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I am a sucker for horse riding / horseback riding, not as a sport but more for an experience. I tried that in Korea and Hong Kong, but both times we had people leading the horse so it wasn’t all that fun. I’ve been looking for opportunities to do a proper horseback riding again and what better place than in Iceland. I could meet the beautiful Icelandic horses at the same time.
What’s so different about Icelandic horses?
Icelandic horses were first imported from various countries when the first Icelandic settlers sailed from Norway to Iceland. Since they could only bring 2 horses per ship, the best and strongest breeds were selected. When the Icelanders decided to stop importing horses back in the 10th century, the different breeds blended together and formed the Icelandic horse today that have adapted extremely well to the harsh Icelandic conditions.
Although the Icelandic horses are relatively shorter than other horses, please do not call them ponies, as it is an insult! They are strong, patient, docile and adorably friendly to humans so naturally I was even more excited to see these beautiful animals.
Horseback Riding in Iceland – Lava Tour
On the morning of the tour it started to snow accompanied by some pretty strong wind (in our opinions) and we were not sure whether the tour would proceed. With that in mind I called the Iceland Travel office just after 9am to check. The friendly customer service lady was kind enough to call me back on my Singapore mobile number after she made the relevant query and confirmed it was going ahead. Yay!
Our pick-up at Hótel Leifur Eiríksson was right on time and after another couple of stops to fetch the other passengers, we were on our way to Íshestar in Hafnafjörður, about 30 minutes’ drive from Reykjavik.
Upon arrival at Íshestar, we were instructed to find a fitting helmet on the open shelves before they showed us a short but comprehensive introductory cum safety video about the Icelandic horses and how to ride them. We were not allowed to bring our bags or backpacks with us so I decided to leave my DSLR camera in the bag and just use my iPhone. We were then given the choice to put on the overalls available (so as not to dirty our own clothes) or go straight to the stables where one of the staff assigned horses to us. And I met my horse!
We had a big group that day, about 15 maybe. Several of the Íshestar staff helped to put the saddles on the horses and taught us how to get onto them ourselves. Once everyone was ready, our guide commenced our ride on the Lava Tour. The Lava Tour is considered an easy tour for beginners with little or no riding experience – great fit for us. The best thing was, we didn’t have anyone holding on to our horses or leading them, we were in control!
We rode through the snow covered lava fields enjoying the fresh air, my body following the rhythm of my horse’s walk. It was a relaxing ride. Then it started snowing, then sleeting, then back to snowing – unpredictable Icelandic weather! Despite all that, the horses were unfazed, not a wee bit of cold or any discomfort. I, on the other hand, stupidly left my gloves inside my bag and the wind was howling. Luckily the sleeves of the overall on me were long and I was able to use them to cover my freezing hands.
Our guide brought us to an area where we stopped and gave the horses a rest. She took the time to give us some history and facts about the Icelandic horses and horseback riding in Iceland. It was also an opportunity for the guides to remove accumulated snow on the horses’ hoofs so that they could feel the ground better and not lose their footings. The break also served as a photo opportunity but unfortunately my reliable iPhone died after a few shots because of the cold.
Many of the horses used this break to feast too. They would eat the dried grass on the ground and dig through the snow with their hoofs if they couldn’t find any – cute! The problem was the leases were too short and we had to bend over (almost hugging the horse) to let them continue eating. It was actually quite hilarious.
Anyway, following the break we made our way back, at which point the snowing stopped.
Back outside the stable, I was sad to say goodbye to my horse but couldn’t wait to get back inside the waiting area where it would be warm!
I was delighted to see how much the horses were loved and well taken care of through the tour. The horses were lovely, every single one of them and we had a great time with the knowledgeable staff from Íshestar, all thanks to Iceland Travel for providing us with this opportunity! The tour took approximately 4 hours, that’s including the transport to and back Reykjavik with about 1.5-2 hours of riding and I’d highly recommend it.
If you wish to know more about the different tours offered by Iceland Travel, check out this link!
Disclosure: Iceland Travel very kindly provided the complimentary horse riding tours from Íshestar to my friend and I, but rest assured all opinions are my own.