You can absolutely go horseback riding in Mexico. If you own a piece of land in Riberas del Pilar and Ajijic and build your own stalls, you can keep a horse. If you buy a house with a quarter of an acre land, you can build a stall, have a horse, and then walk through your neighborhood.
There is a really great place in La Floresta (just east of Ajijic, in a residential neighborhood) where you can rent horses. La Floresta generally caters more to beginners in horseback riding because their horses there are very mellow. If you’re looking for more active horses, on the other hand, or if you’re a little more experienced, La Floresta can also cater to that.
In Jalisco (the state where Lake Chapala is located, and also where Guadalajara is located), we have the charreria, which is how they refer to rodeo in Spanish. The charreria takes place in an open arena or a round building where people, especially locals, go on Sundays or whenever there are events.
The Escaramuza group, which are competitive female groups who ride sidesaddle and compete through formation, joins competitions here in Chapala and Ajijic. The Escaramuza group is comparable to the gymnastic groups that you find in the United States where participants go all over the state competing.
My parents paid for my professional equestrian training. My arena was just down the street from our house, close the cemetery in West Ajijic. From La Cristina, it would take me 20 minutes to ride my horse on the back way down, and if I needed transportation for my horse, the ranch would provide that along with everything else that we needed. I would really recommend going to the Escaramuza because it’s a really fun experience.
There are a couple of boarding places in town that I know of. An example is Celina, out by San Nicolas de Ibarra in Ajijic. The guys who trained and took care of my horses in Ajijic are the same guys that rent horses in La Floresta. This is a very large community so you can ask around and definitely find what you’re looking for.
The horse culture is still very alive, more so in Mexico than in places like Florida and San Francisco where I spent time in the United States. One of the reasons of course would be that I lived right in the city back in Florida and San Francisco. I did see a horse or two in Victoria Park, Florida, but cops were riding them instead of horseback riding enthusiasts.
Back in 1996 or 1997, I bought a big black quarter horse from a local vet for about 7,000 pesos ($365). My mom had the stall welded and spent around 5,000 – 6,000 pesos ($261 - $313). It was hay and water.
Sometimes, I would go around town on my horse. I would go to a store and the store owner would say, “Hi, you’re sitting on your horse outside of the store!” I would then say, “Excuse me, I’d like a cerveza (beer; for my older relatives), water, or a soda,” and the staff would just bring what I wanted to buy out to me. I would then pay for it while I’m still sitting on my horse.
(Horse and Jet Metier in La Floresta, Lake Chapala, Mexico, pictured.)