Tuesday, July 31, 2012
Riding Viking Horses
On our last day in Iceland, we did not have any tours planned. So, spur of the moment, we decided to ride Icelandic horses! We were treated to a great ride on beautiful Videy Island, located in the bay near Reykjavik, Iceland.
The ancestors of today's Icelandic horses were brought by the Vikings. The horses' genetic line has been kept pretty pure. In fact, law prohibits horses to be imported to Iceland. Additionally, Icelandic horses that have been sent to another country are not permitted to return. (This even includes horses in competition.) So, riding one of these beautiful animals is almost like a little step back into time.
Icelandic horses are on the shorter side but are strong. They are known to be hardy and easy keepers despite Iceland's harsh environment. They actually have two gaits in addition to the gaits of other breeds. The uniqueness of the breed is interesting. For more on Icelandic horses check here.
For our experience, we chose to ride with Laxnes Horse Farm. They keep some horses on Videy Island during the summer for riders. When we arrived on the island, the horses were out in the pasture. We got to see them rounded up, which was neat!
Our guide chose specific horses for each of us. They all were gentle and just beautiful. Of course, each had its own personality. Mine kept trying to run, which made my daughter laugh like crazy. My daughter's had gas issues and randomly stopped at a point during the ride.
During our ride, we got to truly experience Iceland's changeable weather. We had sun, clouds, rain, heavy rain, back to clouds. Through it all, the scenery was still beautiful and the ride was great! Also, our guides were very helpful and personable--adding to the experience.
After finishing our ride, we had some time to explore Videy. There are some spots on the island where you can climb up on a knoll and have a nice view of the surroundings. The island hosts Videyjarstofa house, which is the oldest stone and cement building in Iceland (circa 1755). Today, a restaurant has taken residence in the house, serving Icelandic fare. We had some waffles at the restaurant which were dynamite!
Also, Videy Island is home to some larger scale pieces of art including Yoko Ono's Imagine Peace Tower. Additionally, there are basalt pillar are part of sculptor Richard Serra's installation art in the island. Each set frames a particular landmark or destination.
We loved our time on Videy Island. This definitely was one of the most memorable parts of our trip!