Hello again, readers! I admit Iíve been off a bit from my reliable weekly update, but it was for an excellent reason. My husband and I took a vacation to Iceland, which exceeded all of my expectations. From waterfalls to craters, hot springs to the midnight sun, the entire trip was breathtaking - but one element of the trip surpassed all others: the Icelandic Horse.
My heart has been captured; Iím completely enamored. Horses in every color graze on acres and acres of tall green grass across the entire country. I lost count. And theyíre somehow both strikingly gorgeous and utterly adorable at the same time. Fortunately, I had scheduled a trail ride that ended up one of the most fun experiences Iíve had in my life.
Our trail ride was with the company Hella Horse Rental, which I picked specifically as many positive reviews noted this wasnít a nose-to-tail trail ride (which I had once through an Italian vineyard and, while lovely, is dull for actual riders.) The trail ride group consisted of myself, my husband (inexperienced), and another family of 3 who owned horses years ago, but hadnít ridden recently. Our guide was an Icelandic horse trainer from Denmark, who is spending some time working with and learning from the family who owns the stable.
After learning I was the only experienced rider in the group, she paired me with a bay gelding named NjŠll (pronounced NYALT). I later learned that while NjŠll is considered saintly and usually paired with beginner children, he had been off-work for 8 weeks and I was his first rider after the break. After a brief demonstration on rein control, we mounted from the ground. Although NjŠll is well under 14 hands, this was a bit amusing and challenging for me, as my leg really lacked the proper strength to lift the rest of my body up. It took me about 3 or 4 bouncing tries but I finally managed. And oh the saddle! The Icelandic saddle had the closeness of an English saddle with extra secure and cushion-y leg rolls - I could live in it!
While the other riders mounted, NjŠll started to call out to one of his friends in a nearby paddock and started to jig a little impatiently. I walked him around in the limited space we had. When we left the gate, though, NjŠll decided to balk and tried to turn and walk back - showing distinct herd-bound behavior. The rest of the riders made it a good 25 ft ahead of me as I worked to get him turned back around. He wasnít sensitive to my leg pressure at all, and I had to resort to kicking him forward, which took a deeply embarrassing minute or two. Finally, we rejoined the group and I found he was more willing to keep moving forward towards the front of the group.
We didnít have to stay in a line - the only rule was to not pass our guide, so we had freedom to change pace and steer. The landscape was interesting and varied, with lava fields, flowers, small water crossings, and hills. By a few minutes into the ride, NjŠll was forwarding and willing, although he did occasionally call out. I could tell he is a strong, excited boy.
About ten minutes in, after making sure everyone was comfortable and confident, we got to try the tŲlt. If youíre unfamiliar, this is a gait unique to Icelandics. Similar in speed to a trot, the tŲlt is a four-beat lateral gait and extremely
comfortable to sit to. I canít describe it well enough to do it justice, but let me say I absolutely loved it. We walked and tŲlted intermittently, and up one rather steep hill, even galloped for a stride or two (my first ever gallop!) The hour ride went by oh-so-fast, and dismounting NjŠll was heart-wrenching.
So. I canít stop thinking about Icelandics. I didnít have cell service during my vacation until I got to the airport for my return flight, and the first thing I started Googling was how to import an Icelandic and Icelandics for sale in America. Iíve convinced myself I want an Icelandic.
- I know this is impractical. (I like to show hunt seat; no trainers within two hours would know how to train for riding Icelandics. Iíve just started jumping; Icelandics arenít really jumpers).
- I know this is rash. (Okay - not really rash; it would take me at least a year and a half to save for a very well-broke, safe riding Icelandic, which would also give me plenty of time to continue to think it through.)
- I know this would be a huge life decision (Due to the time and financial commitment of a horse, it would mean choosing to stay in my current career path instead of going to grad school and transitioning paths).
But, on the other hand, I just got the biggest promotion of my career so far effective July 1st. While my income is still humble, I may be able to budget a horse if I switched to a cheaper barn for boarding.
Anyway, I have no answer on if this obsession will amount to anything. Maybe Iíll look on this post in a few years and laugh at the absurdity.
I leave you with a few pictures from my trail ride.