Volunteering on Horseback in Ecuador – a traveller’s review

by on 8th June, 2023

Volunteering at a riding stable in Ecuador is a dream for me.

Patti McCarthy is spending a month volunteering on a horse ranch in Ecuador, and is full of enthusiams albeit the hard work she is putting in every day. Read her blog on her volunteering holiday and maybe you’ll get inspired, too!



Riding every day, working the horses

As an extension to our two week family holiday in Ecuador, Kathy kindly arranged for me to stay on for a month as a volunteer with her long-standing partner for all horse riding holidays in Ecuador.

When you set off on a horse riding adventure it’s easy to forget – or to not even think about – all the preparation that has gone into giving you a safe and comfortable ride on a strong, healthy and bullet-proof horse, but two weeks in to my four week stint I am really starting to appreciate it!

After lots of heavy rain in March and April made the roads extremely slippery, we are bringing up the fitness levels of the horses by riding them out every day, usually riding one horse and leading one or two others.

We often ride twice a day, and work the horses on a range of different terrains to prepare them for the multi-day rides.  Their home is at 3,400m and most of our daily rides involve a steep up or a steep down at some point!

Roads may be gravel, cobbled or just mud, with some uneven gullies which the horses are very skilled at scrambling up.  There are also lovely grassy gullies to ride through (often shared with llamas) and invariably various animals tied to the side of the road (mostly horses and pigs) which we have to ride around.

Many of the cottages seem to have between 5 and 10 dogs too, who all rush out barking like mad as we pass, but the horses are completely unfazed by it – they are completely bomb-proof! Just as well, as motorists in Ecuador are not like British motorists.

In England, people have bumper stickers proudly proclaiming “I slow down for horses”, but in Ecuador they not only hurtle past, but also sound a fanfare on their car horns and call out greetings on their way past 😊


Health and daily care: hard work and a great sense of reward

As well as riding, we of course have to care for the horses’ health too.  They have regular visits from the dentist and the farrier, and we spend time every week oiling their hooves, treating any minor cuts and grazes with aloe vera and bathing their eyes with cold camomile tea if they are irritated.

We groom and pick hooves, trim manes and tails and clean and repair numerous saddles and bridles, all of which have extra bits of tack to avoid the saddles slipping forwards or backwards.

Not surprisingly, I fall into bed exhausted every night, but I am loving my time here! The horse are lovely, the countryside is beautiful and there is always something to see, whether it’s a new calf or foal or a local Ecuadorean in traditional dress out waking her pig.

And popping out to the shops has a whole new meaning now, as it involves tacking up a horse and riding 8k to the shop; you have to REALLY want that bar of chocolate.


Riding holiday suitable for all levels

Our riding holidays in Ecuador are a fantastic experience, with extremely well kept horses and fabulous routes to choose from.

All level of riders are welcome, as are families. We will make sure you get what you want from your rides and can arrange for challenging rides, as well as building confidence should you be a novice. Beginners will be working in the ring before heading on a tack so that we can ensure you are confident and comfortable, on a horse that suits your level.


Get in touch for a special experience

Thank you, Patti, for sharing your experience with us.

At Andean Trails we always try to do our best to make any holiday a special one and are always keen to look into possible options for our customers – so if you are thinking of a trip and would like some “out of the box” ideas, do get in touch and we’d love to help.



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