We still place a high value on clients who come to us via the web even though we've matured past a major web prescence.
| Icelandic horses originated with the stock of horses brought to Iceland in open boats by the Vikings in the ninth century. For over 1000 years Icelanders have bred their horses for good riding qualities, and because they are gaited horses they are easy and fun to ride. Isolation has created uniquely strong, calm, cooperative horses - Truly a breed apart
The Icelandic terrain and climate has shaped a breed who has learned to find a way around danger rather than simply fleeing it. Their logical approach works well in a land with no natural predators, but plenty of peril.
Through our associations with Icelandics we've come to see their calm ways as just a part of our equine life. However we've had a number of life long horsepeople marvel at this calmness. The short video clip of Jon Petur Olaffson cutting a horse out of a herd has gotten a bit of comment. (By way of full disclosure let it be known that we own several horses bred and trained by JP)
Natural selection has favored those who can move best over the Iceland's terrain, terrain that has been shaped by volcanoes and glaciers. This has created their famous "tðlt", or running walk, whose secure high steps allow the Icelandics to move easily over rough landscape that would stop other breeds in their tracks. A smooth gaited horse, carrying riders through a beautiful country, offers a fast floating ride not easily forgotten.
The tðlt (or toelt) allows nearly anyone, novice or equestrian, to have a great time riding Icelandics. As a friend, who's ridden all of her life, described it, "If you've never ridden a horse, the tðlt is probably what you imagined riding was like...."
Their several gaits, now quite rare in horses, were thought to be very common in the times before the world was industrialized and horses were used mainly to pull carts and carriages. As industrial countries built roads and used those roads to move people and, mainly, goods and commodities the strength and speed of a horse in harness was worth much than a horse that was smooth-riding. Only in a few instances was a breed of horse singled out and bred and trained for its smooth riding gaits. Usually it was those cultures where large farms were the rule, and overseers and owners had to spend long hours looking over the fields and laborers from their horse's backs, that preserved gaits in their breeds (Pasos, the Rocky Mountain horse, Tennesse Walker, etc.) One of the earliest representations of gaited horses may be the Elgin Marbles that were part of the Greek Pathenon . Many savvy riders and trainers have said that in these sculptures the collection and balance of the horses depicted as being ridden show very definitely that the horses are being ridden in a gait like a "running walk," "single foot" or tðlt. This was before 400 BC! Iceland went through the industrial revolution without changing much from an agricultural and fishing society and without much need for good roads or cartage of materials or finished goods within the country. Travel was not at all uncommon, however. Government and justice required people to travel to "Þings," parliaments and courts held both regionally, and once a year at the "Althing" the whole nation convened, with folks riding for as much as a week to get there. Riding on horses that couldn't cover a lot of ground in a hurry or that pounded the rider on every step wouldn't make much sense so the Icelanders made sure that their horses kept all their gaits. In these modern times we pleasure-riders and travelers are the ones to gain by this heritage.
Horse touring - The Difference
Most of the tours we feature are in the very old Icelandic tradition. This a tradition of traveling some distances on their horses. When among other Icelanders they will ride at a pretty fast pace.
Of course, the big deal in touring in Iceland is that on the longer rides you ride along with a herd of loose horses. These horses serve as your remounts since you might ride 3 horses in a long day.
We have ridden in, and considered offering tours in, several other lands (sometimes even on Icelandic horses) and this singular aspect of herding remounts seems to be exclusively Icelandic. And herding loose remounts really is an experience that every rider should get.
The idea of riding tours didn't come from someone in the tourist industry. In a near-Arctic pastoral country Icelanders have always had to round up their sheep and horses from far flung fields each autumn. It would be an ardous week's work for man and horse, so they would condition the horses by riding them in the wilds, over hills and passes, travelling from farm to farm and up to the remote huts that would be stayed in during the roundups. It conditioned the horses, gave the farmers a chance to look over herds and flocks that were up in the hills...and, Yeah, it was a vacation of sorts from the daily routine of farming. There are a few farms in the North where airplanes are somtimes used to find the last few sheep, after the main roundup is over. These last sheep are then driven down to the farm, still, by riders on horses
Many of the world's horse trekking tours are at a relaxed speed. We can send you on tour where you will walk along a trail in a line of horses; and it's a good way to see the country and experience a little bit of the horses. But, if you have some experience riding and would like to see a bit of unique equestrian history talk to us about some of the longer tours.
