Guiding changed my life. Before I came to the ranch, I was insecure, unconfident and I felt weak. I never thought about the things I’m able to do and thinking about everything I can’t do created a fearful me. After just becoming more confident in the ranch life, I was confronted with the next challenge: Being an assistant guide on a pack trip. Remembering that I had a breakdown on my first day ride in the mountains, I didn’t feel very comfortable joining this adventure, plus I originally came here for my office internship, not for the guiding job.
Preparing the trip was the first challenge. The guides have to match the horses to the riders’ abilities and physical conditions before the guests arrive. For checking if everybody makes a good team with their horses, we give a riding orientation with a short first ride in our Gymkhana and along the river. At the end of the first day, we had to count the food for the number of days and the number of people that we have to pack, according to the meal schedule. Then everything goes in the pack boxes, which need to have the same weight in the end to balance the pack horse. After explaining the guests what and how to pack their personal stuff, we barely find time to pack our own things before falling into a deep sleep until 5:00 in the morning.
The next day starts with getting the horses ready for leaving to the mountains. The saddling and packing needs to be quick, because we want to arrive in time at the camp. Since it’s a 6 hour ride, the saddles and bridles must fit perfectly, because otherwise the horses can get sores. While having breakfast with the guests, we everything else that needs to be packed, like lunch bags, water, bear spray, radio, bear banger, rain gear and first aid kit. Oh, and the barn waiver needs to be signed by everybody. There is a lot to think about for the guides and I found making lists the best method to remember everything.
On the trail to camp the guides have to pay attention any time. All I could think of was keeping the kids safe and making sure they have a good time. And seeing them smile and the joy in their faces when they sit on their horses and enjoy the ride makes the job as a guide seem to be no work anymore.
Arriving at camp the horses have priority. Unsaddling, giving oats, tailtie (looks very funny!), ride them to the night meadows and stake or hobble them. Staking means pounding a wood stake in the grounds, tie a rope to the wood and to the horses’ leg and making sure there’s good grass to eat around. Hobbling the horse means to tie both front legs to each other, so they can only move slowly. At least that’s the idea, because once they know how to deal with it they jump around like bunnies!
In the meantime it’s almost dark when the guides walk back to camp to prepare dinner for the guests. As long as I didn’t sit down, I still felt full of energy by the excitement of the day. It’s a great feeling to sit around a table with your guests, sharing stories of the trip. Though afterwards I was very happy to fall into my bed and dream of the mountains.
The next morning starts at 5:00 AM with walking to the meadows, pray that the horses are still there, if not searching for them, unstaking, tail tying and riding back to camp. This is the best morning workout I ever had, to be honest. Anyway, why would you pay a gym if guiding is the best workout in the world?
Back at camp, one guide prepares the horses for the day and the other guide makes breakfast for the guests. In the meantime it’s already 9:00 AM when we all have breakfast together, time just flies on those trips. When everybody is ready, we check the cinches a last time and off we go for a day ride. Reaching the top of the mountains always lets me forget the exhaustion and tiredness I actually feel.
In the evening before we leave back to the ranch, we need to pack and clean up the camp in addition to everything else that needs to be done. Anyway, every time I know I have to go back, it’s a little hard for me to leave.
After a long walk and ride back to ranch, the guides have to take care of the horses first. Unsaddling, feeding and checking them for sores. Clean up the tack, unpack the boxes and then writing certificates for our guests. Surprisingly, I was so inspired after my first trip as a guide that I wrote stories in no time. And seeing my guests emotions while reviewing our trip is priceless.
It’s quite hard to write a story about how guiding has changed my life. There are so many influences, challenges and new experiences on a pack trip that I could never wrap it in one story. For sure I never found my brain working so active and my eyes being so wide open like on pack trips. No matter if it’s estimating critical situations or appreciating the beautiful nature. Guiding opened my eyes and extended my horizon of what I think what I’m capable to do. Now I know if I can guide a family through the Canadian wilderness, I’m ready for any next challenge.
Fenja, 24, Germany