Happy Trails: Horseback Riding in Los Cabos with Cuadra San Francisco
Whether it is a romantic canter along a secluded beach at sunset or traversing a hillside trail, horseback riding is one of Los Cabos’ least publicized pleasures. Why least publicized? Perhaps because there are no major events associated with the activity to attract destination travelers, like Bisbee’s annual marlin fishing tournaments, and no big name sportsmen, like the legendary golf figures who have designed top-ranked courses right here in Baja Sur.
But few places on earth can match Los Cabos when it comes to picturesque locales and diversity of terrains – the mountains descend into desert, and the desert dissolves into the sea – and few people can match the experience of master horseman Francisco Barrena, founder of Cuadra San Francisco and one-time student of the 20th century’s most celebrated horsemen, Portuguese Master Nuno Oliveira.
Cuadra San Francisco is located in the Tourist Corridor that connects cape cities Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo, and the stables overseen by Francisco and his son Valente are home to nearly 50 horses that are available for beach and trail rides, dressage, riding lessons, polo lessons, and special events like marriage ceremonies and movie shoots.
Movie shoots come and go, of course, but weddings are big business in Los Cabos. Cuadra San Francisco’s traditional carriages are among the most charming transportation options you’ll find anywhere in Mexico, and the Barrena clan boasts eight of them, all perfectly maintained and driven by riders outfitted in traditional Mexican costume.
Private trail rides – for individuals, couples, or groups — are perhaps the most popular draw at Cuadra San Francisco, and a great family activity. The horses are all perfectly trained, and the guides all speak excellent English. Best of all, each ride is customized, with a choice of terrains, and to a requested tour duration. Visitors may take one or two-hour rides through the desert, traversing hillsides, viewing the Great Thorn Forest, or ambling along gorgeous golden sand beaches that look out over the glittering blue waters of the Sea of Cortez.
The Barrena’s School of Equitation, meanwhile, accepts riders of all skill levels, and excels in the fundamentals of classical dressage, a French term that encompasses the highest expression of horsemanship. Francisco and Valente Barrena are well-versed in Alta Escuela (‘High School’ in English), which includes the famed “airs above the ground,” age-old techniques like the majestic Spanish Walk (where the horse lifts each foreleg off the ground in exaggerated movements).
Western riding is also a specialty. Mexico has produced and continues to produce some of the world’s best horsemen, with a lineage that includes the feats and exploits of 19th century charros and chinacos. Whether Americans know it or not, both cowboys and rodeos originated south of the border, and the Barrena family are part of the living legacy of this proud tradition. Students at Cuadra San Francisco can learn the rudiments of the Mexican style, from the impressive reining stop to rejoneo, the art of fighting a bull from horseback.
As befits the family atmosphere, children are more than welcome at Cuadra San Francisco. The equestrian center maintains polo club size ponies and saddles for children ages 6 and up, and the staff is happy to teach youngsters the foundational skills needed for a lifetime of riding.
Speaking of ponies, polo lessons are also offered at Cuadra San Francisco. You’ll have to bring teams with you to play, but there are facilities and equipment available to learn or improve your knowledge of the sport of kings. Children and adults may also try their hand at a bit of Robin Hood style archery.
How to Book: For reservations, visit the website at www.loscaboshorses.com, call (624) 144-0160, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Cuadra San Francisco is open Monday – Saturday, with trail rides and lessons available from 9 a.m. to noon, and 4 p.m. to sundown.
Where to Go: Cuadra San Francisco is located at marker Km 19.5 on the Tourist Corridor that connects Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo. They are located next to Cabo Real Golf Course, across from the Hotel Casa del Mar. A sign is visible on the west side of the highway above to a glorious stretch of bougainvillea.
What to Bring: Long pants, a hat, and a water bottle are highly recommended, as is protective sunscreen. The scenery on trail rides is often quite spectacular, so you may want to bring a camera as well.
Cost: Cuadra San Francisco takes pride in its competitive rates. Contact the office for specific details.
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