Horse Riding Near Mendoza

Horse Riding Near Mendoza

Mendoza – the capital city of Mendoza Province, Argentina – is not just wine, sunshine, and thermal spas. Mendoza is also a great base for a quick side trip to the Andes.

Driving Through the Andes

Horse Riding Mendoza

Driving a car through the mountains means (quite rightly) too much concentration on hairpin bends to enjoy the view and, even for a passenger, experiencing the beauty of these mountains is not quite the same through a window as it is from being out amongst the wilderness.

What To Do in Mendoza?

Mendoza offers a wealth of adventure sports like trekking, rock climbing, rafting, kayaking, zip lining, mountain-biking and paragliding. However, if you are not an adrenaline junkie, or have simply been drinking too much wine, then horse riding is a lovely, lazy way to see the Andes.

From two-hour rides to ten-day trips, there is no shortage of options. You may save a few pesos by calling places direct but without knowing the area, you might find yourself only seeing the mountains from the outskirts of town. Some tour guides may also not speak English – a problem if you get into difficulties and your Spanish is limited to ‘gracias’. Certainly, it is hard not to doubt the English language proficiency of the Mendozan company named: ‘Wanka Turismo’.

How to Book a Horse Riding Trip

Horse Riding Mendoza

An easy option is to book a ride through your hostel. A day trip to Potrerillos, organised through 'Argentina Rafting Expeditions', covers transfers, lunch and about four hours of riding. It’s not cheap by South American standards, but is worth every peso.

A minibus will pick you up from your hostel at some point between 8 and 9am. If you’ve been sharing a dorm with snorers, this can feel early, but once you find yourself passing through vineyards with a backdrop of snow-capped mountains – the lack of coffee seems bearable.

Police Checks En Route to the Start Trail

Horse Riding Mendoza

The road to Porterillos is on the route to Chile. It is worth carrying your passport as there can be police checks, despite being many miles from the border. Something about guns and uniforms in the middle of nowhere makes you keen to comply with official requests.

Foothills and Views

It’s a beautiful journey through the red, grey and brown foothills to the base of 'Argentina Rafting'. Set on the edge of Potrerillos Dam, you wait for the next leg of the journey with spectacular views of the water-filled valley that has brought lush growth to the surrounding hills.

Getting On your Horse

Horse Riding Mendoza

A short ride into Potrerillos itself, and soon enough you’re swinging a leg over a saddle. You don’t need heels on your shoes because the stirrups are actually leather cups, so, should you fall off, your feet can’t slip through them – a plus, as a runaway horse dragging you along the ground is fairly unpleasant.

Controlling your Horse on the Trail

Trail horses are chosen for their placid natures and are easy for beginners to ride. The horses have done the walk many times, so even if you aren’t exactly in control, they’ll follow the one in front. You just need to keep the reins short enough so your horse doesn’t keep stopping for a snack, but loose enough so you’re not giving the command to go backwards.

Horse Riding Tips

Horse Riding Mendoza

It might be a surprise to learn that only one hand controls the reins. The other hand is used to flick the reins like a whip or, if a little nervous, to grasp the well-padded saddle that is a gift for the less ample rear.

Wild and Beautiful Argentinian Nature

A short ride out of town and you are among aromatic shrubs, wildflowers, and rocky outcrops with panoramic views as the backdrop. The dirt trail and the occasional large religious monument are the only signs of human habitation, with just the clatter of horse hooves and the trill of birdsong to break the silence.

Inspiration from Argentina's Wildlife

Horse Riding Mendoza

If you’re lucky, you may see condors circling overhead. One of the world’s largest flying birds, these vultures, with surprisingly sweet faces, have a wingspan of over 10 feet and glide at altitudes where they can rely on thermals, rather than the beating of wings, to remain airborne. Smart and strong, their majesty and grace makes it easy to understand why they have featured in Andean art for millennia and are a symbol of power and health.

Endangered – the South American Condor

Horse Riding Mendoza

Although Andean condors can live for over fifty years in the wild, human interference has brought them to endangered status. It’s feast or famine for vultures that prefer to prey on the dead rather than the living. So when condors find the corpse of large mammal, they tend to get stuck in. Filling their bellies until the weight prevents them from flying – satiated condors become easy prey for hunters.

Lunch on the Trail – Argentinian Beef and Wine

Nothing like a vulture to make you think of lunch, and all that fresh mountain air gets the appetite stirring. Back at the ranch, a large cut of beef has been barbecued over slow-burning mountain wood. Served with salad, bread and wine, and followed by dessert – it’s a hearty lunch that will add a waddle to the John-Wayne gait that comes from thighs unused to horseback.

The Final Ride to End a Special Day

Horse Riding Mendoza

Back in the saddle, those that can ride may be lucky enough to get a gallop. Pounding hooves send rocks flying down the steep slopes that border the winding paths. Taking a sharp corner gets the adrenaline pumping. Wind in your hair, sun on your skin, and reins clutched in one hand as you hurtle through the stunning landscape – it’s an experience that promotes gaucho envy.

A quick beer overlooking the dam rounds off the day, before being delivered back to your hostel in time for dinner. The muscles may ache, but you’ll be smiling.