Horsemanship Around the World: Exploration with the Argentinian Gauchos

As I stood on top of the cliff, overlooking the Gatorade blue water of Lago San Martín, it felt like my horse and I had truly found the end of the world. And it wasn’t far off, with Patagonia edging its way close to that title.

It’s hard to beat the view of Lago San Martín from the back of a horse.

As my horse caught his breath, I took a moment to soak in the postcard beauty of the landscape before turning back to the terrain so intensely unique to the Andes to continue on our exploration.

Pursuing this trip wasn’t for the faint of heart, consisting of 15 hours of flying to get to Buenos Aires, another 3 hours to arrive in El Calafate, and then a 5 hour drive to the beautiful Estancia El Condor, where our ride began. While daunting, I was surrounded by a group of explorers who were well equipped to handle anything that came our way — adventurer extraordinaire Erik Cooper, Argentinian gauchos Andy and Morita, and a diverse group of incredibly capable and skilled horsemen and women from around the world as crazy as I am to pursue something this wild.

Wild, adventurous friends make explorations to remote locations that much more fun.

Years ago when I first connected with Erik, I couldn’t have imagined myself going to some of the most remote locations you can find. From Mongolia to Patagonia, Erik’s friendship, shared love of horses, and adventurous spirit has dragged me to the corners of the world, shown me some of the most incredible views, and introduced me to some of the kindest and most inspiring people all united by the horse. While you never know what to expect on equine expeditions such as these, we’ve always sought out locations rich in adventure.

And this spirit of adventure is consistent with the history of travel and exploration in Argentina – dating back to some of the first residents and explorers of the area, it’s a history that’s still honored today. As you navigate the challenging terrain of Patagonia, imagining how exponentially more challenging it would have been back hundreds of years, you come across landmarks such as Lago San Martín, named after the Argentine general and national hero of the armies of independence against Spain, the Perito Moreno Glacier named after the explorer and surveyor, or rock paintings like the Cueva de las Manos, which dates back to 8,000 BCE and left by the Tehuelche people, who have a 14,000 year long history of habitation in Patagonia before the arrival of Europeans.

While much has changed over the thousands of years of the country’s history, the horse has remained as a constant – not only were our equine partners absolutely necessary for us to navigate this terrain today, but they’ve allowed humans to push beyond what man could do alone to cover larger swaths of land, and have allowed past and present explorers to forge through remote wilderness to find land to make livelihoods.


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One such explorer and resident, Santiago Radboone “The Jimmy” for the Tehuelches, has certainly left his mark on the area, seen in our trek through Estancia El Condor.

Originally born in Inkpen, Berkshire, England, in 1874, Jimmy left home to work, and found his way to Punta Arenas in 1892. After being convicted of fraud, he was arrested and placed in jail in 1904, but promptly escaped, finding his way to the woman he loved, Juana. The couple left to find land, and eventually occupied the lands of the Mackenna Peninsula, next to Lago San Martín. Here, he founded Estancia La Nana, near the border with Chile. Today, that land is part of Estancia El Condor, and the remnants of “The Jimmy’s” house sat on the land where we rode out, making our way to camp “La Nana”. Walking through Jimmy’s house showed how resourceful he had to be to make a life here with his family, as they made their way to find land and create a home in such a remote space. Staying at La Nana as part of our time at El Condor served as yet another reminder of the history we were living in and riding through.

Jimmy’s house still stands on La Nana, and carries the reminder of explorers who came before.

Estancia El Condor with Cabalgatas Andora provide opportunities such as these to connect with and explore Argentina with the spirit and soul of an adventurer. Riding along the beach, crossing rivers on horseback that soaked us from the knee down, and trekking through thick brush down steep hills turned us into a group of explorers navigating these spaces.

Another way to connect with the culture of exploration is through the Gaucho Derby, a 500km multi-horse adventure race run by the same group at the famous Mongol Derby. The high mountains of Patagonia test the skill and spirit of the horses and riders setting out in the Derby, as they trek through some of the steppe where the Tehuelche hunted, the mountains that explorers navigated, and Estancias that have evolved over the decades and centuries of the country. The Derby is coming up at the beginning of February, and you can keep an eye here to follow along with the excitement!


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With the extensive history of exploration in a harsh environment, and continued emphasis on equine-oriented adventure through places such as Estancia El Condor or the Gaucho Derby, Patagonia, Argentina is a wild, stunning, and remote paradise for those who want to make their way.

And that’s just it – if there’s one thing I’ve learned about navigating through Patagonia, and the story of Jimmy and the explorers and pioneers that continue to inspire adventure in Argentina, it’s that you have to make your own way, and make your life. Creating something new, bold, and inspired takes a commitment to know what you want, a willingness to push beyond the uncomfortable, and enough of an open mind to explore as you find the path. From the Tehuelche to the early explorers to travelers like our group with our trusty horses, we’re all creating the life we dream.

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