Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Chilcotin Holidays

Becoming a Guide at a Fast Pace!

'I have 4 guests coming tomorrow, so I need to shoe 3 horses today, who can help?'

As the newbie office girl, I am completely unable to help. I have always wondered how we shoe horses and I always imagined it was one of the hardest jobs ever. Right here in front of me, is another girl, a mountain guide who is no bigger than me. She is ready to shoe, pack, saddle and take care of horses. She is even ready to lead four novice riders into the alpine by herself. My curiosity is stronger than anything else, I come to observe, until someone hands me a hammer and asks 'Wanna try?' Sure! The guide shows me first how to grab the horse's leg, how to position the nail, how to handle and use the hammer. Then it is my turn. One nail in, after three twisted ones, and my arms are exhausted. ''How many nails do we need?'' I ask. ''Well, 8 for each shoe ideally, minimum 6, and we will put the two front shoes on today on these three horses. We will do the back shoes next week''. 8x3x2=48. We need to place 48 nails today! Oh my goodness, that requires a lot of practice.

As I keep watching the guides shoeing, packing, saddling and working with horses, they ask if I want to become a guide. I never thought of it before...but that is a wonderful idea!

I try to learn as much as I can during my stay here. My work is in the office, so learning has to be done on my time off. I read the four guide binders, encompassing the theory of the work, the procedures with guests, and the specificity of each camp. I complete the guide test, which verifies what I know.

Next step: guide school! Three days at the ranch, discovering theory and practice, and three days in the mountains, of practicing as a real guide. What a tough experience! Life as a guide is not restful at all!

More determined than ever, I can now start assisting on trips. However, having completed the test early on and practiced a lot before and during the guide training, I get to start leading sooner than usual. Couples come for dude ranch experiences, where their main interest is horseback riding. I give my first riding orientation, with an experienced guide near me ensuring that I do not forget anything. I then lead guests on trails. Not long after the end of the training, I have completed five riding orientations in a single week! I then take the riders on the different trails I know, always accompanied by another guide. Now that I have practiced a lot at the ranch, in a safe environment, it is time to experience the life of a real wilderness guide and go up in the alpine meadows and on the mountain tops!

I will now be an assistant guide for the next pack trip, which includes seven guests and three guides. We are going to Eldorado Camp, a 6-hour horse ride from the ranch. Throughout the week, the guides rotate positions in the group, either leading, riding in the middle or keeping a watchful eye at the back of the group. I take initiative to photograph the line of riders, something guides are also responsible for. With the help of the other guides and the guests who want to join in, I stake and hobble horses at night, cook on the campfire, saddle and feed horses in the morning, and take care of the guests and camp. My inexperience compared to the other guides is evident to me, but I do my best to catch up. Everybody helps out, which makes our work load much lighter and facilitates my learning.

The guide school is great and absolutely necessary to become a guide, but clearly it is during pack trips that we lean the most. Experiencing difficult weather conditions, pressure, persona doubts are the most favorable situations for learning. Being a lead guide encompasses a lot of responsibility, so experience as an assistant is essential. As we say, practice makes perfect!

Chilcotin Holidays

About Chilcotin Holidays

We are a licensed guide outfitter and we conduct guided wilderness adventures throughout our 5,000 square km operating area. This guide area has been operational since 1880, making it the oldest in British Columbia. More about us HERE.

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