My trip to Iceland took me to some incredible places, like diving at Silfra, picking up glaciers, through stunning landscapes. One of the best memories I will keep from this trip is horseback riding in Iceland.
We stood as a group silently on the beach, which was black as coal. The wind whipped my hair across my face. My horse – whose name roughly translates to Grey was ready to let loose. And staring at the open landscape around me, I was too.
Horseback riding in Iceland was a bucket list item for me. I believe that the best souvenir is a memory made, and riding an Icelandic horse while vacationing in Iceland was the best souvenir I could think of.
Research was key. Many barns offer horseback riding in Iceland.
It was a picture of a horse running on the beach that caught my eye about Alhestar.
Alhestar is family run in a small village 30km from Reykjavik. It was a little challenging to get to only because Google Maps doesn’t work too well in Iceland. But, Alhestar does offer pickup and drop off services from Reykjavik.
Magnus, the owner of Alhestar, is a hearty soul, whose smile and song made the grey day seem unimportant. English is not his strong suit and relies on his guides Paula and Aaron to translate. But his positive demeanour needs no translation.
The barn isn’t what you would consider upscale, but you can see that Magnus and his guides care about their horses and the people they take on tours.
Horseback riding in Iceland
Magnus owns about 30 horses and has been in operation for over five years. Each had their unique name that, when translated, sounds silly, such as Grey, Pink Horse, Birthday Pony, and more.
Along with their name, each pony had a unique personality. Grey, my wonderful white pony, was one that needed a little encouragement to go. A friend was given Brownie, a happy pony that just wanted to run.
Our four-hour tour led us along the sandy, grassy dunes that run along the southern shore of the Reykjanesta peninsula.
While Magnus sang songs, I got to know Paula, a cheery young guide who fell in love with horses at a young age. Our group was small. A young man from Lithuania, my two friends and I were accompanied by Magnus and his two guides Paula and Aaron.
This small group allowed us to interact with the guides on a personal level, we joked, traded stories and asked questions about each other cultures. I had been on another horseback riding adventure in the Rocky Mountains in Jasper. The group was a bit larger and the horses just trodded along without much input from the rider. Horseback riding in Iceland was different. We could ride how we wanted, and if you needed assistance, then the guide was there for you.
I admit I needed assistance. Grey needed encouragement to run. Paula joked he was lazy this morning. She rode alongside me, making sure Grey would keep up. It offered a great way to chat with a new friend.
We talked about the Icelandic horse, a unique horse in many ways.
The Icelandic Horse
The horses – both small and sturdy – are perfectly built for the Icelandic landscape. Their hair grows thick to protect them from the wind, and their manes seem straight out of Disney movie.
The Icelandic Horse is a unique breed. They are small when compared to a thoroughbred or quarter horse. They are the only breed in Iceland, and law here prevents any horse from being imported. This also means that if an Icelandic horse leaves the country, it can never return.
Another interesting fact about the Icelandic horse is their fifth gait – the tolt. This fifth gait, naturally present in the Icelandic horse, is known for its speed and comfort. It’s somewhat between a trot and a canter. For experienced riders, the tolt can be a smooth ride, but for those like me, it was bumpy but not uncomfortable.
On the beach at full gallop
About half-way through our tour, we took a break, untacking the horses to let them roll in the sand.
“They love the sand,” said Paula, as Grey squirmed on his back, turning his white coat a light grey.
During this break, we heard the distant roar of ATVs. These off-road vehicles are not allowed in this area, and Magnus was visibly upset. The horses’ ears were perked, standing at attention as the careless adventure-seekers ripped along the dunes.
But the break was well-received by our group. We told stories, laughed together and took photos with our horses while Magnus called the police. Within half an hour we were moving again. I paused, sitting on Grey, staring out at the ocean beat itself repeatedly against the black shores of southern Iceland.
This was it, the moment I knew I would cherish forever. It didn’t last long, because we suddenly took off, seemingly racing the wind and the horses delighted in finally being able to expel their energy. We paced, then cantered then ran at full gallop toward home.
Riding with Alhestar
Alhestar was incredible towards us, taking us entirely under their wing to make sure we all had a good time. After our ride, we sat together for coffee and cookies then said our goodbyes.
Horseback riding in Iceland was a must do adventure, and if it is yours too then, Alhestar is the way to go. Not only will you be supporting the wonderful family-owned small business but you will also be engaging on a personal level, which made our experience even better.
*I deem myself very lucky to have been provided with a three hour horseback riding adventure in exchange for a review. All my opinions are my own, and I highly recommend Alhestar.
Q: What is one experience that you really want to have in Iceland?
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