McGinnis Meadows Ranch, Libby Mt

Article written by Tyson West, KMT Rider

McGinnis Meadows Cattle Ranch is based on the Buck Brannaman style of horsemanship – McGinnis is a working cattle ranch set in stunning meadows with postcard views. The ranch itself has beautiful cabins (ours was 2 stories with sitting room and fireplace), delicious food and best of all – unlimited wine/beer. Everything from the western saddles to the horses are top notch. I had a lovely 4-6 year old bay quarter horse who could easily do a leg yield with no contact and a light shift of my seat. My friend rode a big 12 year old who had all the fancy bells and whistles. ALL the horses were soft supple and well trained. I cannot recommend the ranch enough…nothing compares to coming back to the ranch exhausted from graze or clinic – sitting in the lodge with friends, a glass of wine and feet propped up in front of a fireplace.

Here’s a quick look at the week. The first morning at the ranch is groundwork – the head wrangler flags the client horses for the week in the arena as a group. Think of 20 horses in an indoor arena while one mounted wrangler with a flag works behind them. They do this to set the horses attention on the wrangler and get the horses to work as a unit – no biting, kicking etc. After the first day you have different options – you can do horsemanship (basically clinic) with Shane or Randi or go out to graze (rounding up cattle, hunting for cattle, doctoring, moving or sorting cattle). While you do ride with a wrangler there is NO head to tail riding – they discourage it. My friend and I went out the last day to graze and moved 250 cattle from one pasture to another – about 5-7 miles. It was 4-5 hours of riding and lots of fun (particularly if you had a rogue calf who would take off and you had to wrangle it back to the group).

Of the the 14 guests for the week – all but 4 of the guests were seasoned riders. Six of us were english riders – who were separated out and put thru the wringer. This ranch is not for the faint of heart – if you can’t take criticism or are passive on a horse – this is NOT the place for you. I’m not going to lie there were a few very frustrating days were I felt like a total beginner during a clinic. McGinnis’s top priority is their horses – they want their training to stay consistent and they are not about to let you ride them incorrectly (same goes with groundwork). Halting, backing and leg yields are done a million times a day…all with NO contact. I’ve never felt a horse be as light off their front feet as I felt my horse after I was able to back opening my legs with no contact. They believe NO contact and absolutely NO squeezing/tapping (this was pretty tricky for us english riders). Shane said to me “how many english horses do you see where there is no LIFE in their horses – the rider is just sitting tapping, squeezing, pulling, tapping squeezing, pulling – horse is so dulled to the leg and mouth…it’s just rude”. We were taught the importance of leg yielding – how it teaches the horse proper head position (rolling the jaw under) which are so important for softness, getting leads etc.

There were a lot of things said at the ranch that made me really stop and think..HMMMM…..interesting. Things like “your horse will always start where you last left off” so if you missed a soft transition you can bet your horse is not going to start up soft for the next transition. And they talk about a “Triangle”…envision a triangle – the top being your horses pole, and the withers being the 2 sides. Your horse needs to be in the middle of the triangle. The younger the horse the wider the triangle. Interesting concept to think about to keep the horse straight and in front of your leg. Before I left one of the wranglers said to me…why put a noseband on a horse – you’re tying the horses mouth shut – you never give the horse the opportunity to make the decision to close their mouth and be soft. What do you think one day you’ll take it off and poof your horse will go soft with it’s mouth closed. Not one of their horses went around chomping the bit – all their horses go soft in a snaffle – no nosebands. We were taught how to deal with a spooking horse – working around the scary object while still allowing the horse to see it. Shane worked a horse until he was able to go right up and stand next to someone with a chainsaw – yes that was powered on cutting thru the arena fence (it was loud and super scary). His horse got to the point were he could stand NEXT to the running chainsaw relaxed and confident. There was so much more said and done but it’s too much to blog. I was particularly pleased to find how well the horses were treated – grained twice a day, groomed and older horses were all given supplements/injectables and light work schedules. They did have a number of client horses who were taken out on graze and worked in the arena’s. If I ever have a young horse who needs to be started this is where they will be sent – the kindness and patience by the wranglers (who I must say were amazing riders) was unparalleled.

For anyone that might be interested in going here is the important info. How fun would it be to take a big group of hunter/jumper riders?? Just sayin!! Capacity at the ranch is around 20 people – the week we were there (Oct 7-13) there were 14. Weather was 68 and lovely – tho quite chilly in the morning (20-30 degrees..brrr). Rates for the week are between $2100 (lodge) – $2300 (cabin) with airfare around $230 round trip from Oak to Kalispell. Those rates include everything – food, lodging, wine/beer, horses, transportation and clinics for the week. Here is the ranch website –

>>>I think this looks like a fantastic trip for 2013! Thank you, Tyson, for sharing.

Karen Healey Clinic, June 2012


Just a couple weeks ago, Emma Tyrrell, Sierra Hoadley and myself had the opportunity to ride in the Karen Healey Clinic held at Hunterville Stables, thanks to Patty Ball. It was a fantastic clinic, heat and all. As a trainer, I pick my clinics wisely. It is important to me to come home with a couple extra tools to put in my toolbox. Furthermore, I want my students to feel inspired and motivated to work hard when they return home. Karen Healey provides fantastic feedback and is an instructor that gets ‘to the point’…I love that!

Below are some notes that my riders and myself took away from the clinic…ENJOY!!!

