Sagas & Vikings Tour

sagas and vikings

by Nancy Marie Brown

Iceland is the hot place to go these days (pun intended). Every week, it seems, I hear from someone who just “did” the land of fire and ice.

Well, I’ve got news for you. You can’t “do” Iceland in one trip. I’ve been going to Iceland since 1986–and the place isn’t done with me yet.

It’s not only that I’ve missed whole quadrants of the country. The places I know still astonish me. Each year, I notice something new or–paradoxically–very old, like the Viking Age longhouse that was discovered under a Reykjavik parking lot last year and is forcing a critical rethinking of the city’s development.

And then there’s the weather.

Last summer, from the farm where I like to stay, I gazed for days and days at the high white ice caps in the center of the island. But the one day we traveled toward the sea, the mountains by the coast wrapped themselves in clouds. Majestic Snaefellsjokull simply disappeared.

I knew it was there, laughing behind my back. The West is one part of Iceland I know very well: from Borgarnes to the Breiðafjorður, out to the tip of Snæfellsnes, and in to Surtshellir cave at the edge of the highlands. The West has a wonderful variety of landscapes–farms, fishing villages, lava fields, glaciers, beaches, waterfalls. On various trips I’ve found a path through the lava that had long been lost, crouched behind a rock while a sea eagle strafed me, rode a horse through a swift salmon river (careful not to let the eddies dizzy me), collected crowberries, watched fox pups play, rescued trapped sheep, frightened myself in a pitch-dark cave, drank sweet water from the well in another, soaked in a wilderness hot pool, sunned on the flank of a volcano.

I’m not a naturalist: What draws me to this part of Iceland are the medieval sagas, with their tales of sheep-farmers and sorcerors, horse fights and feuds, love and grief and hard times and strife. Tales of a satisfying life scratched from an unforgiving land. Tales tempered with poetry and grace.

These sagas, this landscape, has inspired nearly all my books. It’s here that I found one perfect horse in A Good Horse Has No Color: Searching Iceland for the Perfect Horse (Stackpole 2001), and learned how Icelandic folklore and mythology are infused with horses.

Here is where the story of Gudrid the Far-Traveler begins, the Viking woman who explored North America 500 years before Columbus. I’ve written about Gudrid twice, as nonfiction in The Far Traveler: Voyages of a Viking Woman (Harcourt, 2007), and in the young adult novel The Saga of Gudrid the Far-Traveler (Namelos 2015). Guðriður grew up on the tip of Snæfellsnes, in the shadow of the glacier some people call the third most holy spot on earth. (Seeing it rise out of the sea is certainly one of my favorite views of Iceland).

In the twelfth century, West Iceland was ruled by Snorri Sturluson, that unscrupulous chieftain who has become the most influential writer of the Middle Ages, in any language. My book Song of the Vikings: Snorri and the Making of Norse Myths (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012) is his biography. Here he wrote the Edda, which contains almost everything we know about Norse mythology. Here he wrote Heimskringla, his history of the kings of Norway. Here he probably wrote the first (and maybe the best) of the Icelandic sagas: Egil’s Saga. And here he died, murdered, cringing in his cellar, for having betrayed the king of Norway.

Here, as well, Snorri and his family may have cornered the market on walrus ivory. As I argue in my latest book, Ivory Vikings: The Mystery of the Most Famous Chessmen in the World and the Woman Who Made Them (St Martin’s 2015), the land of the sagas may also have been a land of world-class visual art in the Middle Ages.

The best way to research my books, I’ve found, is to walk through the landscape where history happened, to live where my subjects lived and face some of the same challenges. To cross rivers on horseback, for example, or climb a volcanic crater. To experience the midnight sun in summer, when the birdsong never stills, as well as the dark days of winter (though I must admit, I’ve let a very few of them stand in for the rest). To marvel at the beauty of white glacier ice, black lava rock, blue (or slate-gray) sky, and jewel-green fields. To feel the spirits of the land in the breath of the wind, the sting of rain, and the warmth of the sun.

