Tuesday, 4 October 2011

My Date with the Enchanting Icelandic Horse

Icelandic 'sunrise'

Following a night of howling wind and relentless rain, I was repaid in the morning with a beautiful dramatic sky. The morning's weather oscillaited between heavy showers and unexpected but welcome cameos from the sun. A rainbow arched over the city on the walk into town to hunt for the elusive 'Best Hotdog in Iceland' stand.

For me the day began when we arrived at the lava fields for our ride on one of the beautiful Icelandic horses. It was one of the highlights of the trip, even if I did wake the next morning with a very sore behind. One of the American tourists, a lady from Seattle, who we shared a ride to the stables with said "you can't let the rain stop you doing things; you just have to get on with it". You certainly have to have that attitude in Iceland where it can rain non-stop for days. Strangely though, you get used to it after a while and it's even possible to not really notice it unless it's combined with a wind which blows it into your face.

We were provided with waterproof outwear, then matchmade with one of the horses in the stable, instructed how to get on....and off we went.
At first we were led onto the lava fields through some open land and I was buffeted by very strong winds and a cold spiteful rain, making it hard for me to stay upright on the horse. I wondered if I'd made a mistake in booking the tour. However my horse fared better and reassuring and sturdy he walked steadily into the lava fields while I could barely stay upright in my saddle. Brave little horse, built to withstand the Icelandic weather.

Unfortunately I didn't get a chance to take a photo of my horse but I've searched online and I found a photo of a horse which looks similar. One of the staff told me his name but it was Icelandic and I didn't catch it. 

The Icelandic horse is a purebred horse which has never been mixed with any other breed and its lineage goes right back to the first Viking settlers in Iceland. They are much loved for their calm and friendly dispositions. The Icelandic horse also has two special gaits which no other breed has. One is called the tölt.

An Icelandic horse at tölt

The other is called flying pace

The other is called flying pace

I don't know which gaits my horse showcased for me but he was a speedy little thing, who took off when I least expected it, and forced me to cling to the saddle, his mane...anything in fact so I didn't bounce out of the saddle. I grew quite attached to him, even if he seemed to ignore me when I pulled on the reins, convinced I was going to tumble off, and would have kidnapped him but for the fact that if an Icelandic horse ever leaves Iceland, it is not allowed to return. Instead I will imagine him happy, running through the lava fields, around the mountains of Iceland and munching grass and other treats.

Back in the fields I fell in love with on my first day, I was taken with the beauty of them all over again and started to really enjoy myself. It is not every day that I get a chance to ride a horse through lava fields.

The wind whipped across the fields for the whole 90 minutes but the rain abated often enough for me to look around and enjoy the sight the moss-covered lava and trailing azalea stretching around me (to paraphrase my friend "it looks like someone has thrown a green carpet over the lava rocks").

At the end of the ride I got trapped between my horse and another and they both nuzzled me. I felt sad to leave these beautiful gentle little horses I'd grown so fond of in just one ride.

We had Mexican for dinner. The Icelanders are very fond of spicy food-Thai, Indian, Mexican. One can only wonder why. You can of course eat traditional fare if you want to-puffin, whale and shark are advertised loudly on menus around Reykjavik. Traditional Icelandic prices also apply unfortunately. Being a vegetarian I didn't miss anything and happily stick to my Skyr.

My last day is almost here and an achey sadness is taking root in my stomach.

1 comment:

  1. Well done lady form Seattle...I think they get a lot of rain there.