I was sick. I had an ear infection and the antibiotics were taking their time. I considered canceling but I love horses and was looking forward to meeting the unique breed Iceland had to offer. In anticipation of my icelandic horseback riding excursion, I put on my snow pants and all the other special gear purchased just for Iceland and marched myself down to the lobby, the pick up location as instructed by my contact at Islenski Hesturinn.
Our group turned out to be a mix of mostly beginners, with a sprinkling of those that are comfortable on horses and experienced riders. This could have been a recipe for disaster with so many beginners. However, the owner, Begga, our guide and the owner, was amazing. She spent time helping us to understand the gaits of the horse, how to communicate with the horse and what to expect. She painstakingly matched the horses to the rider. This is my horse – Sommie.
We practiced in the ring for a few minutes. At first this horse was not moving. Did I receive a lazy horse? (at least one in every crowd). To my delight, the instructors gave me some tips and we were off. I was wrong, my horse was far from lazy, she just required good communication. This was not your average stable ride (the horses follow each other blindly in a pre-selected order). These horses loved to be side by side with other horses and many times we were riding next to one or two other horses.
Before the ride, we learned Icelandic horses have two gaits that are rare among other horses. (They have actually isolated a gene in them that accounts for these gaits which most other horses do no have). One of these gaits is the tolt. This was the gait we would concentrate on during the ride. This gait turned out to be the gold standard to which I will judge every ride from now on. I don’t know what the word tolt translates to in Icelandic but I think it should mean comfortable. Begga said she could hold a glass of water and it would not spill during the tolt. It is a smooth ride and, as we glided along past craters, I melted into the saddle. The next day there was no soreness!
We were led to beautiful lava craters, the landscape of Iceland. Begga gave us an overview of this protected park. Her passion for the area and the horses was infectious.
When we returned, the saddles came off and we saw the playful side of our new-found equine friends. They love to roll around in the deep lava and rock rich soil. I asked why?Begga said, it is like a massage for them and for this reason, it is hard to keep them clean.
As the tour came to a close it was clear to me the Icelandic horses are as playful, gentle and warm as the people of Iceland. I enjoyed every minute spent with them. We all thanked Begga and her staff for an awesome Icelandic horseback riding experience.