Where's Dariel? – Travel Blog

Horseback Riding in Iceland

horseback riding in iceland

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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!

horseback riding in iceland

Awww… look at those eyes ( I mean his!)

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!

horseback riding in iceland

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.

horseback riding in Iceland

Guide talking (it was sleeting!)

horseback riding in iceland

My friend – in the distance – with her horse who had a mind of his own 🙂

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.

horseback riding in Iceland

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!

horseback riding in Iceland

Last photo!

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.

Check this out for other things you can do in Iceland!  

24 thoughts on “Horseback Riding in Iceland

  1. J,T

    The ride looks like so much fun (excluding the snow bit :P)! I would love to try that too if i get to visit Iceland!

    One thing i have learned about horses is that they are very smart. More so than dogs and cats, they know who they can “bully” and know what they can “get away with” when the rider is new-ish, which resulted in your friend’s horse wandering off, that naughty, naughty horse :p

  2. Monique

    What a beautiful tour! I’ll definitely recommend this to my friend who just booked a flight to Iceland to go horse riding. I love horses, too – they are amazing. I guess I jusT can’t stand the cold for that long haha.

  3. maniniexp

    What an awesome adventure! I loved seeing all of the horses when I was there last month. We didn’t do a horseback riding tour, though. Can’t wait to go back to Iceland during the summer since it’s such a different place during different seasons!

    1. Dariel Post author

      It should be fun too with more greenery if you go riding in the summer. I’m definitely looking to go back to Iceland when it’s less cold 🙂

  4. Marta S

    Interesting story about how the horses got to Iceland 🙂 I’ll never try it as I’m against keeping animals in captivity, but I’m glad to hear they are taken care of. It must have been funny to see your friend bullied by one of them, I guess 😀

    1. Dariel Post author

      I’m not sure if there are any wild Icelandic horses actually, never cross my mind to ask that question until now 😬

  5. Karen

    What a cool experience! I was in Iceland last year and I admired the horses so much. The ones I saw looked a bit too small to be ridden, but your experience sounds like a lot of fun! Looks like a beautiful setting too.

    1. Dariel Post author

      They could be the same horses! Icelandic horses are typically smaller, some will mistake them as ponies 😆

  6. Gallivant Girl

    How exciting. I recently took the crazy decision of doing a 3-day horse trek despite never having ridden a horse before, and I loved it! I’m hoping to visit Iceland soon, so this is definitely something I’d consider. It looks beautiful in the snow, too.

    1. Dariel Post author

      Wow, that must have been amazing! Would love to try a multi day trekking with a horse one of these days 🙂

  7. Brown Gal Trekker

    I’m not a big fan of riding horses as you’re at their mercy at all time…I tend to walk more 🙂 But these horses look trustworthy enough, I’d even try it out myself. Thanks for the tip!

    1. Dariel Post author

      Haha I know what you mean. But yah, these horses are quite different from the others I have seen so far, do give them a chance! 🙂

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