Diary of a riding tour - Snaefellsnes 6 days
written by Silke
thanks for sharing your experience Silke
Day 0 - Arrival at Stóri-Kálfalækur
Waiting for the busses at BSI in Reykjavik was very exciting: How would our room look like, how will the other group members be? Will we picked up at all, or did I do something wrong? But of course everything worked fine, busses arrived as promised and we all got in our bus.
25 photos later (yes, that was still the stage were we did take pictures out of the window of a driving car, Iceland does that to you) we arrived at our home for the next nights.
T. and I got a room at the basement, very nice, with a window and all you could wish for. We even would have managed without the multiple plug (is that a real word? A thing you plug in and on the other end you have several places to plug something in?) I brought for all our technical stuff.
Note: T. was really impressed, that I brought that with me. Me too.
After the first of all the nice and yummie meals (even vegetarian!) our guide Rahel (from Switzerland, you’d absolutely expect this in Iceland of course…), responsible for the herd of tourists told us some basic rules:
1 bottle of Cognac for every time you get ahead of the guides. Every time, not only every person, you can’t buy a free card...
Lunch will be prepared by yourself during breakfast,
Note: If you want to bring your Lunch with you in a saddle bag, the Icelandic way is the following: Put the sandwich in a plastic bag, add two pieces of carton around the bag and then put it in another plastic bag. Please reuse.
Works good, I promise!
- there’s no Internet or cell reception in the house for almost everybody, get used to sitting close to the windows (and appreciate the nice situations this fact creates and the distressed looks on a lot of faces including mine)
- if she puts on rubber boots, it's wise to do so as well
and stuff like that.
Then she talked to everyone about their riding skills in person, so they could pick the right horses for us.
As the evening proceeded, we introduced ourselves to the the fellow travelers.
I have to admit, that I didn’t manage to learn half of the names, so I will just refer to them as I did the whole trip.
The Canadians, the Swedish gang, the British, the Finnish guys, the Germans, the Danish ones and later on some Icelandics as well.
Anyways… no bad surprises regarding the group in any kind, everybody was exited and we already had some big laughs the first evening.
Day 1 – The first day of riding, so definitely worth starting to count time again
Weather was good, no rain, even sunshine- we’re lucky!
We went out and first everybody got nice orange rain gear and a saddle bag. A real fashion show!
Note: For finding them again it makes sense to pick one in a rare color, if available. Makes it easier to recognize them.
Then we went over to the horses, all very excited.
Or at least I was...
How can 120 totally calm furry horses packed in a very very very small paddock be so breathtaking?
Anyways, they were. Lots of pictures, lots of devout sighs,…
Since I was asked quite a lot: The horses all looked very healthy and fit, it was a real pleasure. There were even a lot looking really great, built very even and a real pleasure for the eyes.
So absolutely the place you want to spend your money: Those horses have a great live and are taken care of very well!
We had to pick our saddle for the week (yes, one saddle, several horses…) and I literally picked the first in the row. How the hell should I know what is important?
Note: Please make sure your stirrups have a good length, the noseband attached has a medium size, the girth seems to be not to short, the leather thingies where the girth is fixed to the saddle are not too short and the wholes are not too far away from each other and last but not least make sure you can recognize the saddle in a dark container in a pile of 30 saddles easily.
I picked really good, btw. Lucky me…
Rahel showed us the Icelandic way to brush a horse, really very close to my brushing at home: One brush, 10 seconds, done. 1 brush for 2-3 riders in the saddle bag please. Picking or checking the hoofs? No need…
Note: Yes, Sue’s face was nice, I think her horse at home gets about 304 different treatments…
Then the Icelandic way to put the saddle on the back: “You put it on the back as usual, then you take it back a bit. When you think it’s enough, 5-10cm further back.”
And they really meant it, wow. Scary.
But who am I to know anything about Icelandic horses, they obviously survived (very well) like that, so why not?
We were told to check the girth before we get on, since the horses are not used to being checked from their back. Ok, noted.
Rahel then showed us how to mount the horses with bringing the saddle down at the side: They all don’t have a withers worth mentioning.
And then without. Interesting challenge, but challenge accepted!
Then for the first time the magic happened:
The guides went into the paddock (how the hell could they even squeeze in, so many horses…) and caught our horses.
