I set out to find the perfect way to meet the unique Icelandic horse that I had heard so much about. I knew I wanted to not only ride these special animals and experience their unique Tölt gait but also spend time learning about them and tour the stables too. When I came across Viking Horses in my research, I found exactly what I was looking for and more!
My Viking Horses Experience
We did the Morning Volcano Tour and since we didn’t have a car, we took advantage of the hotel pickup option and were picked up at 9:30 am by Isabel for the 20-minute drive to the farm.
The Preview: Touring the Stables
Upon arriving, we toured the stables and were greeted by some of the horses. I was so excited to be meeting these beautiful animals!
Most of the horses weren’t shy…in fact, quite the opposite.
They were very curious and inquisitive!
After we saw the stables, we were briefed about the ride and the importance of having proper clothes to ensure our experience was most enjoyable. I swapped my chunky beanie out for a thinner beanie that would cover my ears yet fit under my helmet.
I also took them up on their offer to wear their gloves to save mine from getting dirty. And because I was wearing a long down coat that would make riding a little difficult, I swapped to wearing a short puffer coat of theirs under my own regular length raincoat. Since I was wearing waterproof pants and waterproof hiking boots, I was now ready to go!
I really appreciated the fact that they had clothing options there if you didn’t have the right thing or didn’t want to bring it. This is very smart on the part of Viking Horses not to mention quite convenient!
The Meet and Greet: Meeting my Icelandic Horse
Once we were all properly bundled up, it was time to go into the ring to meet the horse we would be riding.
Because I was the only one in our small group of three who had ever ridden a horse before, I was matched with Drífa. They explained that her name meant “Speedy” in Icelandic. I reiterated that I had ridden a few times before but in no way considered myself a “rider”. But, they assured me she would be easy to ride.
Isabel introducing another rider’s horse
Meet Drífa! Two things I learned about Drífa. One, they said she’d be shy at first and she was. But oh-so-sweet! There’s nothing wrong with shy. It just meant that I would know the exact moment she decided I was friend material. 😉
Second, I learned that Drífa is always ready to go and that she likes to be first, not second. Good to know, since one of our instructions was that we should never pass our guide. Duly noted!
Photo by Lisa Krzysik
I think we make a cute pair, don’t you?
Introducing myself to Drífa / Photo by Lisa Krzysik
I was given the okay to mount and this was my first view atop my first Icelandic horse!
The Main Feature-Riding Icelandic Horses
Kim from Sweden was our guide and she was a great instructor-perfectly patient, energetic and quite friendly. As we started out from the stable, Drífa made sure she and I were the first ones out behind Kim and I just laughed.
They weren’t kidding…sweet, shy girl likes to be first!
The beginning of our riding trail
The ride lasted nearly an hour and a half which I thought was a perfect amount of time. It’s long enough to get a true riding experience, get to know your horse and see a lot of beautiful scenery.
It was also plenty of time to experience many repetitions of the Tölt gait.
One of two gaits unique to the Icelandic horse (the other is flying pace which is used in racing so I won’t discuss it here), the Tölt is a smooth 4-beat gait allowing the rider to be bounce-free even at rapid paces. It is a natural gait of the Icelandic horse where one foot always touches the ground. The horse’s feet hit the ground in the same pattern as walking but just at a much faster pace.
I was eager to try tölting. Although it is natural to the Icelandic horse, it wasn’t natural to me, the rider, and it took me several tries to get it…somewhat right. To get the smooth, no-bounce ride, I had to hold the reins just right. Not too tight, not too loose and even so that I didn’t pull Drífa’s head to the right or left.
In the beginning, I was a master at all the things I wasn’t supposed to do. I had poor Drífa’s head pulled a bit to the left, I had her reigns pulled too tight (trying to keep it between the orange and blue marks isn’t as easy as it seems), and mind you, I was trying to commemorate my ride via the GoPro mounted to my left hand.
Once I decided that I wasn’t going to get a good Tölt while filming, I didn’t worry about the video and suddenly I found Drífa tölting her little heart out at a quick pace and I was barely moving. It was an incredible feeling!
Kim took us all over the place, around the trails, in the lava fields, across roads, through tunnels and we even saw views of Reykjavik!
Kim guiding us on our ride
This is one of the times Drífa and I were actually behind Kim. Most of the time Drífa wanted to be even with Kim and her horse and there were a couple of times I had to pull back on the reins to get her to fall back in line after she took a slight lead.
Thinking I might need to look up the Icelandic words for “me first”. 😉
On a different note, probably my favorite physical feature of the Icelandic horse is their manes. How beautiful is Drífa’s mane blowing in the wind? 😍
The After Party: Experiencing an Icelandic Meal
The floors were even heated which was fantastic since we had taken our wet, muddy shoes off at the door!
Lunch was an authentic Icelandic meal consisting of lamb and veggie soup which was quite tasty and a perfect choice after a wintry ride!
The soup was accompanied by bread and butter…
and finished off with Icelandic skyr topped with chocolate shavings and a strawberry for dessert!
Afterwards, I admired the array of old cameras that decorated both the living and dining rooms…
Mickey all snuggled up for an afternoon nap
and played with Mickey and Bella, the dogs of the house.
Right before we left, I go to meet owner Verena and baby Jakob, her (then) almost 6-month-old son. He was so cute with his beautiful, big blue eyes!
Then it was time to return to Reykjavik and we were dropped off at our hotel in the city center at around 2:30 pm. I was sad that the day was over!
My Riding Experience
Definitely put meeting and riding Icelandic horses with Viking Horses on your Iceland bucket list. It’s an experience you shouldn’t miss! A small family company, getting up-close-and-personal with the horses and sitting down to an in-home traditional Icelandic meal. My expectations (and what I had envisioned) were totally exceeded and I couldn’t have been happier with my choice!
Who’s ready to visit Iceland and ride with Viking Horses? Have you ridden an Icelandic horse? Let me know your experience below!
‘Til next time…