The real way of experiencing the Icelandic landscape: On horseback, with nice guides and a cool company! Although I still can't feel my bottom anymore, it was really worth it!
Whereas Nils and my sister each had had riding lessons for at least one year, my experience with horses based only on a two weeks vacation at a horse farm, about 11 years ago. So I was accordingly excited when we finally entered the stable, after the safety instructions and a warm welcome from our tour guides from Íshestar.
Then we were assigned our horses - that’s important, HORSES!! - respectively to our experiences and soon I held the reins of a small grey one. If my spare knowledge of the Icelandic languages didn’t let me down, my horse answered to the name “Grey Dag”.
Icelanders can be very sensitive when one degrades their horses as “ponies”. Unlike the ponies on the continent, Icelandic horses have never been bred to be small. They had to adapt their body to the rough and cold climate - for which they are ideally suited now.
Then we mounted and tried out how to persuade our horses to walk in the direction we wanted them to. (“Allright, nobody panic, it was deliberate!”...)
As soon as the convoy began to move, it wasn’t a problem anyway. Icelandic horses are pack animals, greatly indulgent and these special ones accustomed to tours like that.
Whereas in Europe, they used oxen to pull the barrows, in Iceland they made the horses do the job - far into the second half of the last century! Due to their strong, extremly tough physique, Icelandic horses were able to haul up to 120kg!
We had a few minutes to get a first connection with our horses and - at least for me - with the riding itself. Then we were split up into two groups: The fast and the slower one, trot or walk. They explicitly mentioned that both groups were also doable for beginners like me. And so I gave in to the wistful glimpses of the other two (and to my own love of adventure) and we joined the fast group.
Instead of the usual 3 gaits Icelandic horses have four or even five ones. They all master the Tölt, but some moreover have the ability for the so called “Flying pace”. If you didn’t know about the last one before (like me): Search for it on YouTube, you will find some very funny videos!
Probably I should have asked HOW to trot… But so I hopped up and down on each step, firmly convinced I would never feel my buttom again. Every now and then, we moderated the speed - a short breathing pause for both my backside and my nerves. Indeed, it got better and better each time. I hopped less high, I lost the stirrups more rarely and finally I found the rhythm of my little dag - And had the time of my life!
Indeed Icelandic horses on average grew significantly over the last years! Up till a few decades ago, they had to find their own way in the winter, but since they are fed the whole year, they grew over 10cm!
But not just in height: Icelandic horses have a propensity to get really fat in a short time! That is also a remnant of the time when a healthy layer of fat was essential for survival...
Our path led us through the volcanic landscape near Hafnajfördur which is even more fascinating in the rising sun. The weather meant well for us. Apart from a short shower of rain during our 10-minutes-break we stayed dry and enjoyed the sun.
It is unbelievable how fast 2 hours can be over! Shortly before we returned to the stables, I was getting the knack of it and wished we could ride on forever. But it was already time for a last foto and for a goodbye to our horses that, rid of their saddles, immediatly started to wallow in the filth appreciatively. And of course our heartfelt thanks to our very nice guides and to Íshestar, who sponsored us to join this amazing Lava-Tour!
Book this tour with Íshestar: Tour Link