One by one our names were yelled (you would think I should have been able to learn a few names here, right? But no, I didn’t.), we got the reins and were told the name and there he was, our new friend for half of the day.
Of course nobody understands those crazy names, so it’s really interesting what you understand and what you finally find on the list you receive after the trip.
Mine was a blond gelding, I didn’t even get a single letter of his name.
Note: You get used to have a look under your horse, even if you might have understood the name right you have no clue if that’s a male or female name…
So we all saddled up, the guides checked what we did and saddles were put further back. :-D
Then the first time the magic words came: “Jaja!”
“Jaja” is used in any kind of situation, here most of the time to tell us to mount our horses, but also to stop talking and do as told, get in the bus and so on.
We heard them a lot, making us tourists jump immediately, we were trained well and quickly.
Note: I totally will use that in future. Great expression!
So give it a try with your challenge - and yay, saddle stayed were it was supposed to be, but the stirrups were definitely too long, so I started to fix the problem.
In the middle of it I realized, that a horse not used to fixing the girth from the back might as well have a problem with this task.
But thank god my Icelandic friend didn’t know about this being a possible problem and just stood there, as I’m used to it. Thanks a lot, little friend!
Wouldn’t have liked to be the first with a stunt like a horse bucking around…
My excitement grew, how would it feel? Would I be beat up after 5 minutes? How would it be, riding in such a big group? How the hell can things like that work?
Those who know me might know, that I hate riding with more than 2 other riders, and that I’m really picky with whom I even try… too often too much trouble with my old horse, who bucked around like a pig in those kind of situations…
But lets see…
But here: Everybody just standing there, relaxed, waiting patiently. Amazing.
The next “Jaja!” and we started, follow the guides, of we go. Walk is for pussies, in Iceland we trot after 5m. Literally.
25 horses in a big pack, all stuck together very closely.
Nobody pulling, nobody kicking after the neighbor – again: amazing! After a few seconds I decided, that this is hilarious that my friend is an angel and I won’t care anymore, what I’m expecting from home.
Since I had so little stamina, I just hoped for the best and used my best energy saving seat. So far so good.
Rahel showed up next to me, herding the tourists is her job description, you remember?
She told me, that they picked my horse for me, because he has a mixture between tölt and trot and that they thought he would suit me.
He did, definitely. I decided, that the trot was soft enough for me and after a few trys to get him to tölt I realized, that giving any kind of aids would ruin my energy saving, so I just let it roll. Enough things to see, smell and feel anyways.
The blond one gave me a great feeling, he signaled “I don’t care what you do, I’ll do my job, don’t worry!” and so I started to not worry at all.
Yay, feeling great!
After a while we stopped at the side of the road (on some rocks covered with gras, very cosy place for having a bite for the horses…).
Then we saw them coming: The rest of the horses, roundabout 90 horses. Trotting free on the road, with a few guides around them.
What a view! All cameras popped out, but you simply couldn’t capture this.
First time in a long row for goose bumps.
Even if the trip had ended there it would have been worth it for me. Unbelievable!
The horses stopped when the passed us, all easy peasy taking a bite on the side of the road as well.
Only 3 horses challenged the guides a bit, they wanted to go back. We learned later, that they didn’t belong to the rest of the group, so kind of figures.
And another amazing thing for me - seeing how they were handled.
Note: Guides are smarter and faster. :-)
But stop watching, “Jaja!” and of we went. 2 riders leading the horses, then the free horses, a line of 3 guides to separate us tourists from the horses (to protect the horses of course) and then us riders as a group. Again, no walk, in Iceland we do it faster…
Watching the horses in front of you was so amazing, I was really completely speechless and happy. All this surrounded by Icelandic’s nature in bright sunshine as a topping – wow!
We all let go of several layers of clothes that day, it was really warm!
Blond one was doing his job without me doing anything but staying on his back, so I could concentrate on the fact, that the GoPro wasn’t fixed properly to the helmet (something was broken) and so I just filmed a bit with the camera in my hand.
And watched smiling faces around me, not only me had a good time obviously.
At lunch the challenge of getting the saddle of without forgetting to open the saddle bags and the thingy going to the tail before opening the saddle. All those strange things…
Most of the time I concentrated so much on those things that I tried to take of the saddle without opening the girth first, wondering, how it can be so heavy. Stupid tourists…
Then we brought the horses in a way bigger paddock than the one in the morning and had our lunch. Very cosy, sitting on the ground, watching the horses, babbling around with the others.
