March 4, 2020

Category: Gaucho Derby

When was the last time you slept in a sheep shed? While that’s an ordinary experience for the more eclectic of us, last night the Gaucho Derby Pioneers joined the club and added “rustic camping” to their already impressive adventure resumes – as if trail blazing for future gaucho apprentices isn’t enough to satisfy their thirst for all things wild and woolly. Last night was many things woolly: a nice asado of mutton, a bed in a sheep-shearing shed (with the Pioneers tucking themselves into stalls, staking out their individual “hotel rooms”), and the lingering aroma of sheep from days gone by lulling them into a well-earned slumber post-Malbec consumption.


Photographer: Richard Dunwoody

Then it was up bright and early to an authentic Patagonian desayuno before setting out for their mission del dia: meet the horses, test out the tack, and set out on their first practice ride of this epic race. Each rider had the chance to tack up their steeds, learn about hobbles, practice with the pack saddles, and then venture 2 km out beyond camp boundaries to a nearby glacial lake where the horses drank their fill.


Photographer: Richard Dunwoody

Today was also about learning the do’s and don’ts of Patagonian camping, the intricacies of Derby vetting, and what the vets look for in horsemanship. The riders finished up with a feast of Patagonian proportions, which included some truly fine local entertainment courtesy of El Calafate’s folk group Trio Peñero  


Tomorrow will be where the rubber hits the road (or hooves hit the trail) as the riders set out on their first navigation ride, testing their ability to ride with one eye on the terrain, one eye on their GPS units, and one eye peeled for wayward pumas. The clock is winding down, and it’s only two more sleeps until the start gun fires bright and early on March 5. Don’t forget to set your alarms for Race Day 1 as these hardy riders set out on the ride of a lifetime.


Photographer: Richard Dunwoody