Icelandic Pace Horses &
Riding Pace in
A few summers ago I rode a pace horse in
thing that I have ever done. I was being hosted
my visit to
and his family. I had arrived a month before their
national horse show, The Landsmot when my
host along with his father and brother were well in the
middle of the process of conditioning and training
horses for the qualifications prior to Landsmot.
In their stables they keep about 45
horses in for training, about 15 of them stallions
being worked with for presentation at breeding
shows. Innocent to the matter as I first arrived, it
turns out that these are several of the highest
and qualified horses in
My host, Baddi is very methodical and
dedicated in his riding. During my visit, I tagged
along with him and I would just go through the
daily work with him of riding horses. With great
clarity of mind and purpose, Baddi along with
the help of his family and others systematically
ride through the horses they keep in for training.
At that point in the summer the work
load was divided such that Baddi exclusively
attended to the riding of the so-called Landsmot
horses of the stable and the rest of us would ride
the other horses accordingly. Everyone in this
stable work deferred to Baddi's mastery as rider
and trainer with the Landsmot horses being his
In addition to the daily routine of
schooling and riding, twice or three times a week
all the horses of the stable except the stallions were taken out for
schooling rides through the countryside where all
the horses were driven freely in a herd along the
way. For these rides, the horses of the stable
where gathered together as we all would prepare
our riding mounts. Then off we would all go
driving the group of 20 or 25 horses down the
road and then off on the trail-ways which run all over
At one point on one of these rides, I
was issued one of Baddi's pace horses to ride. I
was told to work the horse by varying its gaits with
trot as we went along. We skirted around town
by trail-ways, dropped down into the valley and
then crossed a river with the herd. Eventually the
track we were riding on left the bank of the river
and climbed the walls of the valley we were in.
Riding along we all worked to keep the loose
herd moving along together. As riders we were split.
Some of us riding out in front of the lead horses of the herd
and others riding behind cowboy-ing the main body
of the herd keeping any stragglers from sneaking off.
At one point the trail traversed a mountainside
pasture that had sheep and other loose horses in
it. At that point, things exploded for us with some
of our herd boiling down the mountain to check
out the other loose herd of horses in the pasture.
As riders we
all split with some of us continuing along with
some of our herd up the trail to use the remaining herd as a magnet to draw our other horses along from the field.
Behind us, Baddi and
his brother Heimer charged down the mountain
shouting wildly to split our horses off from the
other loose horses of the pasture.
We all eventually re-gathered our herd on the trail
at the far end of that mountain pasture where we let
them out through the gate there.
Quickly as riders, we divided
who would lead the herd out and then who would drive
from behind. I knew the horse I had was reliable
and would stand with me as I closed up the gate
behind the herd, as it left. So I stayed behind with the gate. We split up and off the herd
moved up along the trail.
I had hopped down from my horse and
went to closing up the gate while off the herd and
everyone else went, as I fiddled with the gate.
Once the gate was closed up
and when I turned around they were all entirely
Anyone who knows the necessity of the
herd instinct knows the compelling situation I was left
in, standing there with my horse watching the end
of our herd disappear.
I took and turned my horse towards the
gate I had just closed, gathered up my reins and
mounted quickly as I could with both feet hitting
the stirrups and my seat in the saddle. Carefully I
wheeled my horse around and started off after
the tail of the herd which was fast disappearing
about a mile in my front. I bolted along trotting a
bit and then took to cantering for a few strides
after the herd, where I then downshifted my horse,
converting over to a pace where we rocketed, in
warp drive, up that trail after the herd.
The pace in that horse was blazingly
fast. My beard had split in the wind and was flapping
back we were going so fast! Tearing along on this mountain trail, eyes tearing from the speed,
I had the clear distinct thought going in my mind, "I am most
certainly going to die right here pacing
break neck with speed across this mountain!"
However; then again, it was so fluid, so fast and smooth that I
next came to my senses in a moment and realized that
this pace indeed will be the way to heaven!
We closed on that herd in about a
nanno-second and then it was over. I then sat
there disappointed that the ride was over!
I learned that pacing like that on a horse like that sets a standard that is hard to beat.
It has become an acquired taste of life that some day I will go back for!