After lunch my first time to use the bathroom: I climbed up a little hill with a nice view on the horses and did what I needed to do behind some rocks. And started the “tradition” of taking pictures of the view of the places I went for that purpose.
I just had finished, when there was already a “Jaja!”
Wow, no time to be lazy on this trip…
Note: Make sure you pee first, it’s easier to interrupt the Lunch, than the toilet. And you can eat while holding your horse.
But usually the breaks were just fine, no complains!
The guides started to gather the horses in a part of the paddock, we were holding a rope to keep them in.
Catching horses was in this occasion a little bit difficult, one painted horse didn’t want to be ridden.
What a view, the calm and smart acting guides, the other horses, the painted crushing through them – our horses would have died or killed each other in such a small area. But here only annoyed other horses, just holding their ground more or less.
I got chocolate brown Sleipnir, wow, a name I understand and can remember! And he looked nice and calm, I like it!
He seemed to be pro enough to not care how long it took me to put the saddle with the bags on his back, there was so much gear in my way…
Recalling Rahels words I put the saddle on his back, further back, 5cm further - and I couldn’t take the view, but I kept it there. One of the guides showed up and checked my work. Failed. He put the saddle back not only 10 but 15cm. Wow, that’s far behind, amazing!
“Jaja!”, and of we go.
Sleipnir’s trot was very soft, but of course I tried to make him tölt and suddenly he changed gaits, but it’s still felt a bit bumpy and I didn’t lean back or pull his head up with any kind of being serious, so I figured it’s just pace, but who cares? It’s easy, it’s comfortable enough to save my energy, so happy me! No exhaustion with bothering about tölt or not - sun is shining, I will have a lot of other horses on this trip and I don’t want to do too much work. The day will be challenging enough without any muscles on my side.
We start getting closer to the mountains, the path gets smaller, nature around us is beautiful and then again: The free horses, oh my god, how beautiful. Just being plainly happy.
Note: I could and I will write this a lot, but soon you will know, that I had no choice but being happy. :-D
Every now and then (I lost track of time completely during the whole days) we had a short break for the horses, to go to the bathroom and put the saddle back if necessary and we were all in a good mood. Everybody liked the second horse better than the one in the morning, a lot of tölt appeared around me and it was just simply great.
Note: All the reins have a clip to fix them to the bit, if you take one side of you have a great lead rein, perfect for the bite of gras for the horse.
Clever people in Iceland!
We reached our final destination and took off our saddles in a not too small paddock. I thought, that that’s a nice place to stay for the night for the horses.
I was first to put the saddle on a bench in a small building, but I did it wrong, the guide told me “the other way around” This was repeated 3 times, until I got it right, but just because he helped me, otherwise I would have had a lot more “other ways arounds”. Stupid tourists.
In my defense: If I would put a saddle on the ground like this for more than 2 seconds at home, I would be killed immediately by any bystander - the saddle will break, it will stay like that, are you crazy?!
After everything was locked up we had to clear a path and the big boss Siggi opened the gate and the horses galloped away, following the street – no fence on one side, nobody leading them. They knew their way to a really big field, where they would actually stay for the night. Stupid me, of course in Iceland they don’t have small German fields. And of course the don’t run off. They just do what’s planned. Amazing!
We went home in 2 mini vans, all chatting and happy.
I was glad, that my muscles didn’t feel too bad, at least I could move a bit without pain, so I hoped I would survive the next days as well.
During and after Dinner we exchanged stories about home, our horses and stuff and Rahel showed up with “the book”:
A lot of cartoons written by someone who made “our” tour. Really made my day!
It was just so true!
E.g. one part was about how the different nations would handle things.
French always looking good, US guys as Cowboys, English talking about the weather (Justine actually did not!) and the Germans just being childishly happy.
Note: Now you know, why I had no choice than to be happy…
That’s absolutely the way it was for me. I was speechless several times a day, I was smiling and sometimes I was unable to say what exactly was so great, but it just was. Epic.
And after that, every time I felt that way I had an additional laugh because I thought of the book. :-D
In general I wasn’t the only one being tired, evening ended quite early. I could try to blame it on the jet lag, but honestly I shouldn’t.
I was just beat up.
And after all: No cell reception, no internet, what the heck are we all supposed to do? Talking? Scary thought.