Volunteering with horses in Patagonia, Chile with Estancias Patagonia


We volunteered with Estancias Patagonia at two different locations. First we spent 7 days at Estancia Baguales and then went on to La Peninsula for another week. The two Estancias are very opposite to each other, Baguales is located deep in the Patagonian mountains, with little vegetation and a lot less busy than Estancia La Peninsula.

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 information on the volunteer programs

To be a volunteer at both Baguales and La Peninsula, you need to be at least 18 years old. If you don’t speak Spanish, it’s not an issue - most likely you will pick up some Spanish along the way, as some of the workers don’t speak English. You must be able to work independently as you won't always have someone by your side and most importantly, you need to be flexible. As you are living on a working farm, you can’t expect the mornings’ plan to be the same in the afternoon. Previous volunteering experience is not required, but you need to be willing to learn. Estancias Patagonia offers three different volunteer programs and a trainee position, depending on your skills and likings. The length of your stay will depend on the program you chose, but it will be around 1-3 months. 

At both Estancias you usually work 11 days and then have 4 days off, but this can vary. On your days off, you have endless options to explore Patagonia and Ian will be happy to give some suggestions. Ian and Trisha will be your contact people during your stay.

It is advised to plan your stay with Estancias Patagonia at least 3 months in advance! Due to a lot of no-shows, you will also need to pay a deposit, which will be refunded at the end of your stay.

You can read more about the volunteer programs here.

Volunteering at Estancia Baguales 

House with horses next to it in front of big black mountains on a cloudy day

Length of stay:

1-2 months, 3 months if you are a trainee

Number of volunteers:

1-2 people. Perfect for a couple or two friends.


October - April

Other requirements:

Min. age 18. No previous volunteering experience needed

Black horse looking at guanaco on a hill in front of large black mountains
One of the many guanacos, you will meet when you ride into mountains

After a 2-hour drive from Puerto Natales, we arrived at Baguales just in time for breakfast, where we met some of the seasonal workers who help out at the Estancia. On this occasion, they were preparing the barn for the upcoming shearing of the sheep. We helped the guys with the maintenance work, earned their respect by showing them we knew how to swing a hammer and by the end of the day, the barn was ready to be used. As we thought we were done with work for the day at around 6pm, the most important thing was still missing. The sheep. Esteban, who, along with Pajarito, takes turns in watching the sheep, gathered them and brought them down to the Estancia, where we put them in different fields. Ian, the owner of Estancias Patagonia, selected 700 out of almost 4000 sheep that were to be shorn. We finished the day at around 10pm when it was beginning to get dark. 

Horse and rider in green field next to domes in front of big mountains with snow on it in Patagonia
Hannah next to the domes in the middle of the mountains

The following day was the first of two days of shearing all those sheep. Our task was to keep the stables, from where the shearers would take out the sheep, filled up. This way, it was quick and easy enough for the shearers to get to the animals without having to run after them. It was the first time for us to see so many sheep being shorn, and it was quite impressive!

Sheep in a corral in between green hills
Esteban bringing the 4000 sheep and lamb down from the mountains

Once the shearing was done, we got into the usual routine of a volunteer. The first morning of us getting the horses started like this: “Here are two horses, if you ride up the mountains over there you will see the herd of horses, and then you bring them back to the Estancia.” 

From the house, we could see a group of horses on the side of the mountain. So, we took off with our new-found friends and started climbing up. After meeting numerous guanacos, we found 12 horses. The only issue now was, there were still about 20 missing. So, after beginning to herd the first group down, we rode even further into the mountains where we eventually found the rest! 2 hours later, we were back at the Estancia and gathered all the horses in the corral. We helped saddle some of the horses that were about to go out on a 7-day-ride with a small group of guests. After the group left, Ian had his own half-day ride, so we helped saddle some more horses. 

Horse and rider on hill side with green fields, hills and rivers behind
The stunning view from the hill behind the Estancia while working the sheep

After two days of riding out looking for the horses, you almost know the field and it is a lot easier to find your way around. You always ride out with a radio, so you can get in contact with the workers back at the Estancia in case something happens. If you are two volunteers, it is also a good idea to bring one radio each, so you can split up and cover more ground when searching for the horses, as you will not hear anything trying to scream at each other - speaking from experience. 

Sheep and horses in a green field in the mountains of Patagonia
When we encountered the sheep and horses all together in the middle of the mountains

An example of a workday for a volunteer in Chilean Patagonia

Waking up around 6:00–6:30am and at the latest 7:30am, you need to be on your horse, riding into the mountains. Getting the horses takes between 1,5-4 hours. Sometimes they are close to the house, or you can see them from the house, so you know exactly where to look for them. Other times, the herd splits up, and you need to start herding some down before you can continue looking for the others. Which is what happened to us on the first day. 