Sagas and Vikings

I’d like to bring you with me. Since 2012 I’ve been leading tours in West Iceland for the company America2Iceland, which is based on the farm of Staðarhús in Borgarfjörður. Earlier on this blog I’ve written about our Trekking Bootcamp I, an adventure tour for horseback riders.

But we also offer a tour for non-riders, for people who like to learn about Iceland’s sagas and its Viking past. For people who’d like to meet real Icelanders and see more of the country than just the surface it presents to the usual tourist.

This year’s “Sagas & Vikings” tour will take place from July 10-16. We’ll begin in Reykjavik, with a visit to the Settlement Exhibition, then travel to Thingvellir, site of Iceland’s ancient parliament and locus of many saga episodes. We’ll end our day at Staðarhús, where we’ll settle in for a week in a comfortable, family-run country hotel.

Mornings we’ll spend reading, taking nature walks, and observing the lifestyle of a traditional Icelandic horse farm. Those so inclined can take a riding lesson or short trail ride (for an additional charge).

Each morning’s assigned readings, from my own books, will introduce the sights we’ll see on our bus tour in the afternoon. We’ll hike into the lava fields at Eldborg and Budir. We’ll tour the sea caves and bird cliffs at Hellnar and Arnarstapi, and visit Gudrid’s birthplace at Laugabrekka. We’ll explore the town of Borgarnes, with its museums and geothermal pools, and Snorri’s estate of Reykholt. We’ll visit hot springs, wander along black and golden beaches, and see glaciers, volcanic craters, and waterfalls. And we’ll meet the Icelandic horse and learn why the horse, not the dog, is “man’s best friend” in Iceland.

Over dinner–a gourmet meal served at the farm–we’ll discuss what we’ve learned and seen: How Iceland was settled, why the sagas were written, how the country has changed since the Middle Ages, how its culture has so powerfully influenced our own.

This tour is limited to 12 people, so each will get my personal attention. For more information click here. I think this is the perfect tour for first-time visitors to Iceland. Even if you’ve been to Iceland before, you’ll see it in a completely new light.

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Riding the Long Beaches of Iceland

America2Iceland_Bootcamp
by Nancy Marie Brown

Along the west coast of Iceland, beneath the great glacier Snaefellsjokull, is a magical riding trail uncovered only at low tide.

This route, across the Longufjorur or “Long Beaches,” has been in use by horsemen and women since the Saga Age. Before roads were bulldozed through the Eldborg lava fields in the early 1900s, it was the main highway. Until 1933 you’d buy your soap and nails and flour at a general store out there on the sands, where now you’ll find only seals and seabirds and hear only the surf–or hoofbeats on sand.

“It’s a dangerous path if you don’t know the tides,” my friend Haukur warned, when he took me on the trail for the first time in 1995. When I wrote about that experience in my book A Good Horse Has No Color, I summed it up this way: “This is Iceland.”

This August I hope to recreate that ride–with your help. I’m looking for 8 adventurers to sign up for the Trekking Bootcamp offered by America2Iceland from August 10-16. Click here for more details.

Note that you need to be a good rider (intermediate or advanced), though the breed of horse you usually ride doesn’t matter much. We will, of course, be riding Icelandic horses (it’s the only breed in Iceland), but if you can trot and canter all day long, you’ll quickly learn to tolt. You also need to be able to swim, just in case.

Why? The trail cuts the mouths of several rivers, some of them deep-channeled salmon streams, others edged with quicksand. The safe paths shift from storm to storm, while the force of the wind and its direction, and the fullness of the moon, decide how fast a rider must cross.

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Ebenezer Henderson, a Scottish churchman who traveled throughout Iceland in 1814, described the crossing well: “We advanced at a noble rate, it being necessary to keep our horses every now and then at the gallop, in order to escape being overtaken by the tide before we reached the land. At one time we were nearly two miles from the shore; and I must confess I felt rather uneasy, while my companion was relating the number of travelers who had lost their lives in consequence of having been unexpectedly surrounded by the sea.”

