Horseback Adventures in South America

Sightseeing Vacations and Adventures

Riders
••• Riders. Gabriel Espinosa of Hacienda Alegria

When I was a child, a horseback ride was a treat and an adventure. I didn’t feel secure on an English saddle, but a Chilean saddle with its layers of soft sheepskin and support front and back, now that was good. My style was pitiful and I was sincerely grateful that the saddle made it impossible for me to fall off. See photo of a saddled Chilean horse.

It’s been years since I rode Chilean-style, but looking over some of the many horseback tours offering adventure and sightseeing, brings back many memories, and the yen to go on a horseback vacation.

There are many choices and locations to ride in South America. Any place you find horses, there is probably someone to offer a horseback ride and a tour of the surrounding scenery.

There are tour companies offering day or multi-day vacations on horseback. In many instances, horses are the only way to reach remote areas for non-trekkers and hikers. Some routes are no more than trails, others too rough for a vehicle. Some of the horseback tours are more rugged and demand more than a beginner’s skill. Riding for several days demands fitness and experience. Add in steep climbs, river crossings, mountain passes with reduced oxygen levels and you can see why some tours won’t accept people who aren’t used to riding regularly.

Some of the longer tours will have pack animals and guides. Some provide all the equipment, in addition to the horses, saddles and tack, such as camping tents, stoves, cooking items, food and prepared meals, and entrance fees to any parks or fee areas along the route.

All you have to provide is a sleeping bag, air mattress or pad, pocket knife, flashlight, clothing, footwear, wide-rimmed hat, sun glasses, sun block, lip balm and any other personal items you can fit in an portable bag. Your tour will give you the exact list of requirements. A very good thing to have is personal travel insurance.

Another is a helmet.

Riding more than three consecutive days demands certain fitness and adaptation to the saddle. You may be offered a choice of saddle: Western, English or that comfy Chilean saddle. Choose the most comfortable for you.

Normally, rides longer than three to five days are recommended for people with the habit of riding regularly throughout the year. People susceptible to vertigo or altitude sickness should pass on any tour involving high mountains.

Some tour operators have weight and/or health considerations due to trip length or severity.

You may ride a Peruvian Paso horse bred for grace, spirit and intelligence, or a descendent of the Barb and Andalusian horses imported by the Spanish conquerers, known as a criollo horse in Argentina, Crioulo in Brazil, Costeño or Morochuco in Peru, Corralero in Chile and Llanero in Venezuela. In addition, there are differences between the criollos:

  • Chilean horse, short on height but very strong and stable for mountain riding
  • Argentine horse, taller than the Chilean, equally strong but quite spirited. Its breed is Anglo-Spanish
  • Peruvian horse (caballo de paso fino), fine styled walking, strong and good stallion. Its breed is Spanish-Arab
  • Breton-Chilean horse, a mixed breed suitable for packing and mounting

    Here is a sample of some of the many tour offerings:

     

    Argentina

  • Patagonia Horse Trek - Nahuel Haupi National Park from Bariloche.
  • Riding Tours in Argentina – Mendoza/Cordoba area and Northern Patagonia, plus and Andean crossing from Argentina into Chile.
  • Manso Cochamo Horseback Riding Ride or hike to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid area, with rafting, hiking, and fishing along the way.
  • Estancia Huechaue – Six different day rides on an estancia near San Martin de los Andes include trips to an Indian reservation, burial caves and assisting with estancia cattle drives and horse roundups.

    Brazil

  • Pantanal Wildlife Trail & Safari – Eight day tour through the wetlands and rivers of the Pantanal with time for wildlife observation and photography, swimming and fishing.
  • Southern Cross Fazenda Mountain Ride Eight day tour through the Southern Brazilian High Sierra.
  • Brazil Package #7 Stops in Praia do Forte, Bahia, and Fernando de Noronha offer horseback rides.

