Learn the art of natural horsemanship on a working cattle and horse ranch in Argentina's Patagonia.
Collaboratively taught by visiting instructor Nathan Brown and the Ranquilco team, this ten day hands-on clinic will introduce participants to the art of natural horsemanship, a gentle style of horse training. Each participant will be partnered with a two or three-year-old untrained colt that has only previously been halter-broken. Throughout the trip, participants will have the opportunity to:
Establish a working partnership with a colt using groundwork
Learn to communicate clear intentions and leadership through body language
Put the first rides on a two or three year old colt
- Introduce the colt to real world trail challenges in mountainous terrain
- Develop a solid foundation in reining, collection, and agility
- Build riding confidence
- Gain a sense of feel, timing and balance in your riding
- Shoe a horse in the backcountry
- Gather and drive horses
- Learn mule packing and backcountry horse travel
- Ride and work with gauchos
The driver will meet the participants in the city of Neuquen, or the town of Zapala (depending on their mode of arrival), for the drive into the ranch outpost, Buta Mallin - the end of the road for most vehicles. A hearty lunch of homemade bread, salami and cheese, and fresh garden vegetables will be provided. Ranquilco guides will introduce participants to their horses for the 3-hour ride into the heart of the estancia where the lodge is located. Wine served on the patio followed by a welcoming dinner at the main lodge, Casa Grande.
We start by riding out to round up the herd of young horses from a large pasture and drive them into the Ranquilco corral. This will be a great opportunity to talk about pressure and release and herd dynamics. After lunch, there will be an introduction to natural horsemanship followed by catching of the colts. Each rider will be assigned a colt to work with.
After breakfast, we’ll give a mule packing lesson and then ride out, pushing the herd of colts ahead of us. This will be an all-day ride, up out of the Trocoman Valley, across high plateaus, along steep and rocky trails and down into the Cerro Negro Valley, home of the beautiful high mountain lake, Laguna Negra. The Cerro Negro Valley hosts our summer cattle outpost, with a few simple huts and other basic backcountry luxuries. The outpost makes for a wonderful camp spot and provides a chance to spend time with the local gauchos that tend the herds of cattle, sheep and goats in the summer grazing lands.
We’ll spend these days living in this idyllic spot, doing round corral work, saddling, and stepping onto the colts for their first rides. When colts and riders are ready we’ll head out of the corral to get a start on trail riding. We’ll help riders build the colts' confidence as we teach them to navigate the real world on short trail rides. We'll teach them to handle ropes, flapping rain jackets, and anything else that might come their way out there. Nathan will teach a backcountry shoeing lesson, discussing techniques for helping the colts feel comfortable and relaxed in the process. On day rides, we'll enjoy swimming and fishing at the lake, visiting neighboring gauchos, and exploring this amazing landscape. Evenings will be spent around the campfire, enjoying the ranch's grassfed meats, Argentine red wines and good company.
We'll offer another mule packing lesson and then mount up to ride back down to the Ranquilco lodge. Some riders may choose to ride their colts for this trip if they are ready. Upon returning we’ll be reunited with the wonderful luxuries and hospitality at the lodge – hot showers, cold beers and an excellent meal.
Days 8 - 9
We'll offer one-on-one instruction during these two days, working with individual colts and riders. Day rides to riverside picnic spots with fishing will be offered. We'll invite the Ranquilco community and neighboring gauchos for a celebratory asado--traditional roast goat - and a late night gaucho dance.
We'll saddle up, pack the mules one last time, and ride back over the pass to the end of the road for farewells.
Nathan Brown, Instructor:
Nathan grew up on his family farm/ranch in Eastern New Mexico. He graduated from New Mexico State University where he started colts, competed on the college rodeo team in saddle bronc riding and team roping, and began his career training and shoeing horses. He has worked for numerous ranches, horse trainers, farriers, outfitters, and gear makers to further his education as a horseman, and in doing so has created a traveling lifestyle of working and learning. Nate uses a "pressure and release" or "let it be the horses's idea" approach. He loves sharing his stories and learning experiences with others.
"When starting a young horse I use a form of natural horsemanship where I don't force a horse to do anything. By using forms of pressure and release along with desensitization, I ask the horse first before telling him to do anything. Whether in a round pen, on a lead rope, or in the saddle, moving his feet forward is my foundation in everything I do. Putting his feet to work will get him using the thinking side of his brain after he has initially used the reactive side. This method creates a relationship from day one that will never require punishing, beating, or making a horse feel trapped, resulting in a safe and trusting first ride. I make the wrong thing hard and the right thing seem like it was the horse's idea.
We are all on a journey with our communication with horses and it's longer than a lifetime. Your experience at Ranquilco in itself will be a journey. It is one of the greatest places I have ever gotten to be on horseback. It is a cultural experience and a life changing place. Be ready for an adventure and a good time."