Toes to the sky & heels down – and off we went: horseback riding in Iceland
How could you stay some weeks in Iceland and not spend time on a horseback? You might think it’s a cliché or some tourist rip-off. Just another stereotype like every Austrian is yodeling, wearing dirndl dresses or knickerbockers and eating Sachertorte, apple strudel and Viennese schnitzel all day long.
But looking at Iceland and horses from a more objective view, there are about 80.000 horses on the island. Actually, this is a huge number compared to its 320.000 inhabitants. Driving along the streets, you see hundreds of them in herds on the meadows. Watching them galloping through the fields makes you feel their freedom and strength. For me, horses are a symbol of wilderness and cliché or not, my decision to take the reins had been made way in advance.
There was just one hitch. My better half had never been horseback riding before. According to the saying ‘there’s always a first time’, I called a stud and booked a 3 hour countryside tour for the next day. I saw his nervousness growing exponentially as we came closer to the farm (of course he would never ever had admitted his excitement). Our guide was a young student who jokingly calmed him down telling him he just needed to somehow stay in the saddle as the horse would do the rest.
After some instructions, we hoisted ourselves into the saddle. In the beginning, we probably looked like a sack of potatoes on the elegant horses, but proudly we started our bumpy ride. We were riding up the mountain, through a river and cross-country. The horses were so well-trained and lovely that we immediately built up trust to our new buddies. Soon, we were slackening the reins, confidently trotting along.
Our guide felt our growing confidence and challenged us going faster and trying out the tölt and galop. Tölt is a speciality of the Icelandic horses, a very pleasant and comfortable four-beat gait. Latest when the horses unerringly had navigated through a pretty deep part of the river (we all came out at the other side with soaking wet shoes), even my sceptical better half had fallen for the charms of the Icelandic horses. Shortly afterwards, we booked the next tour – this time already riding the whole day up to some hot springs. Maybe on our next trip to Iceland, we might expand to a several-days highland tour. Exploring the country on a horseback is joyful and amazing. Definitely, it would be a huge pity if you would miss that experience. Just always remember: Take the reins and keep your toes up and your heels down.