Riding Icelandic Horses, Training and Spiritual Connection


   Eidfaxi, the glossy breed magazine from Iceland had an interesting article which had good descriptions of this thing about training riding horses. http://www.eidfaxi.is/


The larger article is about a German horseman who wrote a Manuel for riding that was published in Iceland at the beginning of the 20th Century.  These paragraphs of description I thought speak to the point of getting contact with competitive horses that might not be listening.  It’s a bad feeling being in a charge with a horse that does not have its head but instead has taken the bit and gone on.  Damn.




Schrader, 1913


“There must be an emotional link between horse and man for the horse to be kept lively and, as it were, in spiritual contact with his rider.  This link is established through the reins and bits that connect the horse’s mouth and the rider’s hand.  By the concept of empathy is meant the feeling for the horse’s mouth, especially the jaws, on the part of the rider manifested by his maintaining a light grip on the reins as communicated to the horse through the bits and, on the part of the horse, its sensing n the mouth of the feather-light touch of the rider’s hand.  It is imperative for the attainment of genuine empathy for a soft, light, yet firm rider’s hand to be matched by a soft and flexible horse’s mouth, but neither condition can be realized unless the rider is seated firmly and calmly in the saddle.


A delicate sense of empathy between horse and man is the rider’s greatest satisfaction, however fleeting it may be.  The bits will then comfortably impact the horse’s jaws, and the horse will have a serene look in its eyes, as if it were being scratched or stroked, and it will play at chewing on the bits, biting them lightly before letting go of them.


Meanwhile the rider must not pull on the reins.  As soon as the horse responds to the bits with its jaws in light and soft fashion, grips them and lets them go again, the rider must ease the reins a little, but just a little, while letting the horse chew on the bits if it wants to, but the rider must still hold the reins tight enough so that he can feel every motion of the horse’s mouth…


Among riders, there are some who use their hands roughly, softly, or heavily, and others who have no grip on the reins.  The first group holds the reins with a grip that is too firm, inflexible, and hard, the horse fights against the bits, feels pain, and becomes hard to steer….



…While the farmers are unloading their produce or exchanging them for other goods in town and going about their business, these gentle horses stand un-tethered, motionless, and hang their heads, alone or in a group, for hours on end in front or in back of the shops or else in special holding pens.  And though the horses are well nourished during summer and fall, and don’t seem worn out, they are rather sullen and drowsy in appearance.  However, as soon as the rider is in the saddle, they come alive, and relative to their size, they don’t have their equals with respect to endurance and carrying capacity.  And it is fair to say that the horses are the best thing Iceland has to offer.”