I’m all about discovering natural landscapes on horseback so when I knew I was heading to Iceland, this was top of my list of things to do while visiting Reykjavik.
Icelandic horses are different to any other breed of horse throughout the world, with a short and stocky build they are very strong and can endure the elements that Iceland’s harsh climate brings.
They have been carefully bred over thousands of years and the remote location of the island means they are well-protected from diseases so there is no need to vaccinate the Icelandic horse. For this reason, it’s important to keep any piece of clothing that has been worn on other horses away from this breed so I made sure I wore the boots provided by Islenski Hesturinn.
There was a blizzard in Reykjavik on the day I had planned to ride, which brought 70+cm of snow to the city – a whopping 80-year record! I shuffled around plans and was luckily able to join Islenski Hesturinn for a ride the following day. They picked me up from my accommodation in Reykjavik and we set out for the farm, which was about 10 minutes’ drive from the city centre.
It was here that we met the vibrant and bubbly Begga, owner of the small family operation. Not only was she one of the warmest ladies I had met on my trip, she was an incredibly talented rider and could even speak seven languages!
Before the ride, we were given a rundown of what to expect throughout the ride and how it may differ from usual breeds – this is Begga’s famous Riding Intro and her great sense of humour had me in stitches right throughout the demonstration.
We were paired with horses that best suit our abilities which definitely provided reassurance and comfort to the less-experienced riders. After a few minutes getting to know our horses and understanding their style we set out for the trails.
The recent snowfall meant that the ground was completely covered in fresh snow which made for a stunning setting for our ride – it even starting snowing when we were out on the trails!
We rode through a rugged volcanic landscape, surrounded by spectacular pseudo craters and frozen lakes. Our guide Begga pointed out places of interest along the journey and gave us an insight into the rich history of the region.
Our riding speed varied throughout the trip, from walking, to trotting, the famous tölt and I even got a taste of the fifth gait, the pace. I really enjoyed riding the tölt, which is similar to a trot but at least one foot always remains on the ground which makes for a much smoother ride. For those who aren’t confident riders and usually bounce all over the place when trotting, this gait is the solution to your problems!
The Icelandic horse is born with a specific gene which creates a protein used in the neurons of a horse’s spine and in turn coordinates the movements of its limbs. It’s this key element that facilitates the Tölt and Pace gaits.
Another difference I found when riding the Icelandic horse was that they could easily ride together, side by side and as a group. On most of the other treks I’ve been on, the horses must ride nose-to-tail in a single file so it was a nice change to have a much freer structure.
I have read many reviews that it can be quite cold riding horses in the middle of winter although I felt very prepared for my day out in the snow-covered lava fields. My Canada Goose parka kept me extremely warm right throughout the ride and I never once felt cold.
After about an hour and a half of riding through this dramatic and wild landscape, it was time to return to the farm. As soon as we finished the ride and jumped off our horses they ran around the yard and began rolling around in the snow – they looked so happy!
What I really liked about riding with Islenski Hesturinn was that it was a family run operation where the owner rode with you. “We love what we do and do what we love” is their well-suited company motto.
Group sizes were much smaller than the more commercial operations and you can see the passion and respect that each of the guides have for the horses – they are very well looked after.
Begga took photos throughout the trip too which meant we didn’t need to worry about taking snaps along the way, we could purely take it all in and enjoy riding through this breathtaking setting.
This has to be one of the most unique ways to experience the natural beauty of Iceland’s volcanic landscapes and it’s safe to say I loved every minute.
If you are looking for a fun experience in Iceland, this is definitely an option you should consider!
Who: Islenski Hesturinn – The Icelandic Horse
Learn more: theicelandichorse.is