WARNING: this post is for the horsey people.
I like the horses here. They remind me of my favorite horse Buck. A little stocky, completely solid and up for adventure–with a little machismo thrown in.
The horses on the Argentine Pampas are bred for work. Rustling up cattle, pulling carts, transportation. Their life isn’t super glamorous, but I sense they have fun. When not working they are free to roam the pastures with their herd, eat as much grass as they can find and generally be horses without the interference of too many humans.
But even when working, the interference is low. The daily tack is basic. The bridle is basically strips of untanned cowhide (presumably from the cows they once helped herd) attached to a metal bit.
The saddle itself has more parts, but is flexible and comfortable for both the horse and rider. A basic canvas blanket, followed by a felt pad and leather rectangle with two parallel rolls for the knees and balance. This is section is secured with its own girth with the stirrups attached and is tightened with an untanned leather strap and by using a foot for leverage on the horse’s side. The whole thing is topped off with either a foam pad or, my favorite, a fluffy sheepskin. The topper has it’s own girth strap–either more untanned cowhide or a woven band.
When it’s complete it feels like sitting in a comfy chair–yet you can still completely feel the horse underneath you, which makes riding from your seat easy and fun.
I rode three of the eleven horses at La Margarita. (For the record, I do not advocate riding without a helmet. I have fallen off too many times to feel any other way. But we are in Argentina. Helmets are not easy to find. But people riding horses should wear helmets.)
The first horse, Oscuro, was a fun challenge. Someone aptly noted that he looked like a chess piece. He was ready to go and rocketed into a gallop when asked for a canter. I found out later that he detests heavy handed riders (my biggest riding problem) and has had the tendency to go on run aways. Simply walking wasn’t something he enjoyed–but I made him do it. (It is important to note that I was put on this guy only because they knew I had some experience–many of horses were as calm as could be.) We rode together twice and he taught me a lot.
My favorite was Diabla. A complacent mare who went when asked and had a smooth canter. She was Oscuro’s main squeeze. There are a lot of armadillo and hare holes and mounds throughout the Pampas–Diabla and I negotiated around many of them at all speeds and even jumped (very small jumps) a couple of mounds. Very fun!
And finally, Señor–a cross between the other two. He would foam up at the mouth so much that the both of us were speckled by the end of the ride. (The photo below is of Geraldine and Señor. Geraldine is a totally cool and adventurous woman from France who is volunteering on the estancia through the winter. She made me miss my friends from Seventh Farm as she would definitely fit right in.)
No one rode this guy–the 20 year old pony. I think he has had a happy life and deserves his retirement.