Horseback Riding in Ecuador
Horseback riding in Ecuador has a long history. The Spanish conquistadores brought horses with them in 1534, gradually leading to cattle and horses taking over the pastoral lands traditionally occupied by llamas and alpacas.
Ecuadorian horse riding has since revolved around haciendas. These large properties are scattered all over Ecuador and some still rely on horses as transport. Other haciendas have adapted to also offer horseback riding tours or specialize in competitive jumping.
Indeed, some of the best horse riding we’ve experienced in Ecuador has been through smaller operators that are either operated by, or arranged through, the haciendas. Even without the horses, visiting and staying at haciendas is one of our favorite weekend getaways.
Once you’ve read this article, you’ll know the different options for:
- Taking a horse riding tour
- Enrolling in a horse riding school
Right, let’s get to it!
Horseback riding tours vs schools
Most visitors to Ecuador only have time to sneak in a horseback riding tour. But, those that are able to spend at least a few months here can look into enrolling at a horse riding school.
You should be able to find a riding school if you’re close to the bigger cities of Quito, Cuenca or Guayaquil, but may need to search a little harder if you live in a smaller town. We’ve included a list of schools you can try at the bottom of the article.
Horse riding tours
Whether you’re new to the saddle or fancy yourself as a regular chagra (cowboy), there’s a variety of tours to suit your needs.
We’ve created the following map to show popular horse riding tours (green) and schools (red) in Ecuador:
Quito one day horse riding tours
Day horse riding tours are popular in many of Ecuador’s tourist hot spots, particularly in the mountains accessible from Quito. Some popular options include:
Riding in Cotopaxi National Park is an amazing experience. Just you, the volcano, and some new friends. It feels like a different world, and I guess it is.
You can get a tour leaving from Quito that takes around 2 hours to get to the stables or hacienda. Or, if you want to explore Cotopaxi some more (recommended), you can hook up with horse riding tours once you’re there.
If you’re looking for a place to stay, Hacienda los Mortiños is 5 minutes from the Cotopaxi park entrance with great views of the volcano and offers reasonably priced horse riding tours.
Hacienda El Porvenir also offers a good variety of rooms and is situated on the foothills of Rumiñahui Volcano. They offer a variety of day and multi-day horse riding trips and can arrange transport from Quito if required.
Cotopaxi Horse Riding Costs
There’s something for all budgets at Cotopaxi. From Quito, expect to pay at least $100 for a 2 hour ride including return transport and lunch. Private tours cost around twice this. If you find your own way to Cotopaxi, expect to pay from $40 for a 2-hour ride with a local Spanish speaking guide.
Hacienda La Alegria
Smack bang in the Avenue of the Volcanoes, 40 minutes south of Quito is Hacienda La Alegria. Situated within the Machachi valley and lined with volcanoes on either side, this hacienda specializes in horseback vacations.
They provide good priced all-inclusive tours ranging from overnight to multiple days.
1.5 hrs from Quito, between Lake Quilotoa and Vulcan Cotopaxi is Hacienda Tilipulo. This working vegetable farm (broccoli, artichoke and potatoes) also raises horses and offers day trips, multi-day trips, and weekly lessons. All are very reasonably priced.
The lush green cloud forest inside a crater makes for a very unique horse riding experience. This popular destination is only a few minutes away from the Mitad Del Mundo on the outskirts of Quito.
Pululahua Ecolodge offers a good variety of horse riding tours and accommodation options.
Hacienda La Merced Baja
A little less than 2 hours from Quito, near Otavalo is Hacienda La Merced. It’s a working dairy farm that also breeds horses and has numerous day riding tours on offer for their guests.
2 hours from Quito is Hacienda Zuleta. And it’s gorgeous. This is a 17th-century working hacienda that offers many different activities such as bird watching, cooking classes and cycling. But, we’re most impressed with their horse riding tours on their very own breed of horse, aptly called Zuleteño.
Their most popular ride takes you to the neighboring Condor Huasi Project where riders learn about condors and spectacles bears.
You’ll need to stay at the Hacienda to go on their horse riding tours. It’s not for the budget-conscious, but it’s high on our list of places to stay when we want an indulgent, adventure-filled weekend.
Cuenca one day horse tours
Horse riding isn’t necessarily high on the list of must-do activities that tourists (or even expats) explore when visiting or moving to Cuenca. But, Cuenca actually has a long and proud horse heritage with several good options for day trips and riding schools.
Centro Ecuestre Bellavista
About 20 mins from Cuenca is Centro Ecuestre Bellavista. It’s a full-blown riding center that offers lessons, day trips, competitive jumping and breeding. Spoiler alert, this is where our family goes for our twice-weekly lessons and we all love it, especially the kids.
All prices are very reasonable, including their day trips to neighboring indigenous (Quechua) villages.
Hostería Caballo Campana
This aptly named large hostería around 15 mins from Cuenca offers horse riding tours for a reasonable hourly rate as well as riding lessons. The hostería also has beautiful gardens and rooms in you’re looking for a mini weekend getaway from Cuenca.
