What is Guiding?
In essence :
Guiding is giving a rider or group of riders an experience which is un-cluttered by those elements of the activity that are a distraction, to enable them to experience the activity at it's purest.
Professional Guiding requires the guide to be continually assessing both the conditions (trail and weather) and the 'state' of the riders in their charge. There is a duty of care implicit in the relationship which means the Guide always has the client's best interest in mind whilst ensuring that the experience is at it's purest for the client.
Client's mental and physical state change throughout the day, so this process is continual; a drop-off at the start of the day may be daunting, may be a breeze just before lunchtime, but might be a step too far at the end of a tiring day in the saddle - your guide is assessing your mental and physical state and matching them to the terrain ahead. All these things may change even quicker if the weather starts to do its thing.
They may slow the group down, give specific advice to individuals, make a detour, recommend walking a section, or even ask you to tuck in behind them and follow their line - these are not random decisions, rather a result of their assessment of your current state and the likely terrain ahead.
Sometimes the guide will know the trail or area like the proverbial back of their hand but with the numerous trails available, they are more than likely to be on a trail not ridden for a while, or one rarely ridden. In this case they are continually reading ahead, assessing what they see, and navigating and monitoring your progress through what is hopefully sun-kissed Scottish beauty, and doing their utmost to do this without spoiling the flow of the trail for you.
As you travel through this amazing terrain, they will be on the lookout for things that they have learned are of interest to you, whether it be historical sites, flora, fauna, or off-route opportunities for you to try that famous bunny-hop you've finally perfected - trying to make the journey as full as possible for you. They will be able to pass on information that will help you appreciate the terrain you are passing through, whatever your interest in it.
This is obviously a process, but as you spend time with your guide, you will learn about eachother and they will learn about your preferences. Do you like to stop at the bottom of hills before the big push, halfway to split it, or at the top to celebrate? - Did you want to learn about the nature in the area? - the history? - the politics?.
And what if things don't go right? - Well you should find your guide able to deal with most trailside mishaps with ease, allowing you to take part and learn about fixes, or simply take a break while they get you back on two wheels again. They will ask you to carry some bits and bobs for yourself, but you'll find they are carrying a great selection of ways to get you home.
So how should you find your experience? You should find that you just get to enjoy the riding, without noticing any navigation or managing of the situation, without the need to manage fellow riders if you're in a group and with someone who enhances your riding experience in a way suited to your interests and needs. You should finish having enjoyed the ride, perhaps having ridden something or somewhere that you'd never ordinarily ride, having developed and learned.
And How do they do this? They will have built up a bank of knowledge about the area you are riding in, about psychology, leadership, about mountain survival, trail repairs, and most of all just riding. They will be able to ride on muddy trail through pouring rain in a hoolie carrying a huge bag while smiling, offering encouragement and fundamentally looking after you.