This December I finally had the pleasure of attending our first ever Patagonia equestrian meet-up with Hooves. I was with two lovely horse riders from Spain, we were hosted by one of the most welcoming families I’ve ever met, and got to ride horses through the mountains of Patagonia for a whole week. It was honestly one of the best experiences of my life. In this blog post I’ll tell you all about our group, the accommodation, the riding and the horses.
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This is what I wrote down after being at the farm for about three hours; “Expect instant roaring laughter at the dinner table with your instant family, it’s like you’ve been away from home and didn’t even know it until you came back”, and that feeling didn’t fade throughout the week. The Cayol family is absolutely incredible and we were welcomed immediately. We were accompanied by Martin, Azul, Agus, Santos, Manu and Chelsea for the entire week, and they very quickly became people I’ll remember and cherish for the rest of my life. On the first day, Azul’s sister Alin also joined us, and within 24 hours became a friend for a lifetime.
Expect instant roaring laughter at the dinner table with your instant family, it’s like you’ve been away from home and didn’t even know it until you came back
The Cayols are a special breed of honest, pure and hilarious people. Throughout the week they were all trying to prove they were the better Cayol, and supposedly earning Cayol points by doing things such as drinking out of a completely charcoaled water jug, jumping off waterfalls, and more. Our two guests and I had an absolutely incredible time with them and we are already planning our return in 2023.
The first and last night of the trip you’ll sleep in the lovely farmhouse, owned by the Cayols. Here, you’ll be able to get a good night’s sleep and recharge after a long flight. The house is stunning and covered with photos of the Cayols as kids, riding around the farm on their ponies. We had an incredible dinner where we all got to know each other and chat. In the morning we had a late start which allowed for a fantastic 8 hours of sleep in a comfortable bed, before being woken up by the smell of breakfast and a view of the mountains surrounding the farmhouse.
Lunch is incredible. On the first day we had pies, one day we had onion rings, another day we had risotto and pasta pesto. Also, Spanish omelets, tapas and tortillas. That was just the lunch dishes, evening meals were (even more) spectacular. Manu prepared fantastic meals for us such as an asado with lamb and sweet potatoes, corn stew, lentil stew, more asados and empanadas. Breakfasts are also fantastic, with fruits and great bread. On the last morning, just before leaving the farmhouse, we had the most amazing cheese bread for breakfast - absolutely out of this world.
For 5 nights out of the horse riding holiday we camped in ridiculously beautiful places around the farm. The first night of camping was near the corral we were keeping the cattle in for the night. Before going to bed, we sat by the fire singing songs as Alin played the guitar, it was stunning. The camp was beautiful, next to a river, horses grazing besides us, the mats were comfortable and the tent was perfect for the 3 of us. Only thing was, we were camped just next to a small stream leading to the river, which changed course during the night and resulted in our tent floating by 5 am. I highly recommend a very good sleeping bag to make sure you’re still warm when things like this happen.
The next camping spot was near a stunning waterfall, which some of us swam in and jumped off of. Great for the muscles after lots of hours on horseback. By the second night of camping, we’d left the cows behind to rest before heading out to their summer pastures a week later. This camp was really idyllic, in a valley, next to a river, surrounded by bushes and the sounds of grazing horses. We prepared fantastically for this night by using the sheepskins from the saddles to isolate the bottom of the tent. Despite the (beautiful) storm, we were warm, comfortable and ready for action the next morning!
The third camp was also by a river, with my favourite view in the world, horses in front of snowy mountains. From here, we even managed to walk over to the car the young Cayol boys had parked near the camping spot, and drove over to a bar half an hour away to see Argentina win the world cup! Before that though, we managed to climb down the steep cliffs to the waterfall and river below our lunch spot for a sunset swim.
We stayed at the fourth and last camp for two nights. Beautifully located in a valley high in the mountains, with views of eternal snow and insane sunsets, there is a magical hot spring where we got to sleep next to. We often joked about being a fellowship of the ring during this rides, as we were constantly dirty and riding through the mountains on horseback. In this case, we didn’t bring the ring to Mordor, but we brought whiskey to a hot spring and got outrageously drunk.
We didn’t bring the ring to Mordor, but we brought whiskey to a hot spring and got outrageously drunk
We got to meet the horses in the morning after our fabulous night’s sleep, and my eye immediately fell on a jet black mare standing on the side of the group. I got to ride her for the week, and loved her every second of every ride. She’s honestly one of my favourite horses I’ve ever ridden on a horse riding holiday. The guests also immediately fell in love with their horses. They are sensitive, excited and forward going, with a great temperament. They have horses for both intermediate and experienced riders so that everyone feels safe.
A very important part of the horse rides are the siestas just after lunch, just before riding again in the afternoon. There are always a couple of hammocks around, and otherwise a nap in the grass is also a fantastic way to recharge. Because of the long days and short nights, this is perfect. In December, the sun only sets around 9.30PM, and comes up around 5AM.
I could write a few books about the horse rides we did through the stunning nature of Patagonia, but I will go over the highlights with you. The rides are very free and you can go and canter off for a bit and come back, ride next to each other, find your own paths, it’s fantastic. The horses are totally up for the job and are happy to ride away from the group for experienced riders.
One of the highlights of the horse rides was on the second day. We dropped off the cattle at the corral, and rode the horses to a nearby river so we could swim. The horses patiently waited and grazed as the Cayols and guests dived off the cliffs into the river below. Afterwards, when it was time to ride back to camp, the sun was setting, and the views on this ride were absolutely mesmerising, it was like being in a painting.
Another highlight was definitely horse riding with the cattle. It might have been dusty, but the view was incredible, it was so much fun, and very interesting to ride with the gauchos.
We also did a short loop on horseback one morning, and cantered through the fields, the water and jumped lots of streams. It was so much fun and the horses also had an amazing time.
As most of you know, I am obsessed with mountains (I know, hilarious, having been born in the Netherlands, one of the flattest countries in the world). Therefore, the horse ride up the mountains to a lagoon surrounded by Condors was most definitely also a highlight for me. This combined with riding the horses through the everlasting snow right afterwards was simply insane and a dream come true for me.
Some of us decided to swim with the horses in one of the lagoons. I personally did not as the water was freezing cold, but if you’re a bit tougher than me you’ll love it!
Another highlight of the horse riding holiday was coming back home on the last day of riding. I got to film everyone racing each other through the fields, galloping as fast as they possibly could, and we got back to the house during one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen.
Read more about the example itinerary and price breakdown here.
Read more about the Argentinian Criollo horse here.
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