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Posted on February 22, 2017
In this blog, Jill Pain, winner of the Riding Holiday Show competition tells us about her prize-winning holiday to the wonderful Estancia Los Potreros in Argentina.
“Having decided to go the In The Saddle Riding Holiday Show in December 2015 and look to see what rides I could look forward to in 2016 and beyond, I only entered the completion to win the holiday to Estancia Los Potreros as I left and only because I knew the answer, however, I didn’t think anything more about the competition as I have never won any competition I have ever entered before, so I get the email from In The Saddle saying that the draw will be in a couple of days and then do not quite believe my eyes when a few emails further down I read the email that says “Congratulations you have won the holiday to Los Potreros” Thank you In The Saddle.
Day 1 (Saturday). On Friday evening we left a wet and windy London to arrive in Argentina to lovely warm and sunny weather – we couldn’t believe how warm it was for spring. Kevin kindly picked my friend Karen and myself up from Cordoba Airport and drove us to the Estancia, out of Cordoba, which is on a flat plain, and up to the mountains. What a wonderful place, we couldn’t believe how peaceful and beautiful it was. We meet our fellow guest, Nicky and see her off on her afternoon ride, and then we are shown to our cottage for the week, and it is beautiful, around 400 years old with a choice of three bedrooms and two bathrooms, with natural floors and original fittings like wood burners to keep us warm. So after choosing where to sleep and unpacking we have a tour of the estancia and afternoon tea. We all sit down with Kevin and Louisa and the guides for our evening meal, with beef bred on the estancia, what a great way to end the day. Karen and I head off to bed for a good night’s sleep.
Day 2 (Sunday). Our first ride, gaucho style! Karen, Nicky and I are introduced to our horses and Karen and I are given a quick lesson in how to ride gaucho style before we set off. The riding seems to be fairly straightforward, with neck reining and simple leg aids and the saddles are really comfortable with the sheepskins. The day is very warm and Louisa takes us for our first view of the estancia and we stop at one of the highest points for a quick break and photo opportunity. Then we are off to one of the many rock pools for a cool down swim, it’s so refreshing, unfortunately one of the dogs has decided that my riding clothes make a really comfortable place to have a nap, along with several sticks. It takes a bit longer to get dressed! Once back at the estancia, it’s time for lunch on the veranda, I can’t tell you how great the food is, even with all the riding, I reckon I will be going home heavier than I was at the beginning of the week. Karen, unfortunately has a bit of sunstroke and goes to have a siesta and so after lunch, Nicky and I head out for a walk, we say hello to the two foals and their mums who live in the field right next to the estancia and carry on one of the many tracks, viewing the scenery and wildlife and having a chat. We come back to afternoon tea and meet two new arrivals from the USA, John and Paula. The evening meal is a chance to get to know them better – and more wonderful food…
Day 3 (Monday). Woken up early by the parakeets who nest in the garden trees, much better than being woken up by the alarm clock. Karen luckily is feeling much better and we head off to breakfast and the sun is shining again. We all meet for breakfast (and our internet fix) and just as we are finishing, the hail comes down, and keeps coming down. Apparently due to the mountains surrounding us, localised storms are quite common in Spring and we won’t be able to ride until this has cleared up, due to possible lightning strikes. Kevin and Louisa keep us up to date. Lunch arrives and passes and the weather starts to clear up. Kevin gives the all clear to ride this afternoon and John and I are the only two up for getting a soaking, good job I read the brief and brought my wet weather gear, though turns out we don’t get wet at all. Louisa has put me on a horse with a gaucho saddle to try. It seems to be really comfortable, but my legs seem to be a long way away from the horse’s sides, just hope I don’t fall off in canter, remember lean back. I don’t fall off, but possibly due to the fact I’m hanging on to the front of the saddle at any speed faster than walk.
Day 4 (Tuesday). Today we set off to visit the local school. Education in Argentina is not as extensive as in the UK, and the school day is only 4 hours long. We are welcomed at the school by all the children and teacher, our gaucho guide for the day, Leo’s two children are at the school. Afterwards we mount up and ride about a few hundred yards to our picnic, in a lovely setting by a stream. The lunch was wonderful and afterwards we walk up the lane to the Jesuit church, where we spend time playing with the caretaker’s dogs & puppies – well who could resist, until the caretaker opened the church for us, so we could look inside. After riding back to the estancia we have afternoon tea and rest before our evening entertainment – wine tasting. Unfortunately for me I can’t drink red wine – so more for the rest of them and I had the white wine to myself. The idea being to see who can guess which of the three wines was the most expensive, medium price and the cheapest. They were all Malbec, which is found extensively in Argentina (and in UK supermarkets apparently). My friend Karen wins a bottle of champagne for getting everything right.
