Iceland

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Lytingstadir (2011, 2012, 2013)

In July 2011 we finally did what most Icelandic horse enthusiast would probably like to do, that is, we put aside the warnings about a possible eruption of some big volcano and flew over the North Atlantic sea to spend a whole week riding Icelandic horses in Iceland. Our destination was Lytingstadir stable (also in Facebook) in Nort-Western Iceland, from where we would depart on all-day long treks on most days, and on one two day trek that would take us away from the farm to spend a night on a fell. Here are two videos from those days on Youtube:  Day 2 and Clips from the week.

With Heidar in Lytingstadir, July 2011

The riding holiday was a great success and it convinced both us and our hosts that we would have the required ridings skills to do The Highland Tour, a week long riding trek with a herd of horses next year.

Well, that is what we did, and I have to say that the 6-day tour we started in the end of July 2012 off to the highlands with a group of 17 riders and 59 horses became my most wonderful riding experience ever. The six unforgettable horses I rode during the journey – Von, Heira, Freysting, Dynur, Stjarni, and Ósk – were all wonderful characters with good and even better gaits, eager, forward going and well balanced in the demanding terrain. On this tour we really had to ride our own horses to herd the others, and it gave me a chance, for the first time, to forget about about my hands and legs and achieve a sense of being one with my horse, a sense of it moving with power of my though.

With Freysting, my “apache horse” mare, controllable by thought.
The herd following behind us
The group of riders about to start day 5

Lysuholl (2013)

On our third summer vacation trip to Iceland in 2013 we wanted to do something different from the previous trips, and we came up with the idea of riding on the seaside. Therefore, in addition to the Higland Tour of Lytingstadir in nort-western Iceland, which we had already booked, we enrolled on a one-week horse trekking holiday in Lysuholl, Snaefellsnes on the west coast (see Lysuholl on Internet and Facebook). Booking the week was really easy and straight forward as only a couple of emails was needed to sort it all out, and no advance payments was required. This already gave us a impression of Lysúholl being run by warm and trusting people, and it proved correct when we finally met the Icelandic hosts, Agnar and Johanna.

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On the first day of the ride we visited Budir further north and returned to the farm.

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Lars came behind the rest of us with two hand-horses while Agnar was leading with another two. Some days there was an extra hand-horse held by an extra guide.

That one week holiday could not have been lovelier in any respect: we had the loveliest weather, most beautiful scenery, really good horses and a great bunch of riders. The riding took place mainly on the beaches during low tide, so the daily rides had to start and end according to a shifting time table. We did not have a free running herd of horses with us, but Agnar and Lars, our guides, always had 4-5 hand horses in case someone needed to switch. The ride proceeded from west to east along the beach, and in the end of each day we left the horses on some farm on the route, while a minibus took us to Lysúholl for the night and brought us back to the horses the next day.

When we returned to Lysúholl there was a lovely dinner waiting, made by Johanna, who is an excellent cook. After the meal we could discuss the day’s adventures on the balcony of our shared holiday cottage, watching the beautiful lanscape and having a beer or a glass of wine, and then retire to our double rooms and curl up for the night under down duvets in our comfortable beds.

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On the final home-bound stretch on the beach Agnar showed us how fast he could make his 17-year old gelding tolt, and it was so fast indeed, that the rest of us could only keep up with gallop.

Saltvik (2014)

In July 2014 we wanted to see more of the northern and eastern Iceland and booked a one week riding tour called The Diamond Circle in Hestamiðstöðin Saltvík. After the tour we intended to drive back to Reykjavik via the eastern coast with our friend who would come and pick us from the farm with her car.

On Monday, July 7th, we embarked on an internal flight from Reykjavik to Húsavik along with some other people who looked as if they were there for the same reason as us, riding. After flying 55 minutes over spectacular sceneries, low enough to distinguish the lakes, rivers, houses and almost the horses and sheep as well, welanded on the Húsavik airport. Bjarni, the host and the guide of the tour, was waiting for us, welcomed each of us heartily with a smile and a big hug, and took us to Saltvik in a minibus. On the farm Elsa, the hostess, and the rest of the team were waiting for us to show us to our rooms in which we would sleep most nights. The herd of horses that would be with us throughout the tour, would stay on different farms along the way.

The first part of the ride started soon after the lunch. We put on our riding gear, were given one horse each and then we rode to a range where Bjarni had taken the herd that would come with us the next day. It was indeed an important two hours, as an introduction to and a reminder of the differences between riding Icelandic horses in Finland and Iceland. Well, despite some unintended speed and one unintended gallop by my husband we reached the range unharmed.

The days that followed will remain among the most memorable and enjoyable riding days of my life. We had showed the riding route to an Icelandic farrier whom we happened to meet at an Icelandic horse stable in Finland, and he had told us that we would be going through some of the most beautiful landscapes in Iceland. And that definitely held true! During the rest of the week we rode across rivers, hills and lava fields, around a big lake and through green forests.

Successfully crossing a stream turned surprise river not far from lake Myvatn (©Philip Dean)

Successfully crossing a stream that had turned into a lake not far from lake Myvatn (©Philip Dean)

One small but surprisingly sturdy birch brach even knocked me of the saddle earning me the reputation of “the only person who has ever been attacked by an Icelandic forest”. We made ourselves sandwiches for lunch every day, and each evening we had a delicious dinner. After that it was lovely to have a beer and relax in the hot tub until twilight – it never really got dark in the night.

The final night back at the farm was also a memorable one. After a beautiful farewell dinner Bjarni and his team had arranged us entertainment including singing together, watching photos and videos from the week and, most importantly, a ceremonial dubbing of the group members as Knights of the North!

(All photos in this article ©PhilipDean)

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