In Iceland

Horses Everywhere

 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
 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.   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 all.  
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 horses together.
Summer is a glorious time to be in
IcelandIceland 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!"  

Doug Hamilton

Doug and Jennifer ride and keep a herd of Icelandic horses at their farm in Fairfield, Iowa.