I Got Lassoed at Sayta Horse Ranch
I swear it was Cassie’s idea. She heard about all the horses in South America and wanted to visit a horse ranch. I figured it sounded like fun, even though I’ve only ridden a horse once in my life. I was blown away. Our two days on a horse ranch in Salta, Argentina ended up being one of my favorite experiences from the entire trip.
If you try to find a horse ranch near Salta, a dusty city in northern Argentina, you will almost certainly come upon the Sayta horse ranch. The ranch is an hour outside of the city and gets rave reviews from travelers and tour guides. We knew this might be our only chance to ride horses on the entire trip, so we signed up for two days of riding and one night at the ranch.
A taxi picked us up early in the morning from our hostel in Salta. We sped out of the city and quickly entered the countryside that surrounds Salta. An hour later, we showed up at Sayta and quickly met Enrique. He is the owner of the ranch, and Sayta is his operation.
To say he’s rough around the edges doesn’t quite cover it. He’s rough, and I mean that in the best of ways. He is blunt, honest, and offensive. And he is hilarious, warm, and genuine. When I put my arm around Cassie at lunch, he yelled “No hay sexa en la mesa.” There is no sex on the table. I liked him immediately.
He is a great host and one helluva cook. Lunch is the biggest meal of the day, and he grilled filet mignon, chicken, homemade sausages stuffed with Roquefort, vegetables and just about anything else you could toss on an open flame. And if he couldn’t grill it, he pickled it. The wine never stops flowing at Sayta. Empty your glass and Enrique will fill it. Even with my broken Spanish, all of the meals were full of food and laughter. Before our first ride, we were already two or three glasses deep.
Enrique holding court over two bottles of wine.
Lunch involved lots of things that used to be alive.
OUR FIRST RIDE AT THE SAYTA RANCH
We signed up for four rides total over two days. One each morning and one each afternoon. It couldn’t have worked out better. On the first ride of the first morning, it was just the two of us and our guide, Felix. Cassie has ridden a few times before, so she was instantly comfortable. It took me a while to get a feel for riding a horse. I knew immediately the horse was much more powerful than I was and could destroy me without breaking a sweat if it wanted to. That’s not a comforting feeling. But the horse was calm and gentle. That was very comforting.
About halfway through our first ride, Felix asked us if we wanted to gallop. Without hesitation, I said yes. It’s not that I knew that quickly that I wanted to gallop. It’s that if I let myself think about it enough, I might talk myself out of it. To hell with things like caution and care and forethought and risk assessment. Let’s go for it!
I FEEL THE NEED… THE NEED FOR SPEED!
I can’t describe the exhilaration of galloping at full speed. I don’t know how fast I was going, but I can’t imagine it was much faster than 35 mph or so. Admittedly, that is a wild guess, but it sounds about right. Yet the sense of speed and the feeling of freedom was unparalleled. I have a homebuilt airplane that goes about 6 times as fast as the horse, but it doesn’t feel nearly the same.
There is nothing that I’ve experienced that compares to the sense of acceleration on a horse and the rhythmic up and down of a gallop. It would be hypnotic if it weren’t so fun. I couldn’t help but grin in the silliest, stupidest way, kind of like that smile when the girl you like in middle school says hi to you and you have no idea how to react, except in this case that girl is an 1,800 pound animal. Again, total guess on the weight there, but, again again, it sounds about right.
Too fast for focus!
AN EVENING OF PEACE AND WINE
After an amazing lunch, we had a small group join us for our second ride of the day. And it was just as awesome as the first ride. In fact, all four rides were thrilling, especially the last ride. But we’ll get to that in a second.
We spent a night at the ranch in one of the little bungalows. We had a great dinner with Enrique, drinking too much wine and eating too much food, but we were having so much fun. The bungalow was incredibly comfortable. Great bed, clean bathroom, hot water, and plenty of privacy. Everything you could ask for. In the morning, we had a relaxing breakfast of coffee and biscuits. And then it was time for more riding.
OUR FINAL RIDE
We had some company for the third ride, and we had a blast getting to know some more people. But they were only there for one ride. We had our final ride to ourselves. This was the best ride of all. Our guide took us galloping through the trees and brush around the river. Full speed charging around corners and turns, barely able to follow our guide. What a thrill. What an adventure. It was an absolute adrenaline rush. I would do this again in a heartbeat. That’s how awesome it was. Our guide even taught us how to use a lasso, and Cassie promptly lassoed me!
After our final ride, we side farewell to everyone at Sayta, including Enrique. I gave him a big hug and promised to return. It is a promise I intend to keep. I don’t know if he’ll remember us with all the visitors he has, but even if we have to start from scratch, it will be just as fun as before. I’m already looking forward to it!