Day 2 (Part 1)
– First of all, I was so upset because I didn’t have my phone with me on the ride. All photos of me riding were on the other rider’s phone. And thank goodness she was kind enough to send them to me after we got home!
We were up much of the night due to the high winds, which turned out to be stronger than usual according to an Icelander I spoke to in the morning who was worried her cottage would be blown away! A native Icelandic person worried about the wind!? It must have been even worse than it sounded from inside our little red van.
It didn’t get light until 9am, so I arrived at the Eldhestar stables in the dark to be confronted by more than 50 Icelandic horses! Oh. My. Lord. I was in heaven. My wonderful other half returned to the campsite after dropping me off, and I was stood there slack-jawed… I don’t even remember saying goodbye to him actually…
Before I could embrace a pony and fondle their faces, a lovely lady by the name of Maya introduced herself.
Although in fact, the lovely Maya was Lithuanian – and it wasn’t long before she was talking about how she’s going over to my hometown in New Zealand this year! What!
It was only day two, and I was already realising how welcoming and kind Icelandic people are.
I can’t describe my excitement. Icelandic horses are particularly special because, unlike the average horse, this breed has an extra gait between trot and canter called the tolt. It is essentially a very fast, smooth four-beat gait with a high head carriage and high steps. Perfect for travelling long distances using the least amount of energy, with the most amount of comfort for the rider.
After being kitted-out in a fluro orange jumpsuits made of a plastic, windproof material, the rest of the group turned up. There turned out to be only one other besides me and we were introduced to our horses. Mine was a dark bay named Gerpla – which I misheard as Gallopstar. With thick fur, blinky eyes and fluffy ears, I immediately bonded with my horse. After mounting, I realised how sensitive Gerpla was – voice cues were more than enough to quicken the little fluffy legs.
Now, let me tell you about what I thought about the Icelandic breed – non-horseriders, feel free to skip these two paragraphs! They are unlike anything you would ever ride! Their front legs are so powerful that you feel as though their walk is a two-beat rather than a four-beat. Despite their quick legs, you feel so safe and secure. Icelandic horses were bred by the vikings as war horses, and these war-horse characteristics of being brave and sturdy have not faded! Logging trucks and wandering herds were nothing to these little soldiers. The only thing that almost spooked them was when we passed a construction site where a loud bang made two of the three horses jiggy-jog on the spot. It was such a relief – I could feel her legs moving a 100 miles an hour, but we barely moved forward an inch! Sweet, sweet horses who really look-after their riders.
We went on quite a fast-paced ride, with a lot of tolt! The two riders with me taught me how to ask for the unusual gait. The aim is to sit deeply, keeping your legs long and your reins taut. The gait wasn’t quite as smooth as I expected, but this may be partly due to my aids and lack of practice of refining her pace. Despite getting a bit of heart burn after tolting for so long (due to the rhythm being quite uneven), I thoroughly enjoyed myself! We were flying! We even galloped, which was simply magical – for such tiny horses, they pick up a lot of speed!
After the three-hour ride, I was sad to say goodbye to my pony friend. I had never felt such a connection to a horse so quickly. Speaking to Maya, she said Icelandic horses are certainly smart and have an unusually loyal and strong connection to their herd – whoever their herd might include. I really felt as though Gerpla was considering me on her back, unlike every other trekking horse I have ridden who seem to totally ignore the sack of potatoes slumped on their back and merely follow the tail in front.
I would 100% recommend Eldhestar for beginners or experienced riders. They take fabulous care of their 300 horses, with breath-taking places to ride them through.
A truly ancient and magical breed of horse, unlike any other. A breed influenced by the land’s history, the country’s people and culture. I would so love to own one (anyone have a spare $15,000NZD?). This experience is something I will never forget – it was such a special morning.
Before I could weep with happiness that I had accomplished something that I had only ever dreamed of doing, I said goodbye to my hardy horse who tolted off with the rest of their herd unaccompanied back to their field.
And, I was whisked off to the next town by my phenomenal partner. We picked up an all-famous hot dog on the way via drive-through – you’ll find this cheap and tasty snack all over the island – and off we went to see some glorious waterfalls…
Stay tuned for part two of day 2!
*Special thank you to my better half who took all the amazing photos and video on our trip*