Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Riding in Argentina: An Interview with Leonardo Palmero

Riding in Argentina: An Interview with Leonardo Palmero
By Gina McKnight
Archived from the July 2019 Issue of Florida Equine Athlete
No duplication without permission (c).

If you’re a horse enthusiast and looking for a place in the world to experience something new, you may consider riding in Argentina. Leonardo Palmero, the commercial director for Ampascachi Horse Riding Holidays, tells us why riding in Argentina is a good choice. Leonardo met his first horse, a Peruvian Paso, when he was 30 years old. Falling for the Peruvian Paso breed, Palmero is now “living the dream” at the Peruvian Paso stables, meeting riders from around the world. With beautiful facilities, Ampascachi offers quality accommodations, sturdy horses, and the some of the most scenic trails worldwide.

Welcome Leonardo!

GM: When was your first encounter with a horse?
LP: It was in the year 2000 and I was 30 years old. I was invited to organize the first Regional Meeting of Peruvian Horses in Cordoba Argentina. The Ampascachi breeder of this race invited me after the Conquest, which was, on the other hand, a very successful event for the number of horses that participated and by the amount of public in general that came to the event to know their Estancia Haras Ampascachi (the family ranch where these horses are raised). There, I rode for the first time in my life and I fell in love with this equine breed. Eighteen years later I was offered my current job as Commercial Director of this company – “A dream come true.” Hara Ampascachi - the traditional Estancia Haras Ampascachi - has a park of more than eight hectares [one hectare is about 2.5 acres] surrounding its country house and more than 500 hectares intended for horse breeding. It is located near a small town in Córdoba called Nono, nestled in the stunning setting of the Valle de Traslasierra.

GM: Ampascachi, with the Peruvian bloodline and beautiful landscapes, sounds like every rider’s fantasy. Describe Ampascachi Horse Riding and what to expect when riding at your facility.
LP: From arrival to departure from Argentina, Ampascachi offers you outstanding services for making your riding holiday an unforgettable and wonderful experience. Depending on the riding holiday chosen, we pick up travelers at the airport and take them to their destination in Argentina; whether to a meeting point or to the location where they will be staying. Our logistics team is in charge of preparing horses, setting up camps, cooking and serving menus, providing riding wear, transfers in our vehicles, tour-guiding and taking care of and accompanying guests along the ride. Our logistics team is responsible for customer service and the entire organization of the vacations. Besides, they are entitled to provide the saddles and all necessary equipment for the rides and camps as well as taking our vehicles, guide, care for and accompany our hosts during all the holidays. The Logistics team will offer you communication services during the equestrian routes with satellite phones, book all accommodation and restaurants, offer any special menus if specified beforehand and guarantee the highest standards in customer service for your riding holiday.

A relevant element for our logistics team is our horses. All our horses are of Peruvian Paso breed and they are property of Ampascachi. They are and have been constantly bred, raised, selected, tamed, trained and cared for at our equestrian centers. We always ensure that a spare horse is with us on every trip in case that it would be necessary.

GM: How many horses do you stable? What are the characteristics of the Peruvian Paso?
LP: In Ampascachi we raise only Peruvian Paso horses, and we have more than 150 horses, including mares, stallions, colts and geldings. The Peruvian Paso horses are worldwide famous for being the best saddle horses as well as for their fascinating gait. Passion for horses has been of utmost relevance; something that started as a family hobby soon became the starting point of an initiative that crystallized a long time ago: the breeding, taming and training of the Peruvian Paso horses which soon spread from Argentina to other countries.

Devoting ourselves to the Peruvian Paso horses has been a conscious choice which also implied knowing the history and development of this wonderful breed after five hundred years of functional and natural selective breeding. Genetic inheritance combines the characteristic traits of the Berber [Barb] horse, adding strength and a natural ambling gait tendency with the Andalusia breed, combining an energetic gait and rack.

The Peruvian Paso horse’s gait, like a subtle and wonderful play of horse legs which seem to recreate in the air, is its main characteristic. Horses’ gaits are categorized into two different groups, before they start galloping: “trot” and “ambling” gaits. The distinctive feature of the trot is that, when they go forward, it is a two-beat gait involving moving legs in unison in diagonal pairs. The primary feature of the “ambling gait” is that the front and hind feet on both sides move in sequence. It is also called a four-beat; lateral “Gait or Paso Llano” which is the most comfortable walking gait for its smooth ride and ideal for traveling long distances. This characteristic has led this breed to be known as “the best saddle horse in the world” since the horseman rides comfortably and smoothly at a speed of nine or ten kilometers per hour allowing a longer travel in which neither the horse nor the rider gets tired. It should be pointed out that other breeds reach this speed in short gallops or fast trot which impact directly on the horseman.

If the rider wants, he or she can lead the Peruvian Paso to perform the gallop rack without any effort as all our horse at Ampascachi have been trained in both the “Paso Llano “rack and the “gallop” rack.

The Peruvian Paso horse has a smooth temperament, is dedicated and has a suitable disposition.

