Patagonia is another classic horse riding destination, gaucho
culture thriving in a pristine wilderness of green pampas, forests and dormant volcanoes. Here you’ll ride between estancias
from Argentina to Chile on hardy Criollo horses known for their strength, health and loyalty. Undulating terrain, the occasional river crossing and some steep uphills, not to mention the sometimes unpredictable Patagonia weather, can make this trip more suited to experienced riders. It’s not too physically demanding however, and saddle time each day varies.
Eloise Barker, one of Responsible Travel’s intrepid team of writers, rode a Criollo in Patagonia: “We rode American style – one hand holding the reins. For someone used to English riding, this was a far more relaxed way to be in the saddle, and you could put your hand on your hip as you cantered along and feel like a real boss. At our ranch, the Criollo (in Argentina, it’s pronounced ‘cri-oh-sha’) horses were often bred with Arab horses. I had a Criollo-Arab cross called Renata, and she was wonderfully spirited. My partner, who was less experienced, was given a calmer horse, a Criollo mixed with a Friesian, which was a heavier set breed, and made for a very surefooted mount. Our guide wore his Basque-style boina
– a large, red beret – instead of a helmet.
“For most of the ride we were accompanied by curious ponies that tagged along with us and irritated the horses no end by butting into the line. Raggedy sheep with their lambs and trailing sheepdogs crossed the path, and we followed a couple of condors up the valley. And the views afforded from an extra five hands off the ground were amazing.”
You can also take a short riding vacation in Mendoza
to the west, bordering Chile. Mendoza is one of Argentina’s most prominent wine regions, but tasting sessions here in the Potrerillos Mountains incorporate 4x4s, so no need to worry about slipping out of the stirrups.