Oh, To Be A Cowboy

Oh, To Be A Cowboy

Experiencing the unbridled joy of riding Icelandic horses

Ah, Iceland — the land of dragons and frozen deserts, where you can experience snow and sunshine in the same day. And if you’re feeling adventurous, why not explore this mythical land on the back of an Icelandic horse? These bad boys have been around since the days of the Vikings, resulting in a breed that has perfectly adapted over the centuries to withstand the island’s brutal weather and natural conditions. They’re basically the Bear Grylls of horses.

But it’s not just their thick coat that makes them awesome — they have loveable personalities, too. These horses are like the cool kids in high school that everyone loves. They’re friendly, chilled out and always down for a good time. Plus, they’ve got some pretty sick moves up their sleeves. They’re capable of performing gaits that are unique to their breed, like the tölt — a smooth four-beat gait where the horses seem to glide onward effortlessly — and the flying pace, which make them perfect for long-distance rides.

Offered the chance to ride these majestic creatures, I was all in. Armed with a cup of coffee (because, let’s face it, caffeine is life), I headed to the Eldhestar stable just outside Reykjavík with my trusty colleague Art in tow. The weather wasn’t exactly on our side, but we didn’t let that dampen our spirits. We were outfitted with helmets and bright orange mackintoshes (because rain is always a possibility in Iceland), while an Eldhestar employee gave us a quick lesson on how to handle the horses. Every group was assigned a guide. Rahel, a German twenty-something living her dream for two months, was ours.

A motley crew

Our little gang consisted of four people of varying experience levels, so we couldn’t ride too fast or too slow. But that was fine by me — I was happy to take my time and soak up the scenery. We alternated between the tölt and stride as we rode through the beautiful landscapes, feeling like we were in our very own Lord of the Rings adventure. I have to admit, the tölt took some time getting used to — it felt at first like I was bouncing on a trampoline, but I soon got the hang of it and felt like a total boss in the saddle.

My colleague, on the other hand, was dead set on living out his wildest cowboy fantasies. He was so determined to go faster that I half expected him to go full John Wayne and let out a bellowing YEEHAW at any moment. I think maybe he watched too many Western movies as a kid. While Art’s cowboy aspirations went unfulfilled, we all had a blast. I tried to practice my German with the guide as we rode, while my colleague and the Americans chatted away at the back. But honestly, who needs conversation when you’ve got scenery like this? It was breathtaking.

As we made our way up the mountains, the path became steeper and muddier, but the horses were troopers. Our guide regaled us with stories of the geological features we passed, like one rock that would bring either luck or misfortune depending on the music you heard in its presence. And at the top of the hill, we even got a photo op with a mountain in the shape of a heart. My colleague finally got his wish and got to gallop up a steep hill, while I tried to keep up with an American girl in our group who was suddenly a pro rider. It was like she’d been born on a horse, while my colleague looked like a newborn foal trying to stand up for the first time.

All in all, it was an unforgettable experience. Riding an Icelandic horse through the stunning countryside is like nothing else on earth. It’s a little bit like flying, a little bit like dancing and a lot like pure joy. So if you ever find yourself in Iceland, do yourself a favour and go for a ride on one of these amazing creatures. Who knows, you might just find your new best friend. It only costs you 448.953 krona (horse not included) to bring it back home with you.

This tour was provided by Eldhestar. All opinions are those of the author.

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