Friday, December 20, 2013

Ride Mexican at Ranchos Las Cascadas

Viva Mexico!

If you're looking for great open range riding in a stunning sun drenched landscape, beautiful, intelligent horses who will look after you however well you ride, and fantastic Mexican hospitality with food to die for in a five star boutique ranch, then look no further than About one and a half hours North of the mad metropolis of Mexico City, this is an exceptional place where I guarantee you will wake up every morning in your cosy Casita with a smile on your face at the thought of the day ahead. The ranch is the brainchild of Ursula Wipr chtiger who has built things up from scratch over the last twelve years with astute business acumen acquired from a career in the travel industry and incredible attention to detail. She insists she didn't really have a plan and that things just simply evolved 'I gave birth to a baby elephant and now I have to feed it!' she said. , set 7,500 feet up, next to the waterfalls after which it is named, is a combination of first class Swiss management combined with the warmth and friendliness of the Mexican personality.

'Uschi' at home with Daisy the Boxer

The jewel in the crown for me were the amazing horses and the breadth and variety of terrain available for us to ride across. If you've ever ridden in England you'll know the tedium and risk factors of riding on busy roads and having numerous fences and gates to contend with even when you're off the tarmac. If you've ever ridden in the states you'll know that due to the culture of litigation and insurance issues you're very often not allowed to get above a trot when you're out trekking. There are no such barriers here. The horses are fast and sure footed and you can canter for long periods on every ride, across corn fields, mountain tracks and wooded trails.

Rock climbing equines

No fences, no gates, just huge open spaces and a big blue sky. The horses are something special. They are Criollos, a tough, sensible and athletic breed of Spanish origin who can climb out of a rock canyon like a mountain goat, match the Arab for endurance and stamina, while also being able to put on an impressive turn of speed when required.

Stopping for lunch

They are also the prettiest colours. Bay, Dun (Buckskin if you're American) Chestnut, Palomino, Grey, black, and my favourite - Appaloosa. There are over 30 horses to choose from on the ranch and they all have beautiful names. Alessio, Apache, Allegro, Gitano, Cherokee, Paloma, Picasso, Versace, Vivaldi, Diamante, Mariachi, Gigolo (a stallion.) I could go on. I rode a different horse every day but my favourite was Capriccio, a brown Appaloosa three year old who was furry like a teddy bear, and had the sweetest nature. He was curiously sampling the vegetation throughout the ride but hit a sticky patch when he sampled a large prickly cactus by mistake. A whole section of it broke off and the long spines embedded themselves in his soft nose. Most horses would have gone berserk and probably reared up or taken off at speed, but not Capriccio. He just stuck his nose in the air and quivered his lip with a small whinny until Rachel, one of our guides came along side him and carefully pulled it out. Adorable.

Capriccio post the cactus incident

Our Mexican vaqueros (cowboys) were equally impressive. Expert horsemen, they were friendly and good with people, able to make you feel safe from the get go. They never let a canter continue where there were any obstacles, potholes or when we encountered, as we often did, cattle, sheep, donkeys or locals asleep under a tree. We saw mixed herds of animals, workers cutting corn by hand with scythes and building it into rows of pyramid stacks stretching into the distance. We saw a little herd of wild horses galloping by, rode through sleepy villages and gangs of stray dogs who liked to have a good old bark at the horses while keeping well away from their hooves.

Herman- cool Vaquero

Most of the guests are repeat visitors, in some cases returning multiple times over the last few years. The ranch is a favourite with airline crew on their layovers in Mexico City and has hosted international banking leaders and embassy expats. The climate here is ideal for riding, cool in the mornings and evenings but breaking into clear bright sunshine by mid morning. The light is so clear and the colours so vivid, that coming from the dreary winter greyness of the UK, everything looked to me slightly technicolour - sort of instagram style. I will never forget the ride out of the canyon - the horses can't possibly climb that I thought - or the surprise picnic that greeted us by the river one day. And where else can you pull up on your horse and be offered a shot of good tequila before you even dismount! The other guests at the ranch were from the USA, UK and Holland and all lovely people - you always know you've got something in common to start the conversation and it's a great choice for solo travellers, as you're always in good company. One frequent visitor - Glenn from San Franciso - said he been to ranches all over the USA and this was far superior to any he's been to elsewhere. I would certainly concur. If you've been looking for a dream riding holiday, you can stop looking - it's right here at

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