Volunteering with horses at Hacienda Parga, Chile


Do you love horses and are looking for a place to volunteer in a tranquil environment at the beach? Keep reading! Hacienda Parga is located right next to the beach, within a nature reserve. It is part of the Mari Mari hotel, about 90 km west of Puerto Montt, Chile. The hacienda has been run by Marco since 2021 and he’s been working with volunteers since 2022. 

These blogs about volunteering in South America are written by Stine Andersen, for questions you can contact her on Instagram, or stine@hoovesaroundtheworld.com.

General info on the volunteer program

Length of stay

Ideally 1 month, minimum: 2 weeks, maximum: as long as you wish.

Number of volunteers

1-2. Couples or friends.


All year around. During winter it rains a lot and work consists more of training the horses and moving them to fields as well as mucking out the stalls. They do not take volunteers in August. 

Other requirements

Minimum 22 years old. No previous volunteering experience needed. Horse experience is preferred (including experience with groundwork). Help with social media is appreciated. No Spanish needed.

Horse and girl laying down in the sun in a green field
Pirata and Hannah relaxing in the field

Get to know Marco of Hacienda Parga

Marco grew up between the southern regions of Chile and Santiago, where he pursued his studies in veterinary medicine. Introduced to horses by his grandfather who worked at the mounted police, he began taking riding lessons at the age of 15 and developed a passion for the outdoor life, riding in the countryside, and working at stables in exchange for lessons. Initially unsure if he wanted to become a horse vet, Marco gained experience as a tourist guide. At 17, he started traveling to Tierra del Fuego as a volunteer during the summer, and every summer that followed, he found a reason to go to Patagonia. He guided in Torres del Paine and also worked on ranches in the cordillera.

Horse ears looking out over coastline in Chile with green forests
One of the viewpoints of the beach

He spent some time in California before working for a few months as a vet at a well-known traveling horse show in Asia. It was there that he fell in love with the Classic style of riding, focusing on training horses, and competing.

He spent his last years before starting with Hacienda Parga training dressage horses and received training in classical riding at the School of Equestrian Art of Chile. It's one of the few places in Chile where Andalusian horses are bred and trained for competition and shows, and it is based on the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art in Spain. This is also where most of his training comes from.

Now, he combines his work at the stables with teaching at the University of Puerto Montt, sharing his knowledge and experiences with aspiring veterinarians. While he doesn't actively work as a vet, his reputation precedes him, and locals reach out to him for assistance with their animals.

Horse and rider in a green forest by the ocean on clear day
Hannah and Mandarina enjoying the beautiful view

The herd of horses

Marco currently has 10 horses at Hacienda Parga, and about 4-5 of them can be ridden by guests - the rest of the horses are either in training or boarding horses. With a limited number of horses, the groups of riders on a tour are small. Oftentimes, there were families with kids that also took riding lessons at the stables, instead of going out for a trail ride. Marco's dedication to creating a welcoming and educational environment ensures that every visit is not just a ride but a cherished memory for guests of all ages.

All the staff of the hotel is super friendly and you greet everyone you meet with a smile. They all make sure you are comfortable and having a good time! They’re happy to answer any questions you might have and show you some great trails around the hotel property. One day we finished early in the afternoon and while contemplating whether to skip dinner and go back to our house or to wait two hours, one of the guys working at the hotel asked if we wanted to check out a viewpoint close by and we took the opportunity to explore. The trails around the hotel property are stunning, offering perfect views and amazing sunsets. They're just the right way to relax after a day at the stables.

Cantering bareback on the beach at sunset on a black horse
Before heading back to our house Stine and Palto went for a bareback canter on the beach

What it's like to volunteer at Hacienda Parga

As a volunteer, you will be staying in a farm house at the huerto (orchard), about a 20 min walk from the stables. You share the house with two to three other people. The volunteer room itself has space for two people. The hotel provides three meals a day, with breakfast from 8-9 am, lunch from 12-1 pm, and dinner from 5:30-6:30 pm. If you're working late, you can ask the kitchen staff to save you a plate, and there's always coffee, tea, and bread available. 

