I made it to Iceland a few years ago. An incredible country; thinly
populated with beautiful volcanic landscape covered by... horses! In Iceland there are horses everywhere The
ratio of horses to people is about one horse for every two or three
Icelanders. There are stables and fields of horses everywhere that there
are people. There are tracks along roads and highways
everywhere. Trails criss-cross the fjords and
disappear up the valleys to remote places that
are beautiful beyond description.
It is a special place with its combination of remoteness, natural beauty
and its horses. Not that I have fallen over the edge of the world up
there; however, in my tour, I have certainly been smitten by Iceland!
I lived for more than a month on that visit in Iceland hosted by two different horsemen during my visit.
Both are full time professional horse people. One, Hrodmar
Bjarnason owns a horse trekking or tour business
called Eldhestar which outfits wilderness tours mainly
for foreigners. http://www.eldhestar.is/ The other is one of Iceland's top horseman, a man named Baldvin
Ari Gudlaugsson. He
rides and trains top breeding and competition horses in Iceland and is well known and respected for his talent and his
horses. He owns and shows a number of the best horses in Iceland.
In staying with Baldvin Ari
during the summer months of June and July, I tagged along in his shadow and
went with him to his work with horses each day. He keeps a stable of
about 15 stallions that we would ride and 30 mares and geldings also in his
training. His work is quite a systematic process of riding through the
list of horses. Many of the horses are younger promising horses that he
is presenting at shows to finish them as top rated horses. In the end, these
horses then get sold and exported to horseman, typically in Europe who are looking for good horses. The stallions that he has
in his care go through the same process as the other saddle horses but several
of them stay with him for longer where the breeding is sold from them also as a
livelihood for him. He kept then at least four of the top rated stallions
that are in Iceland. They are truly noteworthy animals, brilliant in
movement, powerful, yet distinctly noble in character.
As part of the training and conditioning, every few days they take a herd of 20
or 30 horses and drive them along up into the mountains stopping at staged
corrals along the way to rest and trade mounts before continuing. We started
one evening around 7:00 and rode
under the midnight sun until 1:00am,
leaving the horses up in a mountain pasture to rest for that day. The
following day we then went back and drove them back down to the stables... all
the time riding through this beautiful landscape which rises straight up from
the sea to snow capped mountains with waterfalls and rivers running through it
Such a life they live!
Living on caffeine, at night, I was able to attend a national conference on
Icelandic culture that by luck was held this month while I was there. Every
night there was folk music, choral, orchestra, folk dance etc which I jumped
into. It was great fun and I met a number of Icelandic people this
way. Of course I was the odd American at these events; however, they were
humored by my participation.
One night a radio interviewer came through and my Icelandic friends pointed him
towards me. For about 2 moments I was famous on their national radio!
I was in Akureyri in the North for most of my
trip. Towards the end, I joined my wife, Jennifer and our kids and several
friends back in the south near Reykjevik for a week
of horse trekking with our friend's tour company Eldhestar.
In timing, the horse tour then ended in the north again in time for Iceland's biannual national horse competition which we were then
able to watch.
For a nation full of horseman, this show was like a calling
to Mecca for the faithful as Icelanders came from all directions to
encamp on the plains of Eyjafjordur to revel in their
Summer is a glorious time to be in Iceland. Iceland is such a clear and vital place. It is a place where all
the elemental forms of nature are lively and pure right there in their natural
landscape. Humidity in the pleasant summer of the north, unlike home
here, is not the problem!
My salute home for that summer became: "summer regards to all you hot
stuffy friends and family from this cool and pleasant north!"
Jennifer ride and keep a herd of Icelandic horses at their farm in Fairfield, Iowa.