Henderson (or his guide) was exaggerating–but not much.

In his book Summer at Little Lava my husband, Charles Fergus, told this story:

“A man known as Tobbi–short for Tobias–farmed during the 1600s along the Longufjorur…. Tobbi was known as a poet. One day a group of travelers asked him where they could safely cross over the sands. At work in his smithy, making a tool or repairing some article of iron, Tobbi answered them with a verse:
My work is going very slowly in the smithy,
Even through I’m clattering.
You should aim for Eldborg,
Under the hammer of Thor.
The travelers set off toward Eldborg. Perhaps they dawdled, crossing the sands. The tide rose and caught them, and they drowned. After that, Tobbi lost his ability to compose poetry and could bring forth only gibberish. He became known as Æra-Tobbi, ‘Crazy Tobbi.’ ”

In 1995, riding with Haukur, an expert guide who knew the tides, I was in no danger. But I did get rather wet. We crossed over mudflats pocked with airholes and headed for several grass-topped islands abandoned by the tide like a pod of stranded whales. A sea eagle lifted off one of the islands as we approached and scolded us with a high-pitched cackle. Geese flew over, banking, startled.

We rode north onto the sandbar, across some grassy flats, back out through the sucky mud to the hard wet sand, whose color ranged from black to coffee-colored to tawny to gold. Tide pools, I knew, held tiny shrimp and sea lettuce; their bottoms were mosaics of shells.

The horses got spattered with muck and splashed water as high as our faces—icy, but delightful in the sunshine, since everyone wore rubber boots and rainpants or chaps. These were practiced riders, and they kept up a fast pace. The woman next to me occasionally rode at a trot, balancing above her saddle to spell her mount, yet I matched her speed easily, tolting all the time. Later I overheard her remark to Haukur that I rode a tolt well for an American. He, knowing I understood her Icelandic, grinned at me. “It’s the horse,” he said.

With the islands to our left, we rode on hard-packed sand, the tapping of our horses’ hooves making music with the wind and the seabirds’ cries. I could feel time almost stop, suspended in the wet air between sea and sky, as history clustered all around us.

Close on our right rose the snow-flecked mountains of Snaefellsnes, the Snow Mountain Peninsula. Ahead loomed the Snow Mountain itself, glacier-topped Snaefellsjokull, a classic Mount Fuji-shaped stratovolcano. Jules Verne began his Journey to the Center of the Earth from this mountain, and New Agers now affirm it the third holiest spot on the planet, ascending it in droves on the summer solstice and bringing new riches to the fishing towns down below. Gazing at its beauty, I wondered what the two more-holy places could possibly be.
Then suddenly we were off the sands and into another farmyard. After a short rest, we decided to take a swim–but I’ve written about that on this blog before.

This August, we’ll be riding from Stadarhus, about 40 km from the beach. We’ll spend the first two days at the farm, getting used to our horses in a clinic that will get you ready for the trek.

America2Iceland
On Day 3 we’ll ride 40 km to Hitarholmi, returning to Stadarhus for dinner, a soak in the hot tub, and a good night’s sleep in private or double rooms (as we will each night). Day 4 is a 45 km stretch along the beach to Kolvidarnes–and we go whenever the tide is right, so it could be very early or very late. On Day 5, we’ll do a 30 km ride out onto the sands and back to Kolvidarnes–again, whenever the tide is right. Then on Day 6, we’ll turn inland, riding 30 km to Stori-Kalfalaekur, where we’ll say goodbye to our horses. On Day 7, we’ll regretfully fly home, with wind-chapped and sun-burned faces–or maybe a suitcase full of rain-soaked riding clothes, you never know. Either way, it will be a magical adventure.

Sign up now. I can’t wait to show you the Long Beaches of Iceland.