Emma Tyrrell, “​I learned a lot with Jerry over the clinic and it was nice to get a different perspective on things. One thing that Karen Healey had us do was have an opening outside rein over the jumps. This got our horses on to our outside aides to create more balance. This was also helpful in keeping the rhythm consistent throughout the course. Karen emphasized that the transitions between lengthening and collection should be seamless; the horse’s balance should stay the same”…”discipline should be a key factor in decision making while on course. This means that you should not take the first path, distance, or stride that comes along and have discipline” and be flexible in your decision making. “Having more discipline produces more accuracy and a better quality jump. This was important because it made me think about my quality of canter and making decisions rather than just letting jumps happen”

“We also learned about having a big range of stride. Having a range of stride is helpful because when you are in a situation where you have a line on the longer stride and a collected line right after, your horse can easily collect up and get a better quality jump”.

“One of my favorite things that Karen said was to show the judge that you know the question that’s being asked. If you have a line that walks on a very collected stride followed by a line that walks on a forward stride, you should come in collected to the first part and show a lengthening in the second part so you can show the judge that you know what they are looking for. This also applies if you have a very forward line followed by a collected one. On the out of the forward line, you don’t want to continue on the same stride and jump the out of the collected line and get a chip, you want to try to balance with collection and get the best jump possible. This really helped my to be constantly thinking about every part of my course and how my pace, rhythm, balance, path, and distance affected everything”.

Sierra Hoadley, “The Karen Healey clinic was awesome. No one was perfect so everyone had different things to work on which allowed you to learn so much even by just watching others. I was working on not over riding to my jumps and being patient to them. “The jump is just another stride.”

Karen Healey always talked about how you rode to the jump, and the path you took and not how the distance was. ‘Pace, impulsion, track, and the jumps happen.’ There were many other things like closing my fingers, flat back, and heels down that she said. I know that Kelly and Amanda say those things to me everyday, but hearing it from someone else from a different perspective makes you realize how much you need to fix it.

Karen Healey said to everyone that she didn’t care how much you paid for the horse, because the horse doesn’t make the jumps happen, you do. Timing is very important in riding, when to take and when to give, because the ‘distance fairy’ isn’t always so good to you. She didn’t focus on roundness; it was balance that she wanted. She wanted you to work within your horses’ rhythm, and not against it. I also loved how when a rider didn’t understand what she was talking about, Karen would get on their horse and show everyone what she meant. Goose was awesome and he jumped all the jumps, even the bank without a problem. He’s such a good boy. I had a blast at the clinic and I learned so much!”

I (Kelly) always enjoy working with another respected professional. Even as a trainer, I am always striving to improve and grow in this sport. From the trainers perspective we worked on allowing my horse to make mistakes so that he could learn from them. I am a perfectionist! But, sometimes, it is important not to protect your horse at the jumps, allowing my horse to create a better quality of jump by doing it wrong.

There were a few additional quotes from Karen that I really enjoyed hearing while watching the clinic:

“Don’t be afraid to let the dog of the leash”…in other words, get out of your comfort zone.

“Horses do what you tell them to do OR what you allow them to do”…I love this quote!

“Impulsion is a horse thinking forward”…not just going forward.

THANK YOU Karen Healey and Patty Ball…we all learned a lot…lost a few pounds in the heat…and had a great time!!!






‘From the Judge’s Perspective’ by Connie Buckley

From the Judge’s Perspective

It was a beautiful, sunny day at Shiloh West as mom’s, dad’s, spouses, amateur’s, junior’s and guests of KMT came together to participate in a clinic with Connie Buckley. Connie generously shared her knowledge of judging, backed by her 30+ years of experience, with our eager group of onlookers.

The first part of the clinic covered topics like qualities of a good judge, what a judge’s job entails, and what a judge looks for in certain types of classes and divisions with consideration of the horses and the rider. Connie explained to our participants that there are different qualities a judge will look for in a horse/rider in a lower, entry-level division, compared to that of an upper-level division.

In a Walk/Trot, Crossrail or Short Stirrup Division, safety is the most important factor. In the 2’6”-3’0” division safety and manner of going is key, and a horse at the upper-level divisions needs to exude “brilliance” and superior quality. Participants learned that the horse is judged in a “Hunter” type class, while it is the rider who is judged in an “Equitation” type class. Connie explained the rider’s “position” and importance of communicating properly with the horse through that position to make the overall picture look like one of harmony.

The second hour of instruction was held outside where the participants watched demonstration rides given by Kelly and Alison. A mock Hunter Under Saddle and Flat Equitation class was held. Participants were give practice judge’s cards and told to score the class, which was then discussed. A little humor was thrown into the mix as Kelly demonstrated some undesirable equitation traits. The participants then had the opportunity to judge a Hunter over Fences class and an Equitation over Fences class, with discussion afterwards. Connie was excellent at sharing the positives and negatives of each round and asked participants to share their opinions, which is certainly what a judge’s job entails. It was a wonderful learning experience for all!

Two key points that Connie pointed out: 1) Make your courtesy circle count! Build your PACE and keep it to your first fence so you can avoid that “first fence blah”. 2) Enjoy the process of riding and improving. Being judged means you are getting the judge’s opinion for “that moment” on “that day”. If you feel you did well and accomplished a goal for that round or that show, be pleased about it.

Written by Alison Potter