In this edition of GG Journeys, In The Saddle guest Vivien Gwynne-Howell tells us about her recent adventure in Ecuador. Out of more than 23 riding holidays, Vivien rates our Colonial Haciendas ride as one of the best she’s done – high praise indeed for this wonderful country!
Vivien says, “I decided to book a riding holiday (Colonial Haciendas ride) in Ecuador which was a country I initially knew little about. However, having returned from there, I think it was one of the best riding holidays I have ever been on. The two areas I visited are so beautiful (the northern and the central highlands) and the riding holiday itself was fab. The first few days were spent in the pastoral mountains and valleys of the northern highlands, riding along country tracks and across steep slopes used for a multitude of farming crops. We saw a condor soaring on the first day’s riding! Any rough patch of land between the fields was usually occupied by a cow, a pig or a horse, all looking really healthy and in good condition, calmly watching us passing by on horseback. The Ecuadorians working in the fields were friendly and looked amazing wearing their brightly coloured clothes, complete with trilbies, going about their day-to-day work.
The second part of the holiday was spent in Cotopaxi National park in the central highlands, riding around the volcanic terrain. This was my favourite region for riding. The scenery was absolutely stunning, surrounded by four volcanoes, rock faces, rivers, waterfalls, open plains, snow-capped Cotopaxi etc..etc..
As a Geography geek, I was in my element, immersed in a region marked by glacial and volcanic evidence, each of the four volcanoes seeming to generate its own weather system. Despite this, we had great weather and never got wet apart from a few drops of rain at the end of Day 5.
There were also several herds of wild horses on the plains that were curious about us and would inspect us from a distance – there was one magical moment where we were able to canter along beside them which was absolutely beautiful and I will never forget the experience.
Before I left home, I was initially a bit apprehensive about the high altitude and whether I would struggle with it. However I need not have worried. Sally, my guide, managed the ride very professionally. It was planned with slowly increasing altitude, giving enough time to acclimatise and with regular reminders to keep sipping water and having small meals and regular snacks (so as not to overload the digestive system with big meals). It worked, and I was not affected at all apart from occasional mild breathlessness at the highest points.
The horses we rode were superb. All very healthy and happy, well-schooled and much loved. I rode a selection that were all responsive and behaved beautifully. Difficult to choose but my favourite was Capuli who gave me some wonderful smooth canters across the Cotopaxi plains (I could have spent weeks there). The saddles were incredibly comfortable, covered in sheepskins and I had no aches at all to contend with.
The food was delicious and so full of flavour, a testament to the fertile volcanic soil that the crops grew in. It was a relatively simple fare but tasted amazing (especially the tomatoes and avocados).
Outside of riding, we had a trip to Otavalo market and also visited some traditional weavers that created some beautiful scarves, blankets etc using a completely manual method. Absolutely fascinating, and I came away with a brightly coloured scarf (they have a small shop where you can buy their creations).
The haciendas we stayed in were wonderful. Most were very traditional with lots of history, my favourite of these being La Merced in the Zuleta valley which is a working dairy farm, plus the owners breed Andalucians and their herd and stallions were lovely to watch (such a beautiful breed).
The hacienda I stayed at in Cotopaxi (Los Mortinos) was modern but built very tastefully and in a fab location with stunning views of Cotopaxi (my second favourite hacienda!).
Sally is a great guide. With immense knowledge of Ecuador and its history, I learnt so much from her. Sally’s horses are a real credit to her and the ride itself was organised very well. I also enjoyed the company of the two volunteers Marie and Josh who were very nice to ride with.
All in all, it was a great holiday. Ecuador was absolutely beautiful and amazing to see from the back of a horse. I would massively recommend it as a place to ride.
Thanks very much to In The Saddle for organising the holiday….now have to start thinking where to go next!
Many thanks to Vivien for this super insight into riding in Ecuador. We are so glad you enjoyed your trip. If you’d like to find out more about our Colonial Haciendas, Andean Adventure and Volcanoes & Vistas rides please contact Abbie on +44 1299 272 239 or email firstname.lastname@example.org