Useful information to organize horse trips in Chile
Inform yourself well about the best season, horse renting prices, what equipment is required and meals.
By far the unrivaled seasons for horse trekking in Chile are spring and fall. Weather conditions remain stable, the light of day and moderate temperatures linger, allowing for early morning or late afternoon riding without the inconvenience of bugs or other insects.
The spring-fall rule, i.e. March/April and November, may only be applied to central Chile (between La Serena and Chillán). Chile has a variety of climates due to its lengthy extension; the North is desert land, ideal trekking ground for the winter months, while the South becomes a horse trekking paradise between December and March, the summer months. Although, most of the year remains moderate, the rainy season makes expeditions in the South muddy and some areas impenetrable.
Horse trekking in Chile is still a very affordable activity. Horses remain an important transport vehicle in rural life. Almost every farm worker (huaso), and the Chilean cowboy called “arriero“, owns various animals and is happy to gain some extra income by offering horseback tours to tourists.
Price differences are obvious, from extremely cheap, often not recommended as horses are likely to be underfed, mistreated and broken early. You cannot compare Chilean cowboys’ horse-management to European riding stables, and should be careful when booking this service.
Enjoying your trip to the fullest requires adequate equipment for Chilean weather. Avoid wearing new boots, prefer sturdy, used footwear. Avoid bringing too many things, as everything will be carried by your horse or by mules.
Ask your tour operator what equipment they supply (leather gaiters, raincoats, ponchos, lunchbox, etc.). The entire equipment should be packed into saddlebags or backpacks.
What you should bring
- Sleeping bag
- Sleeping pad, as light as possible (avoid self-inflating pads)
- Lycra riding pants or comfortable jeans, hopefully without inseams. Prefer long-legged, non-slippery pants.
- Footwear: preferably trekking or hiking boots with a good sole and a heel, ankle protection and heavy-duty treading. For a better grip of your horse, knee-high leather gaiters may be used.
- Helmets: If you prefer riding without a riding helmet, you should carry a sunproof/sunblock hat, such as a cap (although your neck is unprotected) or a broad-rimed hat. You must protect yourself from UV radiation in Chile, as it is stronger than in Europe or North America, even under cloudy conditions.
- Clothing should be warm, comfortable, and out of sweat and tear-proof material. Long sleeve T-shirts protect you from the sun and from thorns, ticks and other insects. Wool or polypropylene clothing should be considered for cooler weather conditions. Waterproof Mac and trousers, or a rain poncho (avoid oilskin jackets or raincoats – they are too heavy!).
- Undergarments should be loose fitting and preferably seamless. Prefer lycra or well-designed underwear, trekking socks.
- Gloves are not necessary for Chilean style riding, although they could become handy at lower temperatures.
- Eyewear, sunglasses with 100% UV protection (look for the CE sign)
- Flashlight or forehead light (with spare batteries)
- Insect repellent
- Sun block (minimum SPF 20, all skin types)
- Drinking bottle (prefer 2 small ones over 1 large for weight balance)
- Swimming costume
- Trekking sandals or flip-flops
- Camera (with spare batteries and film)
- Lighter and matches (both have advantages and disadvantages)
- Plastic bags (to protect luggage, for laundry and garbage)
- Photocopies of important documents (we recommend leaving original documents at the ranch).
- Bring your passport (if taking tours to the Andes or if you are planning to cross the border into Argentina)
- First-aid kit
- Small backpack (approx. 25 l)
- Water cleaning pills
- Small food storing bags (lunchbox)
- Maps and books
Besides breakfast, lunch and dinnerwhich should be provided by the tour operator you should always bring some extra snacks. On trekking tours the best options are easy-to-pack high nutritional value cereal bars, cookies, dried fruit, chocolate, peanuts or glucose tablets.
You must drink at least 2 liters of liquid or more per day. Carrying 20-liter-barrels of water per person on a 10-day trek is hardly doable! Ask your operator how often and where will you be refilling your water bottles during the trip. In Central and Southern Chile, this should not be a problem. Although most creeks along the Andes carry fresh drinking water, you should ask before filling your bottle or boil it for 10 minutes before consumption.
Caution: at 1000 m altitude, water boils below 100°C. Therefore; germs may not be completely removed. If required, add water-cleaning pills (although not really healthy, use only in case of emergency). Water filters by Katadyn (www.katadyn.com) are preferable. Although expensive, these ceramic or charcoal-activated filters guarantee tasteless, germ-free water. Order them at drugstores or online. To add taste to water and retain mineral balance, we recommend carrying mineral tablets or powdered juice sachets.
Those searching to experience the unspoiled beauty of nature in remote areas are also faced with isolation from civilization and medical care. While helicopter rescue can be arranged in a few hours, it isn’t the best solution for a sprained ankle or for sunstroke. A first-aid kit with some basic drugs should be packed, ask your family doctor for advice before taking the trip as they are better informed on the latest tips.
If you suffer from some type of chronic diseases, consult your doctor before embarking on adventure travel. Horse trekking involves long daily distances, and constant horse control. People with severe cardiovascular disorder, or heart arrhythmia may put at risk the entire group!
Although not enforced, vaccines advised for Chile are: Hepatitis A and B. Check your immunization requirements for tetanus, diphtheria and poliomyelitis and, if necessary, renew them. Check www.who.int (World Health Organization) for further information.
You should retain health insurance with international coverage. If the tour operator does not provide insurance, you should independently retain personal accident insurance.