GM: Do I get to choose my own horse, or does your equestrian staff choose a horse for me?
LP: In the second day with us, go to our Ampascachi Equestrian Centre, Haras Ampascachi in Cordoba and La Casa de la Tradición Ranch in Salta. Upon arrival, you will be introduced to other tour guides and the equestrian route staff, members of our team of Ampascachi that will guide us through the horse rides. We will meet the Peruvian Paso horses and choose the horse which will be our ride companion along the rides. A two-hour ride will be taken around the Equestrian Centre for recognition and adaptation to the saddle and the horse chosen. This routine is repeated in all our routes on horseback

GM: What do you suggest to bring along when horseback riding at Ampascachi?
LP: Ampascachi will provide you with the necessary equestrian tourism equipment so you do not have to carry an excessively heavy baggage. We take care of saddling up, unsaddling, setting up the tents and transporting the equipment. You can visit our website for the list of items we provide. It is only necessary for you to bring suitable clothes for the weather according to the time of the year.

GM: Describe your riding trails and landscapes...
LP: Horseback riding vacations in North Argentina - Province of Salta - it is called Salta “The Pretty”, and it is not a compliment, it is the reflection of this marvelous place. The province of Salta is located in the northeast of Argentina and it borders on Chile, Bolivia and Paraguay. The city of Salta, known as “The Pretty”, shows a soft contrast, keeping its style with colonial Manor houses and new buildings. Surrounded by hills and the green landscape of its subtropical flora, this province welcomes its visitors with its charm and fascination. The most beautiful landscapes of Salta can be seen along the valleys of Valle de Lerma and Valles Calchaquíes, where you can visit memorable places such as: Cafayete and Cachi.

The climate in Salta is template during the year what makes it ideal for horse riding and rural tourism. It includes four geographical areas clearly differentiated, turning it a place worth visiting. Landscapes vary from east to west; the Puna, almost deserted, with a few inhabitants and a dry climate; the East Cordillera, with a Western chain of hills higher in altitude and including several chains; the Eastern Chain, lower in height and without snow peaks; the Sub Andean Hills showing a humid, jungle subtropical climate; and finally, the Chaco Plains (Llanura Chaqueña) offering plain land and dry subtropical climate. Salta is also well known for its history, culture and touristic places which welcome every traveler with one of its great attractions, the wine tours. Wines from this province are internationally famous for their presence and taste.

Province of Jujuy - Along this province you will find amazing places which will have an everlasting impact in your memory. Located in the north-east region of Argentina, it borders on the west with Chile along the Cordillera de los Andes; on the north with Bolivia, and on the east and south with Salta. The special climate of this province makes it mainly attractive and capturing. The Southern Tropic crossed it and has a subtropical humid climate. As it is the best choice for active tourism, especially for equestrian one, travelers can visit places which are accessible only on the saddle of a horse.

The province of Jujuy offers a few valleys and a breath-taking landscape of immeasurable beauty. The many different views which are constantly changing the landscape will take the traveler from the different shades of the “Cerro de los Siete Colores” in Purmamarca, to the welcoming Tilcara and the vastness of the “Quebrada de Humahuaca”. We will be travelling along time through colonial buildings, pebble stone streets and its history shown in museums. Jujuy is a place full of colours, history and culture, and once you are there, you become part of its appearance. It is a province worth visiting along all the year.

Province of Córdoba - The province of Córdoba is located in the central region of Argentina. It is the second biggest province in its extension and the first touristic place inland. It is known by its name La Docta, as it was there where the Jesuits priests founded the first university in the country. Since then, Córdoba has been an icon for its culture, the development of knowledge and the cradle of great philosophers and scientists of the time. It is also famous for its main valleys and hills such as: Valle de Traslasierra and Altas Cumbres, where we encounter a mild climate, special for tourism and equestrian activities. Its breathtaking landscapes, its numerous rivers, valleys, mountains, pampas, to name just a few, make Córdoba a remarkable place of natural beauty. This province holds one the World Heritage sites: Jesuit Block and Jesuit Estancias of Córdoba, named by the Unesco. The “Road of the Jesuit Estancias” witnesses the presence and activities performed at the Society of Jesus along the XVII and XVIII centuries. Their presence can still be seen today.

Córdoba has everything: natural beauty, wonderful landscapes, culture, art, history and its people who are well-known for their sense of humor. This is the ideal place for practicing outdoor sports. Córdoba offers the traveller the possibility of going through different geographies and enjoying nature life. Córdoba cuisine offers mainly a wide variety of meat, embutidos (spiced minced meat stuffed in hot casings) and jams.

GM: All of the tours sound amazing. What is your favorite Ampascachi trail to ride?
LP: Personally I do not have a favorite tour, all are unbelievably beautiful, I think you should choose the one that best suits your expectations, and our travel consultants are specialists in finding the most suitable for you, you just have to consult our local representative, we have representation in the UK, France, Germany, Spain and the United States.

GM: When is the best time of year to book a riding holiday?
LP: From March to November, the weather is optimal, in any of our routes.

GM: What does horsemanship mean to you?
LP: Today it is my job, but at the same time my passion. I promote Argentina, my country, and I promote this activity all over the world. For my horsemanship is Equestrian Tourism. In Ampascachi, we love Equestrian Tourism, but let me tell you what this activity is for us. It is a very rewarding activity, in addition, it offers us the possibility of giving us the pleasure of disconnecting from the world, traveling along roads and getting to know landscapes. Equestrian Tourism is an activity that combines the love of horse riding with the interest of visiting different regions, provinces and countries, allowing us to know other cultures.

Connect with Leonardo…
Gina McKnight is a freelance writer from Ohio USA.

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