On our second day in Iceland, we went horseback riding at Laxnes Horse Farm, about 30 kilometers out of Reykjavik. Icelandic horses have an interesting history. No horses have been imported from the mainland in over 1000 years, making the breed completely native to Iceland. On top of that, all Icelandic horses have five gaits as supposed to the common four. They have the common gaits: Walk, Trot, Canter, and Gallop, but they all have a fifth gate exclusive to Icelandic horses: Tölt. This gate is completely natural for Icelandic horses and it is a four-beat rhythm. At least one hoof is always touching the ground. They look like they are gliding along the path.
We arrived at the farm early, so we walked around outside and looked at the horses. The horses were eating some type of round bread loaves. A few were kicking them around. It looked like an awfully small amount of food for over 40 horses. So maybe it was just a morning snack!
Most horses we saw are shorter than horses in America. Some could pass as ponies. The shortest were about four feet, and the tallest were about five and a half. They all had large manes that stretched down their neck, and the right side was shaved off of most of them. I’m not entirely sure why, but I think it’s the farm’s way of claiming the horse if it escapes. Some had white markings under their manes, which was unusual in that it looked like alphabet characters.
We were in a group of 21 people riding. The day was overcast and sprinkling, so we got into rain pants and coats to ride. Once everybody dressed in their gear, and mounted the horses, we took off. I cannot remember my horse’s name immediately after I was told. It was like most things in the Icelandic language: long, hard to pronounce, harder to spell.
My horse was great; he would always keep up with the group and he ran up to the front a few times. We rode on dirt trails for the majority of the ride, with one road crossing. The first half of the ride was spent walking through uninhabited green fields in the countryside. Whereas the second half was spent going up a mountain next to a river.
The entire time I felt like I was in a Lord of the Rings movie, and we were the Hobbits, riding on our ponies through Middle-Earth. Eventually, after about two miles, all horses stopped so we could take a break overlooking the gorge with the river. This view was breathtaking. Of course I had seen views like this before but the fog rolling over the hills made it so much more surreal. Eventually we had to head back to the farm. Just going on dirt paths in reverse, but the views were surreal as ever. For my first time riding a horse, this was an excellent experience.