First Day in Iceland
We landed on a cold and rainy day in early September and drove to our hotel - The Viking Village with no idea what we were going to do. The man at the check-in counter - who we later learned was called "The Number One Viking" looked at the pamphlets I had selected from the rack a few minutes earlier and asked us if we wanted him to call and get us on a horse riding trip that afternoon... with pick up at the hotel. Nothing sounded better short of the nap we planned until that time since we had been on an overnight flight.
The little van that picked us up had been to several other hotels to pick others up and we were the last stop. The driver asked us how "The Number One Viking" was doing and we then realized that probably everyone around Hafnarfjörður probably knows each other. The ride to Íshestar was about five minutes and we went into a nice sitting area that had a bar and a gift shop. We were outfitted with properly fitted boots and helmets and given a horse. When I looked at the horse I realized - "Oh - a pony" being it about 13 hands high, short furry ears, thick coated with a luxurious mane and tail and clearly surefooted and agile on the rough terrain. As soon as I spoke the word pony - I was corrected that these are horses because they "work". My uncle had a pony to do work on his farm so I know ponies work but I chose not to say so and would ask my friend who has horses when I got back what the truth of the matter was. The same person who told me it was a pony told me the piles of rocks were made by trolls. Could be true! I don't know everything.
The Icelandic is the only horse in the entire country. There are about 90,000 living in Iceland and if one leaves to compete outside of the country, they are never allowed to return. They are a great to try if you are afraid of other horses due to their size (We were taller than ours on this trip) and The Icelandics are known for their good behavior. We found them very easy to ride compared to all others in our limited experience and found them to be very loving.
We did an hour long trip and about half way we rested while they divided us into the "I want to go slow" group and the "I want to gallop" group. It is usually pretty obvious who wants to be in which group already - like the guy who told his horse to behave and not to eliminate waste while he was riding it. He was full of funny lines and I had grown fond of his comments to his horse, but he left to "lead" the slow group "from behind" to a safe return while we joined the galloping group.
The guide we got was really interesting to talk to once we got beyond my faux pas about calling the equine a pony and there is nothing equivalent to the feeling of flight in a gallop when neither you nor the horse is touching the earth. After riding the Icelandic Horse (or Icelandic Pony where I live) I will forever have this beast as my favorite of the entire equine family. Their spirit is kind and gentle and take direction very easily. An absolute pleasure to ride, I look forward to finding a pair of our own once we retire.