Located in Libby, Montana, McGinnis Meadows Cattle and Guest Ranch is a working cattle ranch offering weeklong clinics teaching Buck Brannaman-style horsemanship. The McGinnis Meadows property was originally the homestead of the Davis family, who settled the area in the 1890s. Located within a meadow area at a 3,300-foot elevation along a creek surrounded by timbered mountains, McGinnis Meadow was first used as a cattle ranching site in the 1920s.
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In 1998, the former Davis property was purchased by Shayne Jackson, a former student and assistant of Dan M. “Buck” Brannaman, a leading American horse handler and practitioner of the vaquero tradition, which emphasizes harmonious and safe partnerships between horses and riders. Preserving extant buildings, including the original Davis House site, Shayne and his wife Jo-Anne converted the Davis property into a visitor ranch with lodge-style accommodations.
Workshops and Accommodations
Today, McGinnis Meadows Ranch is a member of the Dude Rancher’s Association, offering weeklong clinics on horseback riding, cattle working, and open country exploration. As a leading instructional ranch in the United States, McGinnis Meadows has been featured in publications such as America’s Horse, Western Horseman Magazine, and Cowboys and Indians Magazine. A number of film and television actors have trained at the facility in preparation of Western-themed roles, including actors Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman, whose experiences were recounted in the Bravo documentary “Long Way Round.” The ranch was also the subject of Cindy Meehl’s documentary BUCK, which won an Audience Award at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival.
An average of 15 workshop participants visit the ranch every week, offering average rider-to-instructor ratios of three to one and allowing instructors to tailor learning programs to riders’ individual skills and needs. Riders of all skill levels are welcome at workshops and may bring their own horses or be matched with resident ranch horses that meet their skill level. Custom slick fork saddles crafted by Kent Frecker are provided, along with mecate reins and Jeremiah Watt snaffle bits.
An emphasis is placed on groundwork throughout the weeklong workshop, encouraging participants to strive for a soft and balanced riding style before mastering other riding concepts. Safe trail riding techniques are emphasized, along with techniques for navigating steep and timber-heavy terrains. Cattle ranching instruction is also offered, showcasing healthy cattle sorting, driving, and handling techniques. Free personal exploration of wilderness areas is encouraged, including ridgetop hiking, mountain biking, and fishing on the meadow’s grounds.
Accommodations for up to four people are provided in handcrafted Amish log cabins with queen-sized beds decorated in a Western motif. Pendleton wool blankets, denim down comforters, and complimentary robes and slippers are provided with each cabin rental. All lodge rooms feature amenities including private baths, propane fireplaces, mini refrigerators, and coffee pots and offer access to communal hot tubs, pool and ping-pong tables, and lounge gathering areas with overstuffed couches. A main lodge building offers a family-style dining room and a reading room stocked with more than 500 Western-themed novels. Continental breakfasts and evening group meals are provided throughout the week.
Standard ranch clinics are offered during McGinnis Meadows’ peak season, beginning in June and culminating with a Fall Round-up in late September and early October. Special clinics with Buck Brannaman are held on select weeks during the summer. Off-peak fall season workshops emphasize riding for stray cattle, and a Winter Horsemanship Program from October through April offers special discount rates for instruction inside the ranch’s indoor heated arena. Intensive horsemanship and cattle programs are also offered during the ranch’s Spring Program in April.
All workshop participants must speak fluent English, as all horsemanship instruction is presented in English. For the safety of ranch horses, a rider weight limit of 200 pounds is enforced, although exceptions may be made by contacting the ranch ahead of workshop time. A deposit is required at the time of workshop reservation, and travel insurance is recommended. Horse owners bringing horses to the ranch must show proof of coggins and vaccinations. Participants are encouraged to bring appropriate riding boots, hiking boots, camping gear, and sundries to the workshop.
Ongoing Programs and Education
An Intern Program is offered at McGinnis Meadows throughout the year for interested students, offering hands-on experiences with Brannaman-style horsemanship, cattle working, animal care, and ranch duties. As the only internship program in the United States teaching Brannaman-style horsemanship, participants rotate daily through rides on each of the ranch’s 90 resident horses and learn fundamental techniques in a real-world environment. In addition to self-guided exploration of the meadow’s grounds throughout weeklong workshops, a variety of local and hunting trip excursions are offered in partnership with local tour organizations, including Kootenai River trouting excursions and elk hunting opportunities.
6220 McGinnis Meadows Rd, Libby, MT 59923, Phone: 406-293-5000