At around 10am, you start saddling the horses and by 11am the guests arrive and the trail ride starts. If it is a big group, a volunteer will come along, but for 4-5 people one of the local workers will guide the trail alone. Once the guests set off for the ride, you have time for breakfast and relax a little until they come back. You will help untack the horses and for the rest of the day, you might have a horse available for you to go check out the area by yourself or you help out with tasks around the Estancia. 

Driving cattle on horseback on a dirt road next to a river surrounded by green grass
Reuniting the cows and bringing them down to the river to drink

If you are an experienced rider, you will have an incredible time riding in the Sierra. You can climb the mountains if you want to have a great view, or if you’re up for some canters, there are many opportunities to get some speed in! And if you feel like moving your own legs for a change, you have the perfect hikes just on your doorstep.

Typically, the groups of tourists are quite small and things are very calm at Baguales. There are about 30 horses, and if you are experienced in training and handling horses, they are just starting a new horse program for volunteers that you can read more about here

During your stay at Baguales, you will be sleeping in the staff house in a shared room. The local workers are super friendly and very helpful. Usually, there is someone who speaks English. The kitchen is available to everyone and everybody helps out with the chores. Food is provided, and you might be lucky and someone will even cook for you. 

Gauchos preparing sheep for an asado in front of a cabin in the mountains
The gauchos preparing an asado

After spending a week at Baguales, it was time for us to get to know Estancia La Peninsula. This Estancia is a very distinct place to Baguales. Here you will find yourself surrounded by green forests and a stunning coastline from where you can see the beautiful snow capped mountains in the back. 

Andean hairy armadillo in the sand
The newest member of the Baguales family

Estancia La Peninsula

Farm houses surrounded by green fields in front of mountains on a cloudy day

Length of stay:

Normally 2 months, 3 months if you are a trainee

Number of volunteers:

1-2 people. Perfect for a couple or two friends.


October - April

Other requirements:

Min. age 18. No previous volunteering experience needed

White horse and rider standing on a green hill surrounded by trees with snow capped mountains in the background
A beautiful photo of Stine and her horse with a view to the glacier in the back

Not only is the scenery a contrast to Baguales, but also the concept. A lot more tourists visit Estancia La Peninsula for a short day ride, have a typical lunch ‘cordero al palo’ (specially prepared lamb), watch the process of shearing sheep and get to know the Estancia.

In most cases, volunteers start their program at La Peninsula to be introduced to the riding style and working with tourists, as well as getting an idea of the culture. The Estancia is solely laid out for tourism and you won’t find the authentic gaucho experience at this place. Volunteers at La Peninsula are generally not just there for the horses, but they help out with whatever needs doing all around the Estancia. This might include getting wood, helping out in the kitchen, serving guests and cleaning.

Gaucho herding herd of white horses through a field with green forests and snow capped mountains in the background
Herding the horses from one Estancia to another

An example of a workday for a volunteer at Estancia La Peninsula

Normally, you work 5-6 hours a day. If you are two volunteers, one of you will cover in the morning and the other one in the afternoon. 

In the morning you get up around 6:30am to help with the horses and the trail. This varies depending on your horse riding experience. If you are a BBQ master you might even be asked to make the fire and prepare the lamb for the guests! If you start the early shift, you will be done with your work around 12:30 pm. Afternoon chores might include maintenance work, cleaning the kennels, or help guide the afternoon trail, depending on the size of the group. Small groups are guided by one of the local workers alone. If the group size is bigger or there are children on the ride, you might be asked to join the trail ride. 

If you are new to the volunteering game, Estancia La Peninsula will be a great place for you. You will be able to learn a lot about tourism in Patagonia, meet plenty of people every day and if you are not used to the South American horse culture yet, you will be shown how to tack up and ride horses here. 

White horse and rider galloping next to blue lake with mountains in the background
Hannah cantering next the incredibly blue water

As we were there to check out the volunteering with the horses, we worked closely with the person in charge of the animals. Unfortunately, our communication at times wasn’t great as he stayed quite indifferent towards us and our concerns about the horses’ health and conditions. However, when a few days later a Gaucho came and raised the same concerns, his attitude was very different and he was a lot more invested and willing to listen to the Gaucho’s advice. 

The horses at La Peninsula are all well-nourished, super patient and well-behaved, however quite a few of them had sore backs, bad hooves and tumors (all the horses are greys). After our stay, we did have a final chat with Ian, who was very attentive to what we were saying and commented that more attention will be paid to these issues in the future. 

Ultimately, we had a good time volunteering at Estancias Patagonia. Your experience will depend a lot on your skills and what you are looking for. It is a great place for first time volunteers and people who are not only interested in the riding part, but are generally happy to help out with farm life. 

Make sure to visit Stine’s Instagram to see all the videos from this volunteer experience.

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