You’re never too old to yell “HORSES!” when you spot them from a car in the countryside. For me, it’s one thing to admire Icelandic horses from afar. Riding them, however, is a whole different story. I’ve never been on a horse before, nor have I had a big interest in doing so, but when you’re in Iceland it’s one of those things you have to experience. Icelandic horses are like the Cadillac of stallions—they’re strong, they have five different gaits (two of which are found in no other horse), and they look super adorable in their winter coat. Don’t you want to brag to your friends that you got to ride an exclusive horse?
We make our way to the riding range, Eldhestar (meaning “Volcano Horse”), which is located just outside Hveragerði, a 40 minute drive from Reykjavík. Horseback riding is the perfect activity when you want to get away from the city but don’t want to spend ages in a car, and the tour itself is only two hours long. Eldhestar also offers a wide selection of tours that include riding and another activity, such as rafting, glacier walking, or visiting a hot spring. Whatever activity you’re looking for, they’ve got it.
Eldhestar also has as a cosy hotel, with colourful decor reminiscent of Icelandic nature and inspired by Icelandic horses. If you’d like to try multiple tours, you don’t have to worry about driving back and forth; you can just stay overnight.
For your own safety, you don’t get to pick which horse you ride. Depending on your level of experience, a trained guide will choose the appropriate horse for you. Since I’m a rookie I requested the slowest one. I was paired with Hegri, a beautiful cream-coloured horse that never goes faster than you want him too. Our tour guide, Sarah Wiesner, informed me that he’s very well behaved and never gets into any trouble—perfect for a new rider.
The trip begins with a short tutorial on the basics of horseback riding. You’re shown how to mount, how to arrange your feet in the stirrups, how to signal for the horse to stop and go, and how to dismount. It’s a little scary at first, especially if you don’t have the best balance, but you’re given a few minutes to adjust to your horse and get the feel of being on top of a huge animal.
Once everyone is ready to go, the trip begins. Despite my initial reservations it was a relaxing and therapeutic experience passing through stunning volcanic hills and valleys on horseback. The backdrop of nature definitely makes the ride more enjoyable, and the scenery alone makes you forget your fear of losing balance and falling on your face.
Shortly after the tour begins, there’s a river crossing. This is probably the scariest part of the tour because the last thing you want is to fall into a stream! However, once you cross, you kind of feel like a 9th century Viking. We trotted along at a steady but moderate pace. Occasionally the guide, Sarah, would encourage us to pick up speed, which kept it exciting.
Since I’m completely new to horseback riding, the position of my foot and angle of my back were off at times, which resulted in a very sore body, so make sure you listen to your guide. The ride can be bumpy—even a little agonizing if you aren’t use to riding. Two hours is more than enough time to become acquainted with your horse, and when you arrive back at the stable, you’ll already be looking forward to another ride.
Trip provided by: eldhestar.is