The Icelandic horse apparently has a rare fifth gait: the tolt
, a way they can move fast without losing contact with the ground, creating a very smooth ride. But I think you have to be a trained and experienced horserider to either appreciate what this means exactyl or coax a horse to show the gait off. In the meantime this first time horse rider had quite the bouncy ride, but still very pleasurable.
The tallest Icelandic horse I saw couldn't have been more than 6 feet tall, and this made them much more appealing and approachable to me. For a first time horse rider, the ability to cover more ground is an awe-inspiring advantage to riding over a country with such rough and sweeping vistas as Iceland has. On the other hand, paying careful attention to the horse also seems like the overwhelmingly important first order of business. So waterfalls and mountains that I would have oohed and ahhed over on a hike or from the windows of a car sped by, were instead somewhat charming and unheeded. Nevertheless I was very pleasantly surprised at how easy and pleasant the riding was. But just as I was getting quite pleased with myself for choosing to go horse riding on the dryest day of the trip, we came up to a creek. It rushed healthily, about two feet deep and twenty feet across. I admired it as one who plans to walk, respectfully, alongside
the gush of icy water.
Then the leader hop-hopped her horse in and all ours began to follow. "Dammit," I thought, "There really is nothing you can do outside in Iceland without getting thoroughly wet." But it wasn't so hard, and my horse was deceptive in his shortness--only the barest splash dampened my jeans. We had been instructed how to slow the horse down, and get him to turn left and right with the reins, but my horse seemed to know what to do and whom to follow, and I wasn't too offended when he didn't particularly obey me. I figured he knew what he was doing better than I did, and that it would be difficult to really turn a horse around on the first day.
So then we came to the tenth or twelfth stream-crossing and all of a sudden my horse didn't go into the water, he just went alongside the path. Eek! I thought. I had to get him back to the crossing, but the path alongside was already going up and above the river bank. Not the time to try to teach myself how to jump. So I tugged on the reins to turn him around--and he followed and spun around in a neat circle and went back to the crossing and made it, in a smooth motion. I haven't felt so cinematic in quite a while.
Saheli on an chestnut Icelandic gelding, named something like Flokka (the Danish horse hand I was with was new to the farm and didn't know for sure.) He was supposed to be a very gentle horse, and seemed quite nice. We rode for over two hours.
Earlier than the riding, on the road-trip portion of the trip, we drove along Iceland's southeastern coastal Highway 1. At one point we stopped and fed some horses in a pasture on High way 1. They didn't seem to care about the barbed wire, and were quite eager to taste the grass on the other side of the fence. It does appear to have been greener from their point of view. It was a very windy day.