If you think you see a group of ponies wandering through nature, look again! They are horses – Icelandic horses to be precise and Icelanders get really offended if you call them ponies. The Icelandic comes in so many colours and shapes, there is a favourite for everyone! And with their friendly faces and soft and cuddly fur, it’s hard not to fall in love.
The Icelandic Horse Breed
The Icelandic horse is a hardy horse that often gets pretty old for a horse. This is also because there are only a few diseases in Iceland that could infect the horses on the Island. To prevent that this situation changes, a law was introduced stating that no horses may be imported to the country. This also includes Icelandic horses born and raised in Iceland that leave the country. Once a horse left Iceland it is never allowed to return to its soil ever again.
A special thing about the Icelandic horse is not just their super cute looks. The Icelandic displays two additional gaits that most other horses don’t. Next to walk trot and canter, the Icelandic horse can also show pass (walking like a camel) and tölt (the legs move like o dogs when he is swimming).
Especially the tölt is very comfortable and quite fast which is great if you want to cover great distances on horseback. This makes the Icelandic horse popular also abroad. It is not only used for traditional sheepherding work, but also for showing and racing – and leisure, of course.
Horse Trekking in Iceland
Many tourists come to Iceland to not only visit the breath-taking nature but also to explore it on horseback. And we did, too! We joined a horse trek for 10 days through the Icelandic wilderness. What is special about these long tours is that you do not travel with your own horse, but with a whole herd of horses. As carrying around people all day would be too heavy, you change horses a couple of times during the day.
Travelling on horseback is one of the most relaxing holidays I have spent in my life. Even though riding a horse can be strenuous at times, the calmness and friendliness of the horses makes you feel warm and welcome. You have to completely adjust to the rhythm of the horse – the horse needs a snack, some water or just a break to relax? You make a stop (and get a little snack yourself). As it feels like the sun in Iceland never sets it is very easy to lose track of time. Moreover, when you travel by horse, you can reach places you would otherwise never see. We went through areas in which cars are prohibited, on foot it would have taken forever to get there, and biking would not be possible. So if you are looking to escape from reality for a while, the Icelandic wilderness is the way to go: no people, no cell phone reception, just natures beauty and a furry friend!
Fun fact: The horse is also important in Icelandic mythology: Sleipnir is the grey, eight-legged horse of Odin and is described as the best of all horses, that takes Odin to hel (the place we go after death according to the myths) and back while he is still alive.