When Chris asked me what I wanted to do in Iceland, the only thing I said was “HORSE-RIDING!”.
Yes, the block capitals were necessary!
I’ve been riding horses since I was a child (make your Irish pikey jokes now – I’m half Irish!) so naturally, the idea of horse riding in Iceland was something I was extremely excited about.
So what’s so special about Icelandic horses?
They are sturdy, well-tempered and relatively small horses – honestly, some of them would be more aptly classed as ponies! What’s most interesting about them is that they have two extra gaits. [Chris – I had no clue what this meant either!]
Most horses walk, trot, canter and gallop – however, the Icelandic pony has two extra speed settings; tölt and valhopp. I didn’t get to experience the valhopp, but the tölt seems to be a strange mix of canter and trot…apparently it’s the quickest way to cover ground. Essentially it had the speed of a canter, but was as bumpy as a sitting trot.
Either way, it was a tad harsh on the lady parts!
Now, the important part, the trip!
Chris had arranged for me to go on an intermediate level hot springs day trip run by Eldhestar – this meant six hours in the saddle.
Having not really ridden since I moved to the UK, two years ago, I feared for my posterior and I was also sceptical about the term “intermediate”.
I’ve been on treks before that had been classed as intermediate, and I found them much closer to a beginner standard than I would have liked. That aside, having accepted my fate of sore buns, I started my trip at 8.15am on Friday morning greeted by the Eldhestar hotel/hostel pick up service.
Once I arrived I met my group and my guide, Camille. There are lockers to store any valuables and I was also given the option of wearing some of their standard issue waterproof coats and trousers. These were bright orange and made us look like a group of escaped convicts and after careful consideration, I opted for just the trousers!
It’s actually not necessary to be all kitted out in proper riding gear – most of us wore jeans or leggings with runners or boots.
After were we dressed Camille took us out to the paddock and asked us about our riding experience. My group ranged from no experience whatsoever to twenty years in the saddle so it was quite a mixed bunch which mad eke feel better having not ridden for a while.
We were then introduced to our horses – Pegasus was the name of my extremely chilled little horse and after a short test ride around the paddock we were given a quick talk about safety and then it was time to head off on our adventure…
Iceland On Horseback
We pretty much broke straight into a tölt and kept this up for the majority of the trip – we flew through rivers and over mountains, past geysers and hot springs, but slowly enough to snap heaps of pictures!
The further up the mountain we got the more precarious the trail was and if you aren’t into heights, I’d choose a different trip!
But for me it was exactly what I wanted; fun, exciting terrain covered at a good speed, combined with breath taking views.
Once we got to the top we dismounted and tucked into the included lunch which tasted pretty amazing after a few hours in the saddle.
During this rest stop we also had the option of changing into our swimwear and hopping into the natural hot springs. When I did eventually sit myself down in the heat of the springs it was heavenly.
I almost believed that I might not ache from the waist down the next day, ALMOST!
After forty minutes at the springs we saddled up and headed back down the mountain again. The trip back was relatively uneventful, that was, until we got to the river…
The wind picked up and spooked one of the horses. Mild chaos ensued!
One girl was thrown from her horse (don’t worry, she was fine as she didn’t have far to fall!) and said horse then proceeded to swing around and charge directly towards me and Pegasus causing several other horses to spook in the process.
Luckily for me Pegasus could not have been less interested – he simply stuck his head down and munched some grass until things calmed down!
Minutes later everyone was back on their horses and despite a few bruised egos it was all good.
After winding through the landscape and rivers back to the stables it was back to walking on my own two feet again. I was sad to say goodbye to Pegasus but the bathroom was a welcome sight…the Icelandic countryside does not lend itself to outdoor toilet breaks – not a bush in sight!
Overall it was an amazing day trip and I’d highly recommend it.
It did not disappoint me with regards to being an intermediate trip – the horses were lovely, the staff were great and the scenery was amazing. If you want to explore the gorgeous Icelandic landscape in a different way or simply love horses it’s one to add to the bucket list for sure.
And yes, if you must know, I was pretty damn sore the next day – but it was totally worth it!
This is a guest article by the Tara – aka the Povester – for two reasons…firstly I was off diving and couldn’t fit this day trip in during my Iceland trip with her and secondly – I’m terrified of horses! I just don’t trust them!hahaha!
**PLEASE NOTE – Tara received a complimentary Icelandic Horse Back Day Trip courtesy of Eldhestar, but rest assured all opinions are honest and her own**