There is a certain look people give you when you say you are taking a trip just south of the US/Mexico border. The word "border" triggers reflex panic. Eyebrows rise and eyes dart apprehensively. Even when I assure people I won't be backpacking into the notorious Ciudad Juárez and will instead be staying at an isolated family-run ranch in the middle of the Sonora desert, the look of unease doesn't fade.
Mexico is as big as western Europe, yet it dominates international news for one reason only. There's no point pretending the country doesn't have very serious problems and that some areas certainly need to be avoided; however, not everywhere on or within a few hours' drive of the 2,000-mile border deserves to be blacklisted.
Mexico is the land of, Mayans, Aztecs and Conquistadores with a rich cultural and historical heritage. It is easy to reach, has beautiful unspoiled countryside and the winter climate is delightful, making it a prime destination for a horseback riding vacation. This land of contrasts ranks 7th among the world’s most popular tourist destinations and has huge geographical extremes from lofty, snow covered mountains to thick jungles. The horses, tack, food and accommodations on the riding vacations we offer in Mexico are located in tranquil areas and meet the highest US and European standards. The Quarter Horses, Trakehners and Criollo crosses are well trained and riders are carefully matched to their mounts.
Rancho Puesto del Sol is located in high plains country near the mountains with vast unfenced areas where one can canter and gallop for miles. Both experienced riders and beginners can be happy here as there are horses for all skill levels and guests can choose fast, challenging rides or shorter, quieter rides. There is an attractive, solar heated swimming pool and spa. A variety of cultural tours are available to nearby colonial towns like San Miguel de Allende with attractive shops, guided trips to Aztec sites and many other possible excursions. A horseback ride in Mexico will give you an excellent opportunity to experience the fascinating nature of this country.
My home for a week is Rancho Los Baños (so called because of the abundance of natural springs in the area and nothing to do with lavatories). In 2008, its owners – the Valenzuela family – decided to defy the bad press and open their doors to tourists.
"I was a lawyer, a bored lawyer," says thirtysomething Manuel, when I ask what made him ask his father if he could start bringing tourists to stay on the working cattle ranch. "We didn't even offer riding at first. We didn't know how the horses – or even the cowboys – would react."