The most unique and under-appreciated culture in Colombia is the “Cabalgata,” or trail ride/horse ride. A cabalgata can be riding with a group from one-pueblo to another, trotting/pacing main street, or informal horse parades during city festivals.
Equally as passionate about their steeds, are Colombian equestrians, or horse people. As in many other countries fine horseflesh is a luxury, while in may pueblos horses are a necessary part of life and transport. In the Colombian Coffee Axis, horse expo’s happen every month focused in on the typical characteristics of the Paso Fino.
Horse Adventure in Colombia
There are three common horse type generalizations in Colombia, maybe four.
- The Colombian Paso Fino/trochador/galopero, all fine blooded horses in the line of Colombian Paso Fino’s.
- Caballo Criollo, which is the informal work cross breed which is produced according to local needs and characteristics.
- Mules, or Mulas, often with some paso fino smoothness or type. There are mule ride providers in the coffee axis as well.
- Any other special import/breed. Other horse breeds, while present, are less common, specialized like in Police work, or at the very least do not have any meaningful national representation regarding breed events or riding discipline.
When you ride in a cabalgata you may have the opportunity to ride a fine-blooded pure breed, but will typically ride a Caballo Criollo with some fine breed thrown in to mejorar la raza, or improve the race. As a result, people who put together rides and rent horses, may have horses to ride which are smooth, fun and peppy, without being wild.
My Favorite Cabalgata
In the Colombian Coffee Region, I have one ride in particular which is my favorite. Organized by a local friend, these rides bring together the perfect balance of good company, quality animals and the fresh flavor of Colombian country culture.
Aranzazu, Caldas, is one of the lesser known pueblos of the Eje Cafetero, but blessed with fine horses and their riders. This is one of the few small towns which up until COVID-19, still celebrated “feria” once a month. A typical “feria” includes horses trotting up and down main street, live music and cattle sales.
The real attraction, are the trail rides. Aranzazu is unique in that it has many beautiful waterfalls in the mountains above the pueblo which also sits on a high bluff between them. Anytime you ride with my friends in Aranzazu, it is 80% guaranteed that you will pass a beautiful waterfall somewhere along the way.
Being an equestrian for most of my life, I saw absolutely no excitement in renting a half-dead plodder when I was in Salento, at Valle Cocora. Great for kids and total beginners, but nothing to see there for an experienced horseman.
From my first cabalgata in this relatively unknown pueblo, I was hooked. With peppy horses that don’t fight their riders, a sense of fun and camraderie, plus their own “combo,” or pleasant group of friends which includes Carlos, his wife Judith, Padre Ramiro – the local priest, and Panelero (Marino), a local horseman who also produces panela.
The thing that makes this experience so authentic, is that the locals ride along on most of the rides. This isn’t a canned “visitor” experience, this is what the local inhabitants of Aranzazu do, in their free time. They are letting you into THEIR reality, as though you are another neighbor.
This has been the closest I have come to some of the desert trail rides I was a part of during my youth. Especially if you have any previous riding experience, this is the kind of adventure a trained horseman will expect, and delight in.
How to Participate in a Cabalgata,
or Horse Ride
Big group rides are typically organized once a month. With post-Covid biosecurity, they are now limited to small rides between 10-15 horses. Small groups can ask for private rides, or individuals can catch up with pre-planned group rides by locals from the pueblo.
The next organized ride is coming up on October 17th, 2020. This is going to be a special event to help a local charity organization that assists the elderly citizens with food, shelter, repairs and companionship.
- 1:00 PM Saturday – Tour of local charity facilities and projects.
- Part of the trip profits are donated to this charity.
- 2:30 PM Horse ride up mountain to farm.
- Stay overnight (dinner/breakfast included).
- 9:00 AM Sunday – Hike to waterfall.
- 11:00 AM Ride back to pueblo.
- Go home or stay, and wander/take pictures.
BONUS: Organic Farm Tour available for additional cost and prior reservation. Sample local wine, walk through coffee fields, poke around a carbon deposit and learn about antique Colombian farm practices.
Lodging Info: This is a rustic farm house. There are separate rooms with beds, but they are very simple. Bring warm pajamas and a coat, or sweatshirt, as this is tierra fria, cold earth (climate). Showers are cold water. Wet wipes are a good substitute.
Cost: 325,000 per person. DOES NOT INCLUDE TRANSPORT TO PUEBLO.
What to Wear: Cap or hat with brim, jeans, hiking boots or rubber boots (depending on season), long sleeved shirt and rain gear. Bring small backpack/satchel with water bottle and poncho.
Contact us for transport options and registration: email@example.com, or via WhatsApp +57 312 794 8245
Critics accuse these good-time cowboys of excess and noise pollution. Some would call it a good time adventure with a little bit of buzz.
Horse lovers either ride with people who don’t drink – and call themselves ecological. Or they may have shots of aguardiente while they ride, and at the end of the day have a big party. Horse rides can go either way depending on the group culture. We respect your choices and strive to ensure a safe and healthy experience at all times.
Aranzazu errs to the conservative side. It is never advised to drink to excess, or mistreat an animal. Know your limits and make healthy choices. NO DRUGS.
Private and Small Group tours can choose to be alcohol-free, music-free etc… email us for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject Line: Cabalgata Aranzazu
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