The Icelandic horse is a unique breed and they are beautiful, with long flowing manes and tails, gentle eyes and a short but sturdy body. Driving around Iceland, you see them everywhere and they will happily come over to say hello. They really are a charming horse.
Happy horses in their natural setting
They have a unique gait called the “tölt”, which is something between a trot and a canter. Their legs look so graceful when they do it. Here is a video, in case you haven’t seen this gait before:
Horse riding is a popular activity with tourists all over Iceland and you can see why – imagine being able to ride beautiful horses in stunning scenery without a lot of traffic or people around to get in the way.
I love the whole idea of horse riding and I really wish I had learned to do it as a child. I’ve tried learning as an adult, and gave up because it was just too hard, scary and expensive. It’s one of those things that I would love to be good at, but am just not. I think it’s the unpredictability and speed element that scares me.
I participated in a group ride in Iceland a few years ago. As is normally the case with these activities, they claim that you don’t ever have to have ridden before to do it as the horses are just following each other the whole time. It’s true that most people in my group had little to no experience. At least half also didn’t want to do the tölting for this reason!
We rode off in single file down paths through beautiful fields, with far reaching views. We were lucky with the weather that day too. It was a great way to explore. Then the guides shouted back that we were going to tölt, which was met with a lot of protesting that was ignored and off we went! Lots of screaming and bouncing ensued. Riding looks really easy and smooth but isn’t. Somehow no one fell off but it probably wasn’t much fun for the horses! To give them credit none of them freaked out or broke away despite the screaming and everyone probably doing all the wrong things with their legs and reins. Towards the end of our ride, the most experienced person in the group DID fall off, having been given quite a difficult horse to ride, which was traumatic for everyone in the group except the guides who seemed to find us all hilarious.
Ready?? Hang on!
Spending time with the horses before and after the ride was really fun and I think everyone came away loving the Icelandic horse even more, despite the adrenaline rush!
Every time I go to Iceland I think about doing the horse riding again. I would have really loved the whole experience if we’d just walked, although it is fun to say you’ve tölted. I know you don’t ever get any better at horse riding if you don’t try things but it definitely left some of the older people in the group a bit shaken up. I hope that some of the other riding companies would adjust their ride more to the ability of the group or split the group in two to make sure everyone could get the ride they wanted.
So, what do you think, should I give it a try again when we do the Ring Road trip this year? Or should I just accept the fact that I’m a big chicken who prefers horses from the ground?