I spent my childhood in England and Wales in the 50’s (yes, I know, that was a long time ago). Kids of that era grew up playing cowboys and Indians. For Christmas, we asked for things like cap gun knock-offs of Colt ’45’s, stetsons and cowboy belts. My brother and I spent a lot of time running around our neighborhood, with our cap guns, shooting at each other, a practice that would probably result in a call to the local police in these days of school lock-downs.
It really never dawned on me that it would be fun to ride a horse, but all my heroes did (Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, Richard Boone et al). In fact, on a holiday to the seaside, my mother had once paid good money to put me on a donkey for a mad ride from the edge of the sand down to the sea. The whole experience had terrified me so much that horse riding was out of the question.
On a recent trip to Argentina, I overcame my fear of horses and donkeys and we spent a day in the foothills of the Andes on horseback. This was certainly not the primary reason for our trip (hiking and wine tasting were the main goals), but it seemed like a good idea to branch out and try something different. While Argentina was not part of the mainstream of Hollywood western movies in the 50’s, we were vaguely aware that there were these curious South American versions of cowboys called gauchos who wore ponchos and cowboy hats with fringes. As we drove out to the ranch, I had visions of the Cisco kid and thought it might be kinda cool to emulate a South American cowboy.
Our riding day proved to be one of the highlights of our holiday. The facility (La Quebrada del Condor) was first class and Alejandro, our guide, was the real deal — an excellent rider and a very skilled judge of people’s ability. He made sure we all enjoyed the day and came home safe and sound. The trail was fantastic, with lots of hills and dales, creeks that could be crossed and the occasional steep pitch that made your heart rate increase mildly, but didn’t give you the complete attack. The weather was unusual for the area. We got lots of mist and some occasional light rain, so the atmosphere was mysterious and quite photogenic.
By the end of the day, I was feeling quite gaucho-like and could well imagine a life in the saddle, complete with the aches and pains!
Here are some pictures of the experience: