The Icelandic horse is pretty unique. It's the only horse in the world that has an extra gait called 'tölt', the 'Rolls Royce of horseback riding' as I heard on this great horseback riding trip through lava fields just outside of Reykjavík last week.
I'm a pretty experienced horseback rider. When I was a kid I went on a few horse-riding workshops and my late grandpa used to own a few horses. Some of my best memories from childhood was when I would stay over at grandpa's, get up early and go to the horse farm where he kept his horses, go for a short ride and then to a swimming pool afterwards. (If you haven't been horseback riding or to a swimming pool in Iceland, you're really missing out!)
Unfortunately, these days I can't really go horseback riding unless I join a tour, since I don't have any horses of my own and don't know many people that do. My sister shares my enthusiasm for horseback riding - and therefore we decided to go on a tour last week, on a cold and crisp winter day that had completely blue sky and the sun shining!
We went with a company that's simply called The Icelandic Horse, a company I had never been horseback riding with before. The tour took place in the morning but there's also an afternoon option. They have a pick-up in Reykjavík (although we drove ourselves to the location) and the experience started at 9:30.
First of all I have to say, the atmosphere here was exceptionally welcoming and friendly! The reception room of the stable where the horses are kept was really cozy, comfortable and well designed. Begga Rist is the owner of the company, along with her husband and the company is 5 years old. Before getting to meet the horses we all sat down and listened to Begga's riding intro, that was incredibly informative (even for someone like me that knows a lot about the Icelandic horse) and assuring. I feel that a riding intro such as Begga's should be mandatory for every horseback riding beginner! She clearly knows what she's doing and has incredible respect and love for horses - and that completely shines through!
Begga was adamant that everyone on the tour should experience 'tölt', the Icelandic gait. This gait is so smooth that when you are riding it your body hardly moves, you're actually so still in your saddle that you should be able to hold a glass of wine (or any other liquid) without spilling a thing. We didn't bring a glass with us but Begga showed this by holding up her riding crop on the way.
The tour itself led us through the volcanic red lava of Rauðhólar, in the outskirts of Reykjavík city and with a view over the nearby lava field. We were incredibly lucky with the weather, there wasn't a single gust of wind and the scenery was breathtaking. Everyone felt at ease on their horses after having listened to the informative but fun introduction and Begga herself took all the pictures of everyone.
Of course the horses were fantastic, sturdy, friendly and majestic - and some of them already with a thick winter coat.
We rode over frozen rivulets, up volcanic hills, down volcanic hills, on wide trails where we could experience the tölt and on narrower trails where we could admire the scenery. The only downside was that your fingers and toes get really cold, even when you keep moving them and have gloves and thick socks on! So bring extra thick socks!
On the bright side, having frozen fingers and toes just makes the trip to the hot tub afterwards all the better! So make sure you've got some free time afterwards to grab a bite to eat and head to some of the great Reykjavík's swimming pools. We had some spicy Mexican food at Culiacan on our way back home (where we also got free hot chocolate/coffee to warm up!) and then had a dip in the hot tubs at Sundhöllin swimming pool.
If you want to experience Iceland like a local, then this is the way to do it! :)