    Chile

  • Cascada Expediciones – horseback tours as part of a larger tour variety. They concentrate on the central Andes, Patagonia and Easter Island.
  • Hacienda Los Andes – “three trips in seven days. You will explore the wild Sierra, the huge Andes and experience a romantic and pure nature.”
  • In the Saddle – Glacier ride in Chilean/Argentine Patagonia and Torres del Paine National Park.
  • Riding Holidays in Chilean Patagonia – rides to Milodon Cave and other locales for riders of all experience levels.

    Next page: Horseback tours in Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela and Uruguay

Ecuador

  • Ecuador Horseback Riding – Riding opportunities in the Andean highlands, at haciendas, the coast and the cloud forest take advantage of Ecuador’s biologically diverse areas.
  • Horseback Riding – Easy riding in the Sierra from Pululahua Crater.
  • Ride Andes – Haciendas, the Andes and volcanoes.
  • Hacienda La Alegria - Family farm life, with horseback rides to volcanos, cloud rain forests and Inca sites.

    Peru

  • Horseback Tours – Luxury tours in Arequipa, Colca Canyon, Cajamarca/Trujillo/Chicaylo, other locales and a trip to the 2005 National Show & World Congress 0f Peruvian Horses.
  • Perol Chico – Riobamba, Riding Resort Hacienda Marcahuasi, Ollantaytambo Sacred Valley either with a program or a customized trip.

    Venezuela

  • Activities Page – Scroll down for horseback tours of Macanao on Isla de Margarita.
  • Los Nevados Andes Tour – Combines horseback, jeep, and hiking to tour the mountain region and villages.
  • Horseback Riding "Finca Yegua Blanca" – Family riding in “high meadows, going through colorful woodland, with giant ferns, following the course of a ravine sparkling with trouts, the roar of waterfalls, silences, enchanted lagoons and the ever mysterious mist.”
  • Ecotourism And Safari To Los Llanos – Combine a jeep safari with rafting and horseback riding for wildlife viewing.

    Uruguay

  • Argentina, Chile and Uruguay – “Painted Bird Tour” is a fast paced tour in Uruguay, which means river of the painted birds in Guarani. Coastal rides provide wildlife viewing.
  • Uruguay Beach Ride - Eight days along beaches and pampas with Boogum Expeditions.

    No matter where you ride, safety is a primary concern. Follow these “Golden Rules of Riding:

    Stable standards, ethics and horse-care policies vary tremendously. Stables, owners and trainers change regularly, which means that the training and care of the horses also changes. Common sense is therefore essential. When considering a horse for hire, follow the golden rules of riding:

    1. If a horse appears ill, lame, or abused, REFUSE to ride it. Change horses or leave.
    2. If you cannot control the horse or do not feel safe, it's best to change horses or to not ride. If you are on the trails when a problem arises, do not hesitate to dismount.
    3. If the tack (saddle & bridle) looks ill-fitted, old, cracked, and/or damaged, ask to have it changed, or a fall could ruin your holiday.
    4. Check the tack adjustments before getting on the horse. Is the girth band tight? Are the reins and stirrup leathers in good condition? Most importantly, take the time to get your stirrups the right length. Stirrups that are too short will hurt your knees and can be dangerous. “
      Adapted with thanks to EcuadorExplorer.com.
    5. Additionally,
      Trabajar el caballo en circulo (puede ser con una cuerda o suelto), preferible en un lugar cerrado con piso de arena, luego revisar el ajuste de la cincha y demas atalaje, hacer subir al jinete y repetir la operacion hasta comprobar que el mismo se encuetra seguro, confortable y adaptado al caballo. Luego de estas pruebas el jinete puede salir a otra pista mas extensa antes de iniciar su cabalgata por las montanas. Hacienda La Alegria has riders walk the horse in circles in a sheltered area, either on a guiding line or alone, checking the cinch and saddle, stirrups and other equipment until the rider is comfortable. They have the rider mount and dismount until they are sure that the rider is secure, comfortable on the saddle and with the animal before going leaving the arena and beginning the ride.

    Wherever your horseback adventure takes you, Buen viaje!.

    Don’t forget to post your experience on the South America Travel Forum.