Cattle drive Patagonia: on horseback through Argentina

Argentina

Drive a thousand head of Angus cattle from the sheltered plains of the pre-cordillera Pampas to their summer pastures in the Andes of Patagonia. Take a soak in remote mountain streams where the hot springs emerge. Try freshly grilled mountain stream trout prepared the Patagonian way. Camp beside your horse and listen to the peaceful rhythm of his breathing and hear the night-time sounds of the herd at rest. At dawn join the gaucho energy, dust and thrill of easing the herd into the morning mist of a day on the trail.

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Dates for our next equestrian meet-ups:

24 to 31 March 2024
14 to 21 December 2024

20 to 27 October 2024*
17 to 24 November 2024*
* These trips are not hosted by anyone from Hooves, but by the owners of the ranch, and you will be working with the cattle on the farm if the weather allows for it, instead of driving the cattle.


Contact me to make your booking.

Read all about our previous equestrian meet-ups in Argentina:

Hooves around Argentina 2022
Hooves around Argentina March 2023
Hooves Around Argentina December 2023 

Also read: What to pack for a horse riding holiday in Patagonia

Horse riding holiday in Argentina


Itinerary for your horse riding holiday in Patagonia, Argentina

This is an example itinerary, the itinerary might be changed during your ride according to the weather and other factors. 

Also read: horse riding in Argentina

Explore Patagonia on horseback

Day 1

On the first day, we arrive at Neuquen, located in the east of Argentina. After your arrival, there will be a six hour transfer by car to a small town on the border of Chile and Argentina. Here you will have a beautiful view of the snow-capped Andes while you drive few kilometres over dirt roads to the farm to have dinner and a good night’s rest. If arrival is early enough, you might go for a test ride before dinner to try out the horses. Also make sure to bring some US Dollars in case you want to buy a poncho, or other Argentinian souvenirs at the farm.

Day 2

After a delicious breakfast, we will walk to where the horses are being saddled and we’ll get to meet horses. Today we will round up all the cattle and do a proper head count of them. There’s 2 rules to doing this accurately: count in silence and in two’s! At this point, we leave our luxuries behind as this is an authentic cattle drive, and we’ll camp beside the stockyard. We’ll end the day with a dinner at the camp. From now on we will be transporting our luggage in saddle bags, so pack light (and warm) and only take the essentials. 

Horse riding holiday in Argentina


Day 3

In the early morning of the third day we all get ready for riding on the estancia, we’ll continue the cattle drive! The river Rio Agrio is rising in the Andes and starts to flow down all the way to the Pacific, it has an absolutely stunning valley. We’ll be riding past a beautiful waterfall formed by the Rio Agrio flowing over an ancient volcanic area called a caldera. While we ride downstream of the waterfall, the cattle will need to cross the river before we continue our journey. We will keep moving the herd for 5 to 7 hours, depending on the terrain and any obstacles we cross. We need moving the cattle forward, steady and calm. When some of them stray from the herd, we bring them back, so the riders are spread out to nudge the cattle forward. The surrounding countryside is timeless and beautiful. The only trails here are those cut by generations of Angus cattle: no-one else comes this way. Once we arrive at the pasture, the cattle is left to graze this untouched piece of nature. We continue the rest of the week only with our horses.

Day 4

Today we ride to Salto De Agrio, here the river free falls over a basalt lip into the lagoon below; a fantastic view. We will have lunch in the caldera. You will be amazed at the rumble of the water as it falls. We’ll likely have the chance to swim here, truly an experience you'll never forget. We’ll ride through Araucarias (or Monkey Puzzle) trees, which grow up to 80 m tall. The female trees produce cones with edible nuts inside, similar to pine nuts. However, the trees have razor sharp leaves, so beware! As we ride to the camp, a local grass-fed Patagonian lamb on a spit is already in the making for us all to enjoy.

Day 5

On day 5 it’s time to cross another beautiful valley, which in winter is usually covered by snow, but is summer is an incredible natural pasture for more cattle to graze in. This ride will take 5 hours and the only way to get here is by horse. There is also a great treat waiting for us at the camp; a private natural hot-spring for us to have a dip in! Each night spent here, you’ll feel as if you’re the first person ever to set foot in this beautiful place.

Horse riding holiday in Argentina


Day 6

As we continue our ride to laguna del cuero, we’ll only be about 3 kilometres from Chile. Today we’re looking to see if we can find the majestic endangered bird called the condores andinos. They can have a wingspan of up to 3 meters. It's also likely that we find Wanacos, a local Mammal which wool was used for clothes. This night we will also be camping by the hot-spring again.  

Day 7

As we leave Patagonias wild nature behind, we still have a great and long day of riding ahead before we reach civilisation again. In the morning, we will ride for 4 hours until we reach out lunch spot next to Maloñehue. An incredible mountain which used to be a strategic place where pre-Columbian inhabitants used to keep an eye on groups of horses coming from north during the invasion of Spanish conquistadors. The views from up here are absolutely jaw dropping. After lunch, we ride down the mountain and come across ruins of the “conquest of the desert” and a monolith. Stone arrowheads, bullets, copper uniform buttons and many other traces of the invasion are still found every now and then.

horse riders on a cattle drive in patagonia with the andes in the background
A group of riders on the cattle drive, with fantastic scenery in the background.

Logistical details of your horse riding holiday in Argentina

Dates of the cattle drives
24 to 31 March 2024
14 to 21 December 2024

20 to 27 October 2024*
17 to 24 November 2024*
* These trips are not hosted by anyone from Hooves, and you will be working with the cattle on the farm if the weather allows for it, instead of driving the cattle.

Start and end location Neuquen airport 

Group Size 4 to 12 riders

Horse breed Criollo

Accommodation 2 nights at the farm and 5 nights of camping

2024 Price 2495 USD
2025 Price 2750 USD

Included in the price

  • Saddled horse
  • Transfers and road travel in private vehicle (six hours from Neuquen airport to the farm)
  • Meals: dinner on day one up till lunch on day 7
  • Spanish and English speaking guides
  • Assistance from the gauchos
Horse riding holiday in Argentina


How difficult is the cattle drive in Patagonia on horseback?

Trails through the foothills of the Andes are very varied: in places they are flat and easy, in other places the gradient is steep and the trail can be rocky and care is required. The days can be quite long, remember that we are a long way south and daylight can last about 17 hrs out of 24. It’s possible that Spring or Autumn weather can turn against us and snow in not unknown, however unlikely. We will be walking big stretches of the ride to make the trail as easy as possible for the cattle and horses, but there are definitely opportunities for cantering. The horses are very well-mannered and responsive. They also have incredible stamina. You will be riding for four to seven hours every day, and the trail is 120 kilometres in total, and therefore you should be quite riding fit (riding several days per week) and have an intermediate to experienced riding level.

The cattle operation 

This is a beef cattle enterprise in northern Patagonia. The grass-fed Angus are moved to higher summer pasture in the Spring (December). These field are a ski resort in winter, from May to September. During the colder months (March) the cattle returns to the sheltered plains of the pre-cordillera. This means that the herd has to be moved twice every year, and the only way to do this is on horseback. Herds of up to 1,000 head are driven. This is a time-honoured custom and the gathering together of people in such a sparsely populated area as the Patagonia is always a joyful occasion.

Aberdeen Angus

The cattle originates from Scotland and first came to this part of Patagonia in 1879. Due to their native environment the cattle are very hardy and can survive the harsh winters, snowfall and storms of Patagonia.

Please contact me if you have any questions or would like to book!

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