Thursday, November 17, 2016

My Icelandic Horse Riding Experience In Reykjavik

I wasn’t really a big fan of horse riding due to a damaging childhood experience— falling down from the back of a horse (an fully grown, adult horse!) at the age of 9. I heard that Icelandic horses are different from regular horses, most importantly their size and personality and I've seen pictures of them, so I was convinced to give horseback riding another chance. 
horse riding iceland

I browsed Tripadvisor for the best company to do horse riding with and decided to go with Islenski Hesturinn. I booked an evening riding session seamlessly via email and communication was prompt and clear. On the day of the activity, we were picked up on time by a clearly marked white van. The drive to the stables located in the outskirt of Reykjavik took merely 10 minutes. 

We were greeted warmly at the door by Begga, our instructor. From the first moment on, Begga's cheerful and upbeat character shined through. She introduced us to Icelandic horse riding, giving us a talk on the basics and safety by using a milk churn as the 'horse'. Her wonderful sense of humor made the serious talk light-hearted and entertaining. I was a little nervous because I have never been near a horse since the accident... The fact that there were a lot of experienced riders in my group did not help either. However, Begga's passion for horse riding was infectious, I found myself looking forward to the experience more than ever.  

It was drizzling that evening. Before the ride, we were provided with coats, pants, boots, gloves and helmets. The staff was very attentive in choosing the perfect sizes for us, making sure that our helmets fit properly. Safety was their prime concern. 
Note: you are not allowed use your own used riding gear in order to protect the native horse population from foreign equine disease.
horse riding iceland
When it was finally time to meet our horses, Begga took the time to assign the horses based on our experiences. I was introduced to Sól (in Icelandic: the sun) and was given time to bond with her. It was clear to me that all the horses were well taken cared of and well trained. My horse Sól was particularly sweet and Begga taught us how to handle the reins to ensure good communication with the horses. She even taught us to give the horses a back massage in order to encourage them. 
Interesting fact:  We were told that riders can mount from either side because why not, horses do have 2 sides! I tried the "other side" and it worked, so Hello from the other side~ (*Adele's song playing in the background.)
horse riding Reykjavik
During the actual ride, Begga led the team in front and she had 3 girls at the back taking care of the group. Although the Icelandic horses were very easy to maneuver, it was relieving to have more people looking after you. They reminded everyone from time to time about the correct sitting position and you know it was really helpful for a novice like myself. I was put at ease throughout the ride and I am actually impressed with my ability to keep up with the group (patting myself on the back!)
horse riding iceland
horse riding Reykjavik
Our ride through the lava field was incredible, the view along the trail was simply out of this world. The rain at the beginning of our tour actually worked up to our advantage. The moisture kept the dust from flying all over the place as our horses walked by. Begga explained the geology of the area to us and we were taught to carry out the legendary "tolt" gait, which is a one of a kind typical gait for Icelandic horses. For that, we sat deep into the saddle and let our horses do the rest (they know the drills.) During the ride, I witness the playful side of Sól as she kept pushing her friends away with her head.   
horse riding Reykjavik
The ride last for an hour and a half. Sad that it ended just as I started to get the hang of it! Our horses were allowed a good roll as we watched from the other side of the fence. 
Islenski Hesturinn
You do not need to weigh yourselves down with photo equipment because they take photos of the group during the excursion. We were given equal opportunity to pose for individual photos with the beautiful the lava fields as the backdrop. The reason they don't encourage bringing along cameras are, they want you to focus on the experience itself rather than managing the camera during the ride. They took our emails at the end of the tour and sent us our pictures using dropbox in a month time. 
iceland horse
Hands down, Islenski Hesturinn was the highlight of my trip to Iceland! I'd happily  repeat the tour if I get the chance. 

See you again, Sól!  
icelandic horse

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Miss Happy Feet was a guest of Islenski Hesturinn. However, all photos and opinion are as always, my own. 

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