Day 5 (Wednesday). Today we wake up to another day of sunshine, but the weather forecast is not so good, so we indulge in some breakfast. Kevin then surprises us by saying that we are in for a polo lesson and short game, this is great, I’ve always wanted to have a go. It all starts well, we are given our polo ponies, with tails all wrapped, we ride on down to the polo field and Kevin then tries to instill some of the rules into our heads and techniques. The dogs think Kevin hitting balls is great and we think it’s funny, so Kevin lines up some balls on the base line and we are tasked with getting the ball from one end of the pitch to the other, whilst on horseback in a walk.
Easy, yes – well Karen was off and reached the other end of the field before I’d managed to hit the ball. After some instruction from the head man, Daniel, I managed to improve and eventually hit the ball far enough to trot to reach it. Polo is harder than it looks! After much laughing Kevin pulls us into two teams, and everyone thinks it’s a fix when Karen and I are on the same team (don’t know why as I’m the liability!). Kevin lines us up and off we go, breaking the rules several times and a few goals scored by both teams (not necessarily in the right goals – yes that was me scoring the own goal). Although somehow I managed to hit the ball twice in canter, must be something to do with the fact I’m riding one of Louisa’s top polo ponies and through no skill of my own. And John, you are not supposed to argue with the umpire, he knows the rules! Everyone had a great time, I’m surprised no-one fell off we were all laughing so much. After the afternoon to ourselves we set out for our evening ride and I am on another favourite of Louisa’s and he is lovely. I still can’t get over how well-mannered these horses are, lift the rein up and forwards and a little kick and off they go, and a pull on the reins and they stop – my horse could learn a few lessons from them.
Day 6 (Thursday). Another lovely day and we are told that we will be helping (?) the gauchos round up the horses for their bi-annual check for equine infectious anaemia, which is fatal in horses and the bi-annual checks are required by Argentinian law. So the idea is to find the horses in 5,000 acre fields and move them to a set of corrals, where the vets can take blood and worm them. So after about 20 minutes we find our first group of horses and try to get them to go in the right direction, typically they are having none of this and head off in the opposite direction, so our gaucho has to ride after them and turn them as they are going much faster than we are. We don’t seem to have picked horse herding up very quickly, however, once turned the horses seem to understand what’s required and take pity on us and head off in the right direction, again much faster than us but we get them there. The next herd take one look at us and head off in the right direction to start with, perhaps we are getting the hang of this. So now the horses are in, we head off back to the estancia for lunch and a siesta.
Louisa then asks me if I want to ride something a little hotter for the evening ride and I say yes, even though I do have a hot seat. So I am given “Salta”, one of the Pasos who has been ridden by the gauchos as a lead horse, this means I have to stay near the front of the ride. The purpose of the ride was to go and collect the retired horses from over the road and bring them back to the stables, which we successfully completed (could have a job soon), along with picking up a couple of other horses along the way. Salta was amazingly sure-footed on some quite rough and rocky terrain and in the manner of most Pasos showed a very elegant turn of foot. That evening we turned up in the dining room to discover the table was not set for dinner, what was going on? Only to find out that we were going to have a cookery evening. All well and good, but cooking is not my forte, so with some trepidation I entered the kitchen. No need to worry, some of us made bread, some made pasta ravioli and the rest drank some wine before sitting down to eat several courses. Many thanks to Patricia and co who put up with us in their kitchen, and cooked all the wonderful food.
Day 7 (Friday). Today is our last full day, I can’t believe we have been here for a week, we have done so much. Before we ride off to help with the horse round up, our guide takes us to the highest place on the Estancia called ‘Top of the world’ and the views are amazing, as are the flying ants (which only appear for one day a year), so lots more photo opportunities. Once we get to the corral we have the opportunity to watch the gauchos and vets in action and see the horses released afterwards. Now we are allowed to try our hands at lassoing, this is also harder than it looks, although most of us manage to lasso the stationary pole in the middle of the corral (I was not one of them – came close a couple of times). Now that we have built up our appetite we settle into our barbecue before riding back. Our final evening included a local singer featuring several popular Argentinian songs, which was lovely.
I have ridden at quite a few places in the world and this is definitely one place I would come back to. It has been an amazing experience and many thanks to Kevin and Louise and all the staff for giving us this opportunity to ride and enjoy a wonderful part of the world.”
Many thanks to Jill for telling us about her trip. We are so glad you enjoyed your stay at Los Potreros – what a fabulous competition prize!