There are moments — often unrecognized — that life pivots around. As I watched a man on horseback step into the Pedigroso river, I knew, I wanted to travel this country like the people who lived here. I wanted to know this place as only one on horseback could.
Ten years later, standing in the plaza of the capital city with 120 pioneers and their magnificent horses, I realized I had slipped into this place in an irrevocable way. These people were now my friends, their problems were my problems, and a long, hard fight still loomed ahead.
— Nancy Pfeiffer about Riding Into the Heart of Patagonia
Beside a rain-swollen river in Patagonia, a man approached on a horse. His mount, a rusty red beauty, sported the short-trimmed mane and neatly squared-off tail of a well-kept horse. Colorful handwoven saddlebags tied behind a sheepskin-covered saddle contained a few supplies from town. The man wore goatskin chaps, a woolen poncho, and the jaunty black beret typical of the region. Crinkles around his eyes spoke of years of squinting into the sun. This man and his horse belonged to this place in a way I could only dream of.
He stared at us, a group of college students up to our knees in mud and dwarfed by huge backpacks. It was apparent we had money, but we had no horses.
“Por qué no tienes caballos?” he asked as he rode into the river. As the strong current piled up around the horse’s belly, he gently lifted his feet from the stirrups and placed them on the horse’s rump so as not to wet his boots.
At that moment I knew. I wanted to travel this country like the people who lived there. I wanted to know this place and its people as only one on horseback could. I had ridden a horse only a few times in my life and knew practically nothing about them. All of this was irrelevant. There was a 13-year-old girl inside of me who desperately wanted a horse…
Three years later, taking with me a horse first-aid kit far more comprehensive than the one I brought for myself, a pair of new saddlebags, some horseshoeing tools I didn’t know how to use, and way too much excess baggage in worries and uncertainties, I headed off across Patagonia, alone, on horseback.
When a scheme to dam Patagonia’s largest rivers threatened the land and lifestyle I had come to love, I joined the Cabalgata Sin Represas, a 330-kilometer protest ride against the dams, and my story became history – on horseback.
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