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Posted on November 14, 2019
Last month Abbie from In The Saddle visited Los Potreros in Argentina. She stayed with Kevin & Louisa Begg for a week and got a real feel for life on a rural estancia. There is so much to love about Los Potreros. Abbie tries to summarise what makes this destination so special.
With a whopping 142 horses, Los Potreros is certainly not short of horsepower. The impressive herd contains much-loved Peruvian Pasos, polo ponies and criollos of all shapes, sizes and temperaments and I couldn’t wait to try them out. Generally, you ride different horses each day. Whenever possible, you can choose one of your favourites to ride again at the end of your stay.
I loved riding the Pasos, with their dreamy good-looks and smooth paces. There was unicorn-like Mostaza, handsome Payador known as ‘Squishy’ and gorgeous grey Francisco, who was the ultimate gentleman despite our ride being his maiden voyage with a guest. As one previous visitor had remarked, these horses really made you feel as though you are riding on a cloud.
The polo ponies were as fun out on the trail as they were tearing up and down the polo field. There was long-legged La Turca, glamourous city girl Sophia from Buenos Aires and little Petaca (named for being small enough to fit in your pocket), who was just perfect.
Finally, there were the gritty little Criollos, who really stole my heart. Sureña, Picante, Pintada, and Margarita – sure-footed, workmanlike, professional, but always fun. What brilliant rides we had out on these pocket rockets. My personal favourite was a coloured mare called Picante – meaning spicy. She may not have an athlete’s build (neither do I), but boy was she quick! We blasted along rural tracks, crossed streams, climbed to the Top of the World and on one occasion overtook gaucho Leo – oops!
What was evident in all the horses I rode, was the estancia’s considered approach to training, with each horse being given time to mature. No horse is rushed or allocated to guests before they are ready. Each one is cherished and treated as an individual, with the objective being a long and happy working life at Los Potreros – the land of the horse!
No two days were the same. Several times we rode out in the morning, returned to the estancia for lunch, and set out again in the afternoon. On other days we headed off on full day rides, stopping for lunch by a stream, at Kevin & Lou’s home or at the cattle corrals. Each day was exciting and there was always something new to learn about or get involved in.
One day we rode to a waterfall, had a swim, dried off in the sun and then rode back to the estancia for lunch. Another day we rode into the hills to round up the holiday herd, stopping for a picnic lunch before journeying home by a different route.
In the middle of our stay we had an introduction to polo session. After a safety talk from Lou – don’t hurt yourselves, don’t hurt each other and don’t hurt the horses – we were off!
Moving the ball from one end of the field to the other, first in walk and then at a stuttering trot. After a few goes, it was time to try at a canter, remembering not to take big swipes at the ball, but to tap it. My pony Petaca was the perfect teacher – holding her head away and shutting her eyes reproachfully if I attempted too enthusiastic a shot.
By the end of the game we were charging about having great fun and Petaca even positioned me to score a goal – woo hoo! Too soon it was over, but we’d had so much fun we could see why so many guests return for the dedicated Polo Weeks. Our team of Lou, Lucinda and myself won the game. But out of all the players that day, Lou said she would have chosen fellow guest Penny as a teammate in future…for her total disregard of the rules!
Our final day of riding I will remember forever, as we rounded up over 350 cattle from the hills and moved them to the corrals. My little favourite Picante was a star; fun, quick, enthusiastic and so good at stopping those cheeky calves from slipping away.
Owners Kevin and Lou, or house manager Bea hosted in the evenings. Guides Philippine, Lucinda and Baylee were with us on rides and at meals, which gave the estancia a welcoming, sociable feel. There was always someone to chat to. As well as being a great choice for families and groups, Los Potreros caters wonderfully for people travelling alone.
I don’t think I’ve ever felt so relaxed on a riding holiday before. Not because there was lots of down time, but because each day was planned to perfection. So much so, that the only tough decision to make was whether to choose a gin and tonic, or a glass of wine at lunchtime.
Each day began with a sense of anticipation in the adventures to come. Excitement, but also the feeling of confidence that whatever we were doing. We’d be riding a wonderful horse in beautiful surroundings and that it would be a day to remember.
The days run smoothly. Every little detail has been thought of in advance, so you can just sit back and enjoy your holiday.
Absolutely nothing is too much trouble. Need a vegetarian diet even though you’re on a cattle estancia? No problem, delicious vegetarian food provided. Feeling a little chilly during a colder spell? No problem, you’ll find a hot water bottle in your bed and the fit lit when you return from dinner. Forgotten your riding hat or chaps? No problem, there are some to borrow in the tack room.
With such great riding, friendly hosting and all nine dogs providing a warm welcome. It didn’t take long to feel at home.
From the sociable mealtimes, mouth-watering food and traditional guest rooms, to the out rides, gaucho games and cattle work; everything at Los Potreros is part of typical working estancia life and nothing is ‘put on’ for guests. You are staying in a family home, getting involved in day to day life and being hosted by the owners – what could be better?
I have to admit that it was really hard to leave. I’d had such a great time, been shown such warmth and hospitality. It felt that a great deal had been invested in my stay – from the training of the horses, to the menu and the dedication and energy put in by Kevin, Lou and their team. I was really sad to say goodbye.