In my mind, I can smell the fresh rain in the air as the clouds roll on by. I hear the swish of a tail. I can feel my hand running down the soft silky coat of the horses’ necks, reassuringly patting my sturdy hoofed mount and curling my hand around to scratch that one spot under the incredibly thick mane. The chill from a gentle breeze leaves me with a flushed and fresh outlook on life. We slowly start the steady march across the field. Each step softly crushing the emerald green grass beneath our feet and taking us further away. Away from our worries, away from the world and into the mountains we go. It’s just me and my imaginary mare Alfonka and we’re off on an adventure off to explore the land of fire and ice.
Iceland– the land of fire and ice. Majestic mountains. Roaring volcanoes. Sultry hot pools. Really adorable ponies. In all honesty, I can’t think of any better way to experience the natural beauty and wonder of Iceland than with the Insta perfect size Iceland pony. No trip to Iceland is complete without at least a dozen photos of these adorable cheeky local residents.
Now some people may say that the best way to see Iceland is the traditional tourist way in a car. Pack your bags, your manners, and a fluffy beanie and off you go. If you’re short of time take yourself to the Golden Circle, which can include a short saddle up session if you choose wisely. There’s nothing wrong with going on a traditional tour of Iceland and not just plodding around on horseback. In fact it’s a great way to see some truly wonderful areas with experienced guides.
Why is the Icelandic horse such an icon?
Image credit: Flickr by KLMNT
Legend has it that the strongest, bravest and most loveable horse were brought over by the Norse Vikings. There are historical references to the Icelandic horse in literature from as far back as the 9th & 10th century. Each horse was hand picked for their bravery, strength, and stamina. Traits that we still see today in the breed.
Up until 1904 and the introduction of the car in Norway the Icelandic horse was the only mode of transport. Taking man from cradle to grave. Helping families fetch the midwife, harvesting the crops, teaching children manners and eventually taking the coffin to the cemetery.
Today there are around 80,000 Icelandic horse in Iceland. Which is pretty impressive for a country with an estimated population of 320,000 (2015). Generally speaking, the Icelandic horse is now used for pleasure riding, competitions and the annual gongur every autumn.
Image credit: Flickr via David Gorla
Taking On The World One Tolt at a Time
The Icelandic horse, other than being perfect models for selfies which their long luscious manes, have a unique pace called the tolt. It’s a bizarrely comfortable pace that’s like a really strong, yet smooth, trot. For the non-equestrian folk reading along the trot is the bouncy pace of the horse. The one that is most likely to have the rider tumble off.
The tolt is a rather pace and partnered with the unique character of the Icelandic horse I can see why the Norse took them on adventures and the Icelanders kept them. The Icelandic horse is self-assured, which can be seen in its ever willing nature to be in a selfie or two with tourists.
Due to the geographical isolation of Iceland, there are little to no diseases for the Icelandic horses. Sadly this has resulted in many ponies leaving their homeland for international competitions and not being allowed to return as the government does not currently allow horses or horse gear to be imported or reenter the country. A law that was brought into action around 1100 AD. Now there is an estimated 100,000 Icelandic horses outside of Iceland. Many being across Europe, America, Australia and New Zealand
Strangely enough, James and I had our first horse riding experience together on Icelandic horses in Christchurch, New Zealand. Which has just lit the flame for me to want to get to Iceland to ride them in their native country.
Can I see the Icelandic Horse Roaming Around the Mountains?
You sure can. During summer months the younger members of the herd are allowed to roam Northern Mountains. It’s like a pony spring break before being broken in and becoming workhorses. Run free, eat some grass, meet some new friends. In autumn the farmers come together, following the tradition of gongur, to round up the ponies and bring them home. The belief being that this time in the wild increase the ponies sturdiness, stamina and attitude.
Image credit: Promote Iceland
This is a horse that has been purebred for over a thousand years. Treated with respect and dignity and raised to the highest levels with systematic and ambitious breeding. A horse born to climb mountains, gallop across the fields and cross rivers.
Wondering when the best time to visit Iceland? Personally, I think any time is the best time. So the next time you’re in Iceland will you forgo the modern and ride across the fields the traditional way?
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