and right at home. The great food and casual atmosphere always makes me feel relaxed and ready for an amazing week of horsemanship on incredibly well trained horses. That you will find nowhere else. The ranches approach to horsemanship offers the best place to learn and grow. The riding skills I can take back home to my own horse. Many thanks MMR, I look forward to my next visit!-Lyne
Wow, what a week it has been. I sit here on a Friday afternoon, after a morning of riding and my brain feels full and my legs are sore, but I regret that the end of the week is here. The food, accommodations, and staff have all been spectacular. But more than that, the horses and the horsemanship [which] I’ve had the opportunity to learn from and about, has been something that has far exceeded my expectations. Horses have been my passion for as long as I can remember and I have had the luxury of being able to ride many horses and many styles of horsemanship over the years. My absolute favorite time is when I am alone with a horse. When I am able and ‘tuned’ into his teachings. That is always when I had he biggest ‘light bulb’ moments.
Here at McGinnis Meadows Ranch, I felt completely at home learning from Shayne, Des and Roby. Their dedication towards not only bettering the horses but also towards bettering themselves and remaining a student to the horse is something that will draw me back to McGinnis Meadows hopefully many more times in the future.
A huge thank you to everyone for the fabulous week and I hope Chief and Omar stay happy and well!-Molly
Our trip to McGinnis Meadows has been absolutely incredible. Nothing compares to the staff, the horses, or the beauty of the ranch itself. Before I came to the ranch I thought I cared about my horses when I rode them. But, Shayne, Roby and Des take the horses’ well being to a whole other level. My biggest take-away from the week of horsemanship is, “make sure that your horse knows that you’re all about him, and he will make sure that it’s all about both of you.”
Riding is a huge part of my life, so this week’s impact has changed the way I see everything. Shayne truly teaches that the well being of the horse, and the partnership that comes with that, is what will make you successful in the saddle. This has been the most rewarding and challenging vacation I’ve ever been on!-Emma Grace
You guys are just OUTSTANDING. My experience here has been nothing but fantastic! All the staff have been super friendly, open and genuine in all the things they do.
Horses for me have always been my “dream” job but I never had an opportunity to see where it could take me. This place is such an awesome environment to learn HOW to learn. Shayne, Des and Roby and all the interns have such a productive and positive way of teaching you, more showing you, what horsemanship can really be.
I have loved every moment that I got here, and hope to stay again sometime in the future.-Anna
Where do I begin to explain the life changing experience I had this week during winter horsemanship. Some of the most important lessons I learned this week revolved around my horses and their expressions. I learned that keeping your horse in a positive learning frame of mind is key to everything you do with them. I also learned that I need to slow down, focus and really listen to what my horse is telling me.
As a frequent guest at McGinnis – I continue to be thankful and grateful for all the knowledge that Shayne, Des and Roby are willing to impart and share. The help they give me is invaluable to keep me progressing on my horsemanship journey. As always, the rest of the staff was always friendly and helpful.
With Gratitude –-Lela