McGinnis Meadows Cattle & Guest Ranch

Spring Season Special
Bring a friend, or refer a friend who books a reservation for a later date, and You'll receive an additional 5% off YOUR trip!

Special good through the last week of June.

Words of Wisdom
"It has been a long time since I was afraid. Fear has to do with helplessness. The only thing that conquers it is knowledge. When you learn about how a horse thinks and makes decisions, that helplessness goes away." 
-Buck Brannaman
Who's Who at McGinnis
Meet Debra
If you have enjoyed a meal recently here at the ranch, then you know we are very fortunate to have Debra Keller cooking for our guests and staff.
Deb's cooking is creative, varied and simply fabulous! She keeps us all going here at the ranch.
Her love of cooking, baking and meal preparation began at a very early age. From 3 years of age until 11 she lived on the West Coast of Florida, in St. Petersburg, not far from the Gulf of Mexico. 
She spent a lot of her time swimming as a kid, and also began to figure out that she was destined to be cooking.  She remembers that oatmeal raisin and mincemeat cookies that she baked were her brothers' favorites.
Around this time, she began to notice there was power in her food, being able to make her brothers wait patiently until they were given permission to eat - by her...which leveled the sibling playing field in her household!
By age 9 she was making oyster stew and snacking on smoked fish with her neighbor Mary. During her teenage years, Deb lived mainly in New York, including on Long Island for a bit. She continued her recipe hunting and was soon making red sauce and spicy sausages with pork and beef by the time she was 13!
Deb takes her cooking seriously and studied at several prestigious schools to add to her repertoire.
Not one to be caught idle for too long, Deb has spent lots of time traveling (another love of hers!) and pursuing her other hobbies-reading, movies and spending as much time as possible with her two granddaughters!
Deb found the ranch on the internet, on a website she claims is for those looking to run away form home for just a season,  or forever.  Remote was the keyword for her.

When asked if the horses were an attraction for her, she told Des during her interview that she didn't particularly like horses, and in fact had a fear of them. She then got the 20 second silence on the other end of the phone. Deb didn't realize it at the time but that may have been the game changer as most people that want to work here do so because they want to ride!
Deb cannot single out one thing that she likes most about being here on the ranch- for her it is the whole Shangri La of the west.
As much as she has done in her life so far, she says there are still some things that remain on her list to do...

She has always wanted to get to Cuba before McDonalds but alas, fears she is too late for that. Iceland has been on her list for sometime;
and then there is Russia. 

It seems a NY Times article about a Russian company that has hired 10 American trainers from Wyoming to teach their employees how to be cowboys, has caught her fancy.  "Maybe they will need a Cookie and crew to do the cooking?"

Deb's list is endless and at this rate, she says she'll have to live for quite some time! That is fine with us :-)

April, 4, 2016

Welcome to the McGinnis Meadows 2016 first edition of Ranch Ramblings! The signs of Spring are beginning to stick, with temps in the 60's this week- even if Mother Nature back tracks a bit, we know it is getting close, and we are hoping to get some riding in outside this week!

