Going It Gaucho-Style In Uruguay
Taking a pull on an ice-cold beer, I kick off my boots with a contented sigh. The smell of wind and dust lingers in my nostrils, a contented ache spreading through my body and drawing me into peaceful revery. All that is missing is a piece of hay for me to chew abstractly upon.
Today, I had a glimpse at fulfilling one of my lifelong dreams: Today, I became a Gaucho.
A Gaucho is cowboy. The real-life rootin’ tootin’ lasoo-wielding variety, not someone who poses around in heels and spends their time getting thrown out backwards through dusty saloon doors.
Now, although I have not quite graduated to being able to single-handedly muster seven score of cattle, out in the farmlands of rural Latin America I have been given my first real taste of a dream I have harbored since I saw my first Western. Although, with rather less emphasis on pistol flinging and from-behind-straw-bale-shooting-shenanigans.
This experience came courtesy of Miguel and Monica, the couple of who own El Galope, a small finca (farm) close to the town of Valdense in Uruguay. They have traveled and worked all over the world, everywhere from Majorca to Germany, but are native to this small country to which they have once again returned. Here, in the Switzerland of the South as it is also known, they have created a place of calm just a few hours away from the heat and bustle of Buenos Aires. The walls are covered with Monica’s artwork and she makes a mean ratatouille, while Miguel seems to have entered the world already holding a pair of reins.
“I learned to ride and then I learned to walk,” Miguel tells me as our horses amble together through the long grasses.
“But this is what my grandfather said, and he didn’t always tell the truth,” he adds, laughing.
Watching him gallop across fields, however, turning his mare effortlessly with the flick of a wrist, it seems that his grandfather might have been spot-on this time.
Riding western, or gaucho-style, involves forgetting most things you were taught when learning to ride English-style. And precisely this — the unlearning of sitting up straight and looking pretty — is what makes the whole thing so damn excellent.
There is something so inherently natural about it that it seems to make it easier to pick up than the traditional European approach. One of the girls working at the ranch had only been there working with the horses for a matter of weeks but was already riding like a pro.
Gaucho horses are different too. They are incredibly responsive and a far cry from the obediently plodding creatures that are the trademark of most equestrian schools. Meanwhile, you also suddenly feel incredibly cool, especially if you really let a few “woopahs!” fly and wave your free arm around in an appropriately revelrous manner as you bolt across the skyline.
Even if you are not a rider — but certainly if you are — this is an experience you should try for yourself.
If nothing else, when is the next time you will legitimately be able to wear poncho?
About the Author
A restless Brit with big dreams and limited cash flow, Hannah is a freelance journalist and student. She is currently being sponsored by the European Union to take a Masters in Journalism and International Politics at the University of Amsterdam/University of Santiago, Chile, and the Danish School of Journalism. Check out her site DontDoNothing.com or follow her on Twitter: @Hannah__Bowman.