ICELAND ADVENTURE - DAY 2 – Arctic Horses (Grindavik)

July 02, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

August 2016

ICELAND ADVENTURE - DAY 2 – Arctic Horses (Grindavik)


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Why am I awake at 3:30 in the morning?  Well, it’s starting to get light out but my body is still adjusting to being 7 time zones away.  Nonetheless I’ll try to get a few more hours of sleep before we start our day.  Today’s main event is a horseback ride on Arctic Horses. 

Arctic Horses are somewhat different than horses you typically find in the US.  First of all they are smaller.  I’m not a horse person so can’t give you a “hands high” number but they seem to be about 20% smaller, making mounting and dismounting easier.  Secondly they are very docile and much more friendly and inquisitive than typically found in public trail ride stables in the US.  When you first walk in to their enclosure they come right up to you to see if you’ll stroke them a bit.   Thirdly they don’t “spook” easily.  With horses I’ve ridden in the US, you have to be somewhat careful not to startle them and anything strange on the trail seems to cause anxiety and skittishness.  These Arctic Horses don’t seem to be bothered much by sudden movement or surprises on the trail – they just pretty much ignore those distractions.  The 4th thing I noticed may not be related to the breed, but compared to US horses used for public rentals, these Arctic Horses were much better trained.  Just the slightest movement of the reign and the horse instantly changed direction.  The most subtle squeeze of the legs was like an accelerator on a car.  A gentle squeeze moved to a fast walk, a little bit more and you were trotting, and just a bit more brought on a full gallop.  Releasing pressure was the signal to maintain speed, then a very gentle – almost imperceptible – pull back on the reigns applied the brakes.  This was just a wonderful experience – especially compared to typical hire-a-ride experiences I’ve had in the US.  Verbal sounds were also quickly reacted to by the horse.  Low tones slowed the horse down,  high pitched, clucking sort of sounds speeded it up

Everything in Iceland is low key and laid back.  In the US, on many trail rides, you must ride single file (sometimes with horses leashed to each other) and you aren’t allowed to go faster than a slow walk.  Here, Ellen and I went out with a guide (stable owner) and her teenage daughter.  We were not even asked to ride single file and could wander off trail if we wished, change pace, gallop, or pretty much anything – all without issue.  How refreshing. 

We went out for about 90 minutes along the Grindavik peninsula, through a lava field where ship wrecks were washed up on the shore and out to a very small, orange, lighthouse.  It was a great ride.

Arctic Horses are prized the world wide and are sold abroad in order to keep the population on the island stable.  These horses also appear in shows world wide, but once a horse (or any domestic animal) they can never return so after a show tour they must be sold.  This is to prevent diseases or cross breeding with other varieties from being introduced onto the island.  So far this has worked very well – at least for the horses and other farm animals.  However, prior to becoming so strict several species (now called invasive species) of plants and animals found their way to Iceland and in the past half century or so the government is going to great lengths to eliminate them.  So far it’s been marginally successful but they are determined to keep at it and to prevent any new such problems from coming ashore.

After our ride and lunch at a local Pizza place we wandered around the fishing town of Grindavik a bit more and then headed back to the hotel.  So far the weather on the trip had been pretty much complete overcast, with a gentle wind and daytime temps in the upper 50’s – much like San Francisco with a high fog – but no rain.  However, we were informed that things were about to dramatically change the next day.

Waiting to mount up

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Derelict Boat in Lava Field

Abandoned fishing boatAbandoned fishing boat



Half a ship wreck in a lava field

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That’s us

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Little Orange Lighthouse at end of Grindavik Point

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Mutual Grooming

2 Icelandic Horses2 Icelandic Horses



Part of Grindavik fishing fleet

Small Icelandic fishing craftSmall Icelandic fishing craft



You looking at me?

Icelandic HorsesIcelandic Horses



If there are lamb chops in the restaurants, there are sheep nearby




Hello there

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Thanks for reading -- Dan



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