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Colombians are crazy for horses. I realized this when I walked into a bar in Itagui, a city South of Medellin, and saw framed photos of horses hanging from the walls. Each photo had a month and year next to it, as if they were Playboy centerfolds.
I mean crazy in a good way. Like the American cowboys, and gauchos of Argentina, the Colombians in rural parts of the country rely on horses for transportation, and to get their work done.
As tourism grows, so to do the opportunities for visitors to saddle up and go for a ride. And having gone on two rides so far myself, as well as having attended La Cabalgata, I can assure you it can be a lot of fun.
Valle de Cocora
My first experience horseback riding in Colombia wasn't even my idea. I left Salento in a share jeep with a bunch of other travelers, en route to Valle de Cocora to hike amongst the wax palms.
By the time we arrived, all the travelers had bonded, and we all decided to go horseback riding in Valle de Cocora instead of walking the whole trail. The cost was about $10 for 3-4 hours with the horses, and this included a guide who accompanied us the whole way.
This turned out to be an excellent idea, as we'd soon find the trail was filled with thick, heavy mud. It was a lot faster, and easier, to have the horses do the walking.
I'd ridden horses a few times before; I wasn't a complete novice. But, I also wasn't prepared to be walking through fast-moving streams, with water levels that came up to the bottom of my shoes (in the stirrups).
I owe my life to Canario, the horse I was riding, as he didn't seem phased by the experience. I'm sure he was use to it, which again, I appreciated.
After a few hours, we had to leave the horses and walk the rest of the way out of the valley. And then, of course, it started to rain. By the time I got out, I was a soaking wet, muddy mess. But it was worth it to see the tall wax palms dotted throughout the misty valley.
La Cueva del Esplendor
Jardin is a cute puebo in Antioquia, about 3 1/2 hours from Medellin (by bus). Horseback riding in Jardin is a popular activity, and a bit tamer than trips into the Cocora Valley.
Instead of going to see wax palms, the typical ride leaves the town below, and takes riders up into the surrounding mountains to see La Cueva del Esplendor. This cave has a waterfall running through the top of it, and is truly one of a kind.
During our ride up to the cave, which lasted little longer than an hour, we had outstanding views of Jardin, and the surrounding mountains. I felt like a paisa cowboy up there, and it's an experience I'll never forget.
The shorter ride (one hour to the cave, and one hour back) is perfect for beginners, and those who want to avoid getting saddle sore. Half day trips can be arranged through your hostel or hotel in town.
These are just a small sampling of the horseback riding opportunities that exist.
Have you been riding in Colombia? Leave a comment and let us know where.