Horse Touring in Iceland
Horse touring in Iceland is an old tradition in the farming community. For centuries their summer fun has been spending a few days in the wilds to get their best mounts in condition for the fall sheep round-ups. Our horse tours follow old routes, and many use the traditional accommodations - rustic mountain huts. Days of riding are followed by long, light evenings with traditional Icelandic food - and, sometimes, song!
Horse Touring in Iceland can be enjoyed by almost anyone in good health and reasonably fit physical condition. We've selected the tours which we offer with the American rider in mind, whether novice or experienced horse-trekker we can match you to an experience!
Horses North has many fully inclusive tours. By fully-inclusive we mean that the prices include round trip airfare via Icelandair from JFK, Logan or BWI, transfer or pick up from airport in Iceland, all accommodations and meals while on the horse tour. Not included are departure taxes, some meals before or after the horse tour, and any additional and optional travel before or after the tour. The prices for tours ranges from around $1500 for 3 days to $2500 for a 9 day tour (per person). Remember that covers travel and most of your expenses from the Icelandair terminal in Boston, New York or Baltimore.We have listings for the specific tours on our Horsesnorth website.
Horse Tours include: 1-3 horses per person, English speaking guides, rainwear, safety helmets and all the tack necessary. Accommodations for the various tours are in guest cabins, in schools, or mountain huts along the route. School accommodations are dormitories, with several single bunk beds per room and separate gender specific showers and WC. Traditional Mountain huts that are used in the wilderness are rustic-clean and neat, but often with one big room for sleeping, men and women sharing the room. Some may lack hot water and have a WC out in the lovely scenery. They were originally built for the riders in the horse and sheep roundups and not a lot of thought for niceties was considered necessary.
Food is traditional hearty Icelandic fare, with fresh lamb, fish and dairy products. Vegetarians can be easily accommodated with advance notice.
Some of our tours offer a lot of riding. While easy to ride, the Icelandic horse can cover many kilometers per day, and is usually ridden faster than a walk. Typically, when terrain allows it, Icelanders ride at a moderately fast "tolt" for about an hour, then dismount, let the horses graze for a while (sometimes Icelanders take a nap!). American riders should know that on most of our tours they will not be in a nose-to-tail line of slow-walking horses! A little physical conditioning before the tour will get riders ready for longer days in the saddle than they may be used to. Riders should have health and travel insurance.
On some of these tours riders will ride 2 or 3 horses during the longer riding days. The remounts are driven along with the touring riders and this adds another dimension to this riding experience.There is a page listing those tours that ride with the remounts;
Equipment: Iceland's summer-long light is lovely, but it can be accompanied by fickle temperatures, winds, rain, and the rare earthquake and volcano. Riders should bring clothes for layering, rubber riding boots, riding pants, as well as swimsuit, sunscreen and ear plugs (they're for sleeping). Riders should bring a sleeping bag,our outfitters will provide mattresses. Some of outfitters provide raingear, for some the riders will bring their own. All of our outfitters provide safety helmets. Just being outside can be an adventure in Iceland!
Pre- and Post-tours. Our experience shows that many Americans want to see a bit more of Iceland before or after their horse tour. Horses North can suggest and arrange for all of your travel needs so that the whole trip is care-free. In addition to contracts with car rental companies, domestic airlines and hotels, we work with Iceland Farm Holidays for rural accommodations, and many guesthouses. Our personal explorations in Iceland have helped us create itineraries that include fishing, hiking, biking, whale-and bird watching, either solo or in escorted groups. A little bit more Iceland makes the perfect addition to a horse tour!