Also about 30 minutes from Cuenca is Hacienda Totorillas. There are multiple options for horse riding here and several Cuenca based agencies even offer moonlight rides at this Hacienda.
Beach horseback tours
If you somehow get sick of cantering through the high sierra, you can always take it down to sea level for a more relaxing ride along the beach.
In addition to beach tours, Cabalgatas Canoa also offer tours to the nearby Jungle and several lifestyle based options such as their craft beer or BBQ sunset tour. Both of which are ideal for those lazy beach holidays.
For those visiting or living in Guayaquil, one of your closer options is horse riding on Villamil Playas approx 1.5 hours away. There isn’t as much variety here, but you’ll still be able to find comfortable rides between 1-3 hours. These are either booked locally or through a travel agent.
Multi-day horseback tours
For me, this is where the magic happens. Riding through the Ecuadorian Sierra for multiple days without a worry in sight is such a rare treat.
Many of the multi-day tours will use several of the hacienda’s mentioned above to form itineraries spanning days, often up to a week. Some may also include smaller guesthouses or hosterías in the more isolated areas. Some tours also combine horse riding with other activities such as hummingbird or spectacled bear watching. There’s almost too much choice!
Sample multi-day horseriding tour itinerary
We’ve included a map of a sample itinerary below to give you an idea of what a 8 day, 7 night tour looks like, including how much riding you can expect each day:
Booking your tour
There are several international based tour companies that offer equestrian focused tours. These are great options for those that like everything organized for them once they arrive in Ecuador or perhaps have trouble with Spanish as these tours normally feature a bi-lingual guide.
Be on the lookout for any additional costs that may be buried in the finer print.
Single and small group supplements
Supplements for smaller group sizes and singles are quite common. Also, most meals will be included, but some at the start and the end may not.
Weight supplements are commonly applied too. If you weigh more than 200 lbs, you may need to pay extra. The rationale for this is that horses need to work harder in the altitude due to less oxygen being present. Imposing weight limits helps ensure the horses are treated well and not overworked. This also applies to day tours.
Tips for the guides and other staff are not included either. Although not mandatory, many tour companies do suggest a tip of 10%.
Flights to Ecuador are not included for most tours. When booking flights, remember to allow a day to acclimatize before your tour starts.
Horse riding is a high-risk activity that may not be covered under all travel insurance policies. Make sure your policy does include horseback riding or you may find yourself under financial stress if something does not go to plan.
What to bring
We suggest the bare minimum for any horse riding tour is below. But, if you’re going for a multi-day ride, you may need to pack multiple…
- Riding pants (or at least long pants)
- Longsleeve shirt
- Waterproof jacket
- Riding boots (or at least closed shoes)
- Mosquito repellent
Helmets are mandatory for tours and are provided, but feel free to bring yours if you prefer.
High mountains = cold weather
It can get very cold in the Sierra. Make sure you’ve packed enough layers to keep you warm. You may also be able to rent a heavy poncho, but make sure to ask your tour provider first.
Don’t forget to acclimatize!
If you’re going to be riding or hiking in the Ecuadorian Sierra, we strongly suggest leaving yourself at least one day in Quito (or similar elevation of 9,350 ft) to acclimatize. Some tours even go up to 13,000 ft, where dealing with altitude is a very real issue.
Everyone reacts to altitude differently, and chances are you will be fine. But, you’ll increase your chances if you give yourself at least one day first.
Horse riding schools
Before setting off into the high Sierra, you’ll need to learn how to ride a horse… It’s also a great after school or weekend activity for the kids.
We’ve listed some recommended schools to start your search below. It’s important to note that not all of these schools will be able to teach in English, so at least a basic understanding of Spanish will be required.
The costs vary by school, but you should expect to budget around $100 per month for classes twice per week. Transportation (if required) can often be arranged but will cost extra.
- Escuela De Equitacion La Herradura
- Quito Ecuestre
- Gerber Club Ecuestre
- El Establo Club Ecuestre
- Centro Ecuestre Bellavista
- Kawallu (Hippotherapy)
- Escuela hípica 4Rios (next to Kawallu)
- Caballo Campana
- Rancho Botas y Espuelas
How old does my child need to be?
Most Ecuadorian horse riding schools accept kids from 4 years old. We started our girl at 4 years old and she has not looked back.
Most of the schools mentioned cater to all adult levels too. I’ve no idea if there is an upper age limit, but if you’ve got health issues we suggest getting clearance from a doctor first.
How long is each lesson?
Schedules vary by school, but expect classes to run for around an hour.
Some horse riding schools also combine equine therapy to help the rehabilitation of children and young people with special abilities.
There really are so many options for horse riding in Ecuador! Feel free to leave a comment or contact us if you want some personalized recommendations.
And please let us know if we’ve left out your favorite hacienda or horse riding school – we’re trying to create a thorough resource to help others.