Though ancestors of the modern horse are thought to have inhabited Chile in the Pleistocene, these creatures had long disappeared by the modern era. When the Spanish arrived in South America with their horses, the animal was unknown on the continent, but the natives - particularly the Mapuche of southern Chile - soon realized the advantages which horses implied. The incorporation of the horse was instrumental in the Mapuches' centuries-long resistance to the Conquistadors, and the spread of their culture into the Argentine pampa.
Today, the widespread use of horses is one of the most salient characteristics of Chilean rural life. Motorized vehicles still haven't replaced horses as the primary vehicle of the Chilean cowboy, or huaso. The Chilean rodeo - entirely different from the sport practiced in the US - is a much-anticipated annual event in towns large and small, while thoroughbred breeding and racing has a long and prominent history in the Central Valley. Horses are available for hourly or daily rental on nearly every beach and in many national parks. El Caballo Chileno is ever present, much talked about and admired.
Participants in horsepacking trips and day rides will find that they have engaged in a cultural experience as much as an athletic one; most often outfitters will contract horses from a local arriero who will serve as guide and groom. These arrieros, with their unique clothing and equipment, local knowledge and customs, provide a glimpse at one of the most traditional sectors of modern Chilean society, a slice of living history.
Travelers should note the difference between horseback riding and horse trekking, the latter of which usually implies using horses only as pack animals.
Thanks to the Tourism Promotion Corporation of Chile : 202-530-4109