Horseback Riding in Iceland

It’s hard to tell what’s going to be an unforgettable moment before it happens. Maybe going to that bookstore to find a book that will change your life, or going to a sporting event and meeting the person of your dreams. Though, some moments it’s a little easier to tell, like going on vacation to someplace you’ve never been with your best friend. And during that vacation, having new experiences and new sights to see on a daily basis.

I never rode a horse before, unless you count pony rides at the zoo or the fair. Actually, once I rode a horse on a farm in Utah when I was very young, around 8 years old, but that hardly counts too as we just went around in circles. I guess my first real horseback adventure would be in Iceland. I was able to pretend to be an adventurer back before cars were a common thing; riding a horse through the mountains and the meadows.

It’s hard to imagine lovelier landscapes.

I was a little nervous when we first arrived at the stable, one of the oldest in Iceland -Laxnes Horse Farm located in Mosfellsbaer, Iceland. Of course, Iceland is famous for its  horses: they’re smaller, furrier (for the harsh winters), and also able to herd sheep. But did you know they are the only species of horse in the entire country? No other type of horse is allowed in. This is to prevent horse-borne diseases from entering the country and affecting their breed. And any exported horses have to say goodbye to their ancestral home forever because they won’t be allowed back in.

At the stable we got our riding helmets, gloves, and boots on. There were five of us there to ride that day, my best friend and I, the tour operator, and two other girls from Sweden. We each met our horses with a short introduction and the horse I would be riding on that spring day was named Paddy. He was older than me: 22 years old, while I was a mere 20 years old when I went to Iceland for the first time. He had a beautiful brown coat and a long mane. He was so warm, I just wanted to hug him. After introducing myself, I clumsily hopped on him with a little assistance. Like I said, I’m inexperienced in the ways of the equine. At least he was not that tall, like I said Icelandic horses aren’t that high, which was nice for me because I am short (5’2″ – 157cm) and I thought that it would hurt less if I fell off! Yeah, the was my main worry on this trip, I guess I’m a little scared about some things.

Happily trotting along the meadows of Iceland. That’s me in the blue sweater and black jacket!

Paddy and I started second from the front, over the grassy meadows that were still yellowish from the cold winter prior. We trotted along beside the tall mountains that cover the landscape of country, overlooking the fields of grass and moss. I felt small underneath them while looking above sitting on my lovely new horse companion. Sometimes Paddy started going faster, and I am so light I was bouncing up and down on the saddle, frightened of falling off, gripping the reins with tight hands! I never fell off though; Paddy was smart enough to know if I was going to slip and would slow down. Regardless, it was a pretty bumpy ride.

We climbed up small hills on our route blazing through the countryside. I leaned forward to help Paddy with my weight. He conquered all the hills well, despite his old age. Downhill I leaned back, though I was worried I would lean so far that I’d fall backwards. Yeah, I was afraid of falling a lot… But it didn’t stop me from enjoying this adventure! Never let your fear hold you back from experiencing new things!

Hello friend, why the long face? You probably hear that a lot…

We crossed a small river and I wondered if the horses’ legs would get cold, as it was a chilly April season. There was still snow on the mountains and a cool breeze was blowing. I don’t think the horses really minded, as they casually trotted along. There were also a lot of horses grazing within eyesight from our path. Fun fact, apparently Iceland has more horses than people. That small island also has more sheep than people too!

While riding and enjoying the views, some areas of our route were wide enough for the horses to go two-by-two. I liked those times because I would chat with the tour operator, a woman from Switzerland who moved to Iceland after her schooling was finished, or the two girls from Sweden, who were friends and traveling around Europe together before returning to school. The girls from Sweden were students visiting Iceland on their vacation, much like my friend and I. It’s always nice to talk to others about their life. Around the world we each have our unique experiences, but we’re all (in most ways) so similar.

A nice gathering for the congregation of Icelandic Horses. The topic for today’s meeting: hay or neigh?

One time, Paddy stopped along the path because another pair of horseback riders crossed our path. He stopped and tried to follow the others. Was our route really so boring? He was so stubborn so I had to pull on his reins and I tried awkwardly talking to him. We eventually caught up to the rest of group, but now we were in the back of the pack. I liked that he had a mind of his own to do what he wanted. My friend’s horse just stringently followed the path.

The woman who was leading our group told me that Paddy is the laziest horse they have. I laughed at that thought, because he didn’t complain once when we were out riding. But Paddy sure is lucky to live in such a beautiful part of the world, able to roam freely through the meadows.

When we returned to the stable after three hours, I said goodbye to Paddy who got the rest of the day off to do whatever he wanted. Eat grass and snooze is what I would do, haha. So we all had a warm drink and I talked to stable woman and the girls from Sweden a little bit more. I thought that running a stable was such a cool job and so awesome that stable woman was able to work in another country. Meeting fellow animal lovers, especially horse lovers, from around the world must be interesting. After we all said farewell, my friend and I returned to Reykjavik to explore the city. However, I was covered in horse hair for the rest of the day as a memento from Paddy.

Iceland is a beautiful place for these horses to call home.

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