Prepare  Your Horse To Be Confident
I read that Tom Dorrance used to tell people that "the horse will do what he's been prepared to do."  I read it, and re-read it and applied it over and over to multiple incidents in my mind-both good and bad.  Each time it made perfect sense.
I thought of an incident 4 years ago where I got bucked off of my horse in a very bad way.  For days I felt like it was unprecedented, that it came "out of the blue."  True, the horse had limited rides-maybe 20 total, 17 of them being in the indoor arena and just 3 of them outside of it-but I had been loping on her, waving a flag, teaching guests on her just the ride prior, and she felt the best she ever had. 
But what I took for granted was that this horse was super-sensitive.  Every single time previously I had spent at least 20-40 minutes on groundwork-covering the rope, the tarp, the flag.  On this day she was my second horse of the afternoon and I knew I was running short on time when I finally got around to saddling her.  She was looking around.  We were in the outdoor arena and her mind wasn't with me.  I went through my standard groundwork a little quicker than normal-flag, check.  Tarp, check.  Rope-not great but good enough-check.  I got on and she immediately wanted to move out.  I let her trot a ways and leisurely did a one-rein stop to the left.  When I released she trotted off again and I leisurely did a one-rein stop to the right-and then she BLEW UP.  This wasn't a casual bronc ride.  This was the stuff that pictures are made of!  I came off hard, hitting my face on the saddle horn and my horse went on bucking around the full length of the arena.
I felt betrayed really.  I felt like I trusted her and that we were beyond something like this.  What I failed to understand at the time is that I betrayed her by my lack of preparation.  My trust shouldn't have been on a prey animal that survives by flight (and flight has many forms) but rather,
in my preparation of that animal.
Fast-forward a few years to a couple of different colts, Tucker and Julio.  One of them Tucker, is a horse that I rode for the first time, the other Julio, is Shayne's horse who he rode for the first time, but who I did all the groundwork in preparation for Shayne.  As you might imagine, preparing the boss's colt can be a teensy bit unnerving! 
Luckily for me, I had learned from my bad experience and went to work getting these colts VERY prepared.  I spent 3 weeks on groundwork only-working on getting the basic groundwork maneuvers refined and smooth.  I incorporated ropes ALL over the horses, swinging them over the horses from the ground, from the fence; throwing the rope over their flank, letting it hang around their legs, leading them by a front foot, getting my rope around their hind feet.  Roped them on a circle, roped them with their halter lead rope wrapped around a fence.  I basically did much of the same with the flag and tarp.  I showed it to them in every single way imaginable.  I did this every day for 3 weeks and incorporated different and various movements as the horses showed they needed them.  As an example, Julio was extra touchy around his backside and would sometimes kick out when the rope touched around his butt.  So every day I would get my loop around his rump until he was comfortable, then I eventually started leading him up with the rope around his butt from the fence then from the ground.   They were saddled each day during the groundwork as well.
Towards the end of the 3 weeks, I started doing their groundwork in a snaffle bit and mecate rather than halter and rope.  They got very comfortable in their headstalls and performed all the same movements beautifully.  We worked on lateral flexion from the ground and even got our first soft feels and they were backed a bunch from the slobber strap, too.
Their first ride was uneventful really!   Just as you might hope it would be.  We rode in our halters the first ride just so that they didn't have anything extra to think about other than us on their backs.  But by day 2 we were in the snaffle bits.  The horse's mouths were quiet.  They were getting their first backing steps and soft feels right off.  They moved out without trouble.  Shayne flagged me off of his colt on ride 2.  I was swinging my rope off of my colt on ride 2.  The horses never got tight; they never hopped up, shook their heads or tried to buck.
The horses did what they had been prepared to do.  They were prepared to be confident.  They were prepared to be quiet.  They were prepared to be responsive yet unafraid.  And 15 rides later, their expression is still the same even though they are learning more each day and being challenged in new ways - not easy for young horses.
A lack of good preparation is still preparation-it's just unhelpful at best and completely counter-productive at worst.  If, for example, you yank on the horse's reins to get him to go back, you have inadvertently prepared him to brace in his head or to brace in his feet or in a worse case scenario-to rear.  You have prepared him for trouble.  However, a horse that is prepared with a soft feel (where you pick up on the reins and the horse tucks his chin and softens at the poll) will be more likely to back properly or stop properly.  If you spend time getting the horse soft beforehand, you have
prepared him to feel of you and to draw him back where he is more engaged with his hindquarters.  
If a person continuously hangs tight onto the reins of a horse that is forward or afraid, that person may have inadvertently prepared the horse to kick-out, or buck or have a bad expression.  However, if the person has prepared the horse by allowing it to move out at a walk, trot and lope on a loose rein first (Buck maintains that this is necessary before holding the horse in a soft feel at these gaits) then when you actually pick up on the reins, they'll learn to get soft and rate rather than to push against them.
Even an older, seasoned horse benefits from continued preparation.  Every now and again I just get on and ride a horse that is further along in his education.  But 95% of the time, I do a quick check of his groundwork.  Is he rolling his jaw?  Are all four quarters moving balanced and with rhythm?  Is he good with the flag?  Can I pick up the tarp and get it all around him without him being bothered?
In our client horse program, and in our guest program we work hard to prepare the horses for anything and everything.  And in our horsemanship program, we teach our guests how best to do this with their own horses too!                                                           


Summer Fun
We have an exciting spring and summer lined up here at the ranch!
If you are looking to get some time on horseback, our 60+ head of horses are ready and waiting to show you the scenic trails, or teach you the art of working cattle!

Our new bunch of steers will be coming in at the end of April, so  if you are the adventurous type, there will be lots of opportunity to participate in or observe roping, branding and vaccinating the cattle. We can even get you started on how to throw a rope if you are so inclined.
As warmer weather approaches, trail rides in and around the ranch abound as well as going to "graze" in the mountains to move, count and sort cattle.

New to the ranch last summer, our kayak days were a big hit! During the week we will again offer a trip to our nearby gem of a lake, that has crystal clear blue green water.
You'll see clear to the bottom and may even catch a glimpse of the Tiger Muskies that make their home here. And the rope swing is really fun too!
If you are into fishing, you can try your hand at catching some of the Brook trout that are stocked in our creek near the dining room :-), or get with the local guide who is our area flyfishing  expert.  At night, relax and enjoy the sunsets or round up some guests and hit the game room where you can play ping pong, pool, air hockey or karoke! If a good game of horseshoes is your thing, we have that too!
Of course, each day we continue to offer morning and afternoon sessions of horsemanship in the style of Buck Brannaman- we are the only working ranch in the U.S. that teaches our guests in this style of horsemanship!  If you haven't yet seen the documentary, we highly recommend it -it is very inspirational.  You can check out the trailer here:
Speaking of inspirational, one of the ranch favorites for our guests is watching the horses being   "jingled " in each morning. It has been said that seeing the herd of horses at first light galloping through the field, right past you as they make their way to their paddock, is spiritual for them. 
We couldn' t agree more! 

So, whether  you are new to McGinnis Meadows or just  cant wait to get back here, we  are eager to share all of our ranch experiences with you. 

Give us a call at 406-293-5000 or email us at  and take in some of these adventures!