Marco is very flexible when it comes to your days off, which you can discuss upon your arrival. Many workers at the hotel follow a schedule of 10 days on and 5 days off, which you can opt for if it suits you. On your days off you can either stay at the house and relax, or do some trekking, or you can go to explore the nearby towns or even Chiloe, Chile’s biggest island! There are plenty of options to keep you entertained. However, if you decide to leave, please note that food and lodging expenses will not be covered during those days.

The organisation of entering and leaving the property is quite complex, so it's preferable to organise in advance and that's why Marco also needs commitment to the dates from the volunteers.

Paint horse with rider standing on a hill before the sea surrounded by green forests
Hannah riding with the chilean tack

If you decide to volunteer at Hacienda Parga, be advised that during the off-season, scheduling is more flexible, and timing can be adjusted. However, during the high season, plans are made months in advance. Volunteers are scheduled ahead of time, so it's important to confirm your dates and be certain of your availability. Please keep in mind that winters at Hacienda Parga are wet and cold. If you don’t cope well with these conditions, you might want to consider visiting during the summer months.

While there is WiFi available at both the hotel and your house, it's not the most reliable, and there are only a few spots on the property where phone signal reaches. If you depend on a stable internet connection, this might not be suitable for you. And a pro tip on the side - bring your own snacks and laundry detergent! You might not be leaving the property for a couple of weeks at a time, and there are no nearby stores.

Black horse with rider swimming bareback in the ocean
Enjoying a sunny day by taking a dip in the water

A day in the life at the Hacienda

We started our day around 8 am. We chose to skip breakfast at the hotel, so at 8.40 am we got on our two horses that we kept close to our house and started riding down to the stables. If we didn’t have our horses, we would walk or catch a ride with the hotel transfer. 

If we had a tour, we prepared the horses for the morning ride with guests once we arrived at the stables. Depending on the size of the group, one of us would accompany the ride and the other one stayed to train one of the young horses. Sometimes Marco would go alone, other times we all went together. As a volunteer you very rarely go out on trail rides with guests alone. Either you are accompanied by Marco or another one of the guides from the hotel. Since most of the guests are beginners, the ride is almost always at a walking pace only. 

Once the group got back, we helped untack the horses, wash them and put them back in the field. After tidying up, we would go to the staff cafeteria to eat. After lunch, we went back to the stables and our afternoon would depend on whether we had another ride or not. If there was no ride, we would train horses or go out on a trail ride with Marco to clear some trails with the machete. Training young horses at Hacienda Parga involves a variety of activities such as groundwork, lunging and riding. During our stay, we began training a young horse using groundwork and lunging. However, she quickly mastered these skills, so we decided to take her out after a few days, and she was very well behaved. On the second ride out, even the hotel helicopter passed by very low at the beach and she couldn’t have been better! 

Clearing trails on horseback in a green forest with the machete
Out with Marco clearing trails with the machete

There are both Chilean and English tack available, so depending on your likings you are free to choose what you prefer. You will be asked to wear a helmet, so feel free to bring along your own helmet if you feel more comfortable with that. Marco is an excellent instructor, so if you are looking to improve your riding and groundwork skills, this is the perfect address.

Hacienda Parga is a great place for first time volunteers or a way of getting an introduction to the South American culture. As almost everyone at the hotel speaks English, it is not a requirement that you need to speak Spanish. However, the workers at the hotel appreciate it if you show some interest and try to communicate in Spanish. It is a great way to learn and gain more confidence! If you are experienced with horses, riding and training, Marco will happily give you a project training the youngsters. Marco gave us the freedom to work with the two newest herd members and he valued our opinion and feedback. Having your own little project while still having someone to ask if you had questions was great.

Remote beach surrounded by green forest on a cloudy day at sunset
One of the remote beaches at sunset

Marco has many exciting plans for the future of Hacienda Parga. These include initiating a breeding program focused on producing horses suitable for both trails and dressage. Additionally, he plans to host a show on the hotel premises to showcase the horses at Mari Mari and spread the word about them.

Horses and riders looking out over green hills and ocean
The team of Hacienda Parga looking over the stables

If you like what you read, don’t hesitate to contact Stine or Marco (Workaway or marco@hotelmarimari.com or Instagram)! If you don’t receive an answer straight away, don’t worry - it might take a couple of weeks, since Marco is very busy. 

In Stine’s Instagram highlights, you can find photos and videos from our volunteer experience!

Horses and riders on the beach at sunset
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