Day 5 – September 3, 2016
A Forest Hike
After our delicious breakfast, we packed up Turq and headed to Iceland’s National Forest, Hallormsstaðaskógur. It was too early to check in to our hotel, but in the lobby we found a flyer for horseback riding right next door. We booked a late morning trail ride, and then headed down the road to do some hiking. The forest was pretty in the early morning, and the trails are small and people-free. There were tons of cools plants and the sun hit the dew just right.
The Trail Ride (Horseback Riding Part 2)
Then came the most entertaining and ridiculous event of our entire trip. We descended a hill to this small paddock area where 13 Icelandic horses were tethered up and in the process of being tacked up. We were immediately greeted by the greatest dog ever, Lupe. We were informed by what I can only assume was the manager that we would be joined by 9 school girls. There were two adorable blue eyed, blonde-haired children running around, occasionally joined by Lupe. We found it interesting that unlike in the U.S., we were not required to sign any sort of release form.
Doug and I had first pick of our helmets and chatted with the manager about my horses back home while we waited for the others to arrive. Unfortunately this conversation led them to believe that Doug was an experienced horseback rider, which he was/is not. Within minutes, 9 school girls, about 15 years old with no clue how to ride, arrived to join us. Unlike the other areas we had been, this region seemed to not speak a lot of English. The school girls could understand some, the manager was fluent, the female tour guide was fluent, and the male tour guide seemed mute.
After a chaotic 15 minutes, they started to assign us horses. Doug’s steed was Spark, and mine was Star. Star was morbidly obese and none to pleased about a saddle being placed on his bag. The got everyone up and on, and quickly adjust stirrups. The female tour guide took to the front, followed by the nine girls, Doug, myself, and lastly, the mute guide.
The very first part of the ride was tackling a steep, gravel hill. Star couldn’t breath, but he persevered and we made it to the top. From the back, I could see that the girls had NO CLUE how to ride, and their ponies were often passing each other, running up each other’s butts, and tolting as they wished. The girls were blissfully unaware that they were out of control. The guides also seemed to pay no mind. I rattled off instructions and warnings to Doug to help him keep control of Spark. It didn’t take long before the male-guide decided that Doug and I didn’t need tending to, and he took off to manage the middle portion of our parade.
We wove up and down in the beautiful forest, catching glimpses of Lögurinn, the nearby lake. The trees were tall, skies blue, and sun shining. Horses out of control. About an hour in I wondered how long this trail ride would be; we had forgotten to ask on the phone. The trail ride entered a denser area in the forest, with a wide path. However, to the right of the path was a steep drop off. The guides had to stop to fix one of the girl’s saddles. Chaos ensued, as the bored ponies veered towards the cliff to snag some grass. More giggles, as the children didn’t know that this was dangerous. Lupe kept up with the group the entire time.
Off we went! Winding up and down up and down. Ponies tolting when they wanted, passing each other, veering all about. The guides didn’t seem to notice, or ever look back (at this point they were both at the front). At one point I turned to Doug and mentioned that someone was going to fall off. All of my spider-senses were tingling. We arrived to the top of another hill, which gave way to a clearing with tall grass. Lupe suspiciously disappeared. The path ahead had a quick turn to the left, followed by a downhill grass trail. My horse knowledge told me that grass + sharp turn + downhill slope = slippery conditions for horses. Even the sure-footed Icelandic horse. The guides rounded this turn quickly, with the 9 school girls tolting behind. Then it happened. One of the ponies scrambled around the turn, unseating its rider. She was there… and then she wasn’t. The rest of our party kept going for a short distance after they realized that there was a horse with no rider. Doug and I rode up to the scene, and found the girl lying motionless in the weeds. Doug sprang off his horse, as I frantically yelled “Don’t move her!” (in case her back was broken). I leapt off my horse in time for Doug to throw me his horse’s reins. He asked her if she could move her feet, and luckily she could. Her little feet fluttered. After 3 minutes the tour guides finally arrived, not looking too concerned. A conversation in Icelandic ensued, and she was back on her horse with male-guide leading her horse.
The Return to the Stable
Shortly after the tumble another pony misbehaved, dragging his rider toward grass. She broke down in tears. At this point the trail ride had been over two hours, so the ponies and riders were all getting tired. FINALLY we arrived back at our first gravel hill. They told everyone to dismount, as the hill was too steep to ride down. Everyone was to walk their horse down it. Before we could begin our decent, the female tour guide intercepted us and said that she felt bad because we didn’t get to go fast, so she was going to have male-guide take us on another path to the paddock. Some of the girls complained, as they wanted to go, but they were denied. So we popped back on Star & Spark. Male-guide gave us a mischievous grin and took off. Doug followed, and I led up the back, and suddenly Lupe made a triumphant return! We galloped over a rocky creek, and through some fun wooded trails. Good ‘ol pudgy Star wanted to die.
When we arrived back to the barn the school girls has dismounted, and horses were tethered. We handed off our horses and went to return our helmets and pay. The young girl whom Doug had heroically assisted immediately ran up to him with stars in her eyes to thank him for his help after her fall. She gave him her name (Svava) and asked that he add her on Facebook. It was so sweet!
We found the manager and cashed out, eager to relax for the rest of the day.