From forming to performing (horse-riding journal 6)

This is a journal-like exercise pertaining to a 14 h horse-back trail ride, in a region of hills and mountains, between 800 m and 2300 m altitude,  a total of 58 km, in spring time, in a team of 14 individuals: 7 riders and 7 horses.

Hope you enjoy the story as much as we enjoyed the ride and we invite you to tag along in one of the Haidook Experiences opened to the public.

Here is the sixth „chapter”. The previous one can be found here    The next will follow shortly.

The most interesting fact about the team who experienced this adventure is that we never rode in this formation before.  Each one had ridden before with the horse he was partnering with that day. In all other combinations of riders and horses we had ridden before. But never all 7 of us with these 7 horses.

Let me introduce them: one riding center owner (our beloved host), one Lawyer, one Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (yes, this had the potential to help a lot in case of …), one economist (myself), two young Riding Instructors and one very young employee who works at the stables.

We knew each other, all of us, no exceptions. We have been riding together in the arena or on trail rides, in groups of 3 or 4.

Our experiences with horses are profoundly different. Our personal and educational backgrounds could not be more different. Our motivation to be on this particular riding experience were different.

Before the ride, during the ride and afterwards our roles were extremely different. Some of us were very little involved in the planning but had more work to complete afterwards.

And still, we managed to be a functional team as soon as we passed over the first hill. There was no conflict of any kind during all the adventure. No topic, situation, decision or other condition managed to side track this team. None. We had a few group decision situations and we only needed 1 minute to have everyone on-board.

I will highlight that the pack order, for the riders, had nothing to do with our education or professional background. The youngest and least formally educated member of the group was the one with the best knowledge of the region and more than once he was in charge with deciding the path to go.

We shared all available resources: salty food, sweet food, water, knowledge etc. Everyone helped with moving logs, leading horses and anything else needed for the team to advance.

No one complained about anything. We kept silent every now and then. We chatted other times. There was no argumentation of anything. Oh, wait! There was one thing we all complained about: the fog! Not even when fatigue came about or when muscles started to soar. Fatigue brought about a lot of silence but no anger or frustration of any kind.

The trail ride took 40% more time than estimated. However, this extended need for energy and focus had no negative effect on the interactions we had among riders. When the new time estimation was clear, we redistributed some of the food, based on the knowledge we each had about our own bodies and reactions. No negotiations. The decision took seconds to be implemented.

We took the longest break about two hours before reaching back Potcoava. We enjoyed laying in the sun and let the horses in the shade, took their tack off and started joking about ourselves. Good humor came back as soon as our bodies got more than 10 min rest, lying on the ground. What a day! What an adventure we have shared. We now see each other differently, in a positive way. Everyone had their contribution when the time was right. A nice feeling of belonging to something great bestowed us a new set of reasons for self and mutual esteem, for both humans and horses.

I am personally amazed of how fast this team moved from forming to performing.

One of the reasons was probably that of the purpose: we were on this ride because we wanted. Another was about new limits: for each one of us, this experience pushed some individual comfort limits. Leaota peak offered us a new, more positive definition of ourselves.

Another key success factor is that we all understood that forward was the only way. And we all tried to find ways to go in that direction. Movement was more important than speed. Progress was more important than perfection.

The most important one I believe was the fact that we left our ego at home. We had nothing to prove to each other and deeply accepted the responsibility of group-safety, with a specific focus towards the safety and well-being of the horses. And that kept us away from futile conversation, arguments and contradictions.

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