Icelandic Pace Horses &

Riding Pace in Iceland:

 

A few summers ago I rode a pace horse in

Iceland that was probably the most exhilarating

thing that I have ever done.  I was being hosted

in my visit to Iceland by an Icelandic horseman

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

evaluated and qualified horses in Iceland.  

 

            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

especial prerogative.

 

            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

Iceland.

             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

ala "Man from Snowy Mountain" riding and

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

gone.  Gone! 

 

            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!

 

Doug Hamilton