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Educate & Rejuvenate, July 2015

Educate & Rejuvenate
The six riders and two auditors on this trip enjoyed one of the best weeks of weather I’ve ever seen in my 30 years of traveling in Iceland. Warm, bright, windless sunny days and clear (sunny) nights, with the glaciers sparkling in the distance to both east and west. We were running out of clean t-shirts and sunscreen. It was hard to go inside the riding hall at Stadarhus for our lessons twice a day, except that Gudmar and the fabulous horses he had chosen for us made them so much fun.

Gudmar divided us into three groups by experience level–we had some absolute beginners, and some who had owned and ridden Icelandics for many years–and brought us through a carefully thought-out series of exercises, each one building on the last. His emphasis in this clinic was on getting to know a new horse, becoming its leader, warming it up properly, and finally getting its best tolt. Everyone learned a lot, no matter how advanced their skill level.

After the indoor lessons, we put our new knowledge into practice with short rides out along the riverside, the beautiful snow-streaked mountains constantly in view. Two lucky riders were so happy with their horses that they decided to bring them home to America. Congratulations to Millie and Christina!

We also took time out during the week for some sightseeing. Everyone had to use their imaginations when we drove west from Stadarhus along the beautiful peninsula of Snaefellsnes: It rained sideways. The wind blew so hard that some of us never made it down the hill to the bird-watching platforms (we were feeling like kites), and no one got an up-close view of the glacier that had tantalized us from afar all week long.

On another afternoon tour, we headed south to visit the impressive breeding farm of Austerás, where Haukur Baldvínsson specializes in AI breeding using the young stallion Konsert (with 10 for tolt!). Haukur also gave us a pace demonstration on the champion Falur. Driving in the van alongside the pace track, Gudmar had to shift into third gear to keep up with the horse! Finally we saw the delightful theatre productions at Fakasel Horse Park–including breathtaking paces along a wall of fire–and enjoyed a fine dinner and terrific shopping in their boutique.

Fabulous food all during the week, a hot tub right out the back door, and horses, horses, horses all around our cozy hotel means I’m looking forward to my next America2Iceland trip to Stadarhus! Check out the photos from this trip!

Written by Nancy Marie Brown

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Song of the Vikings 2015

Sagas & Vikings

The weather continued bright and sunny for America2Iceland’s third “Song of the Vikings” tour based at Stadarhus, this year with optional horseback riding. Strangely, six of our eight attendees opted in, and we ended up scheduling riding lessons and trail rides with Linda every day at 10 and 11 in the morning. Everyone had a great time, some enjoying the tolt for the first time in their lives.

Meanwhile our non-riders enjoyed taking nature walks on the farm–birdwatching and botanizing and meeting the foals in the bright sunshine–or reading books in the cozy hotel lounge.

Each afternoon we embarked on an expedition to a saga sight or other cultural center. Highlights were Borg and the Settlement Center exhibitions, Reykholt and the Snorri Sturluson exhibition, a visit to Fakasel Horse Park, and the 871 museum in Reykjavik. We also visited a lava cave, waterfalls, the black beaches of Hvita River, the largest volume hotspring in Europe, the only Icelandic goat breeding farm, the local swimming pool, and Stedji Brewery, famous for its licorice beer (believe me, it’s good).

After an excellent dinner prepared with imagination by our creative cook, Gerða (who confessed she had never cooked for so many vegetarians before), we gathered in the stable’s coffee room for a brief saga discussion and viewing of related videos. A fine combination of learning and relaxation, like all of America2Iceland’s tours.

Written by Nancy Marie Brown

See photos taken on this trip!

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Safety around horses

Safety Around Horses
Icelandic horses are very friendly and much less dangerous to be around than horses of other breeds, but that doesn’t mean they are harmless. Here are eight important safety tips:

1. When approaching loose horses in a field, make sure they see you. Don’t shout or wave things at them, just talk to them and wait until they see you before you approach.

2. If they come close enough to touch, you can gently touch them. Don’t raise your hands, or they will be frightened. Some horses hate having their ears touched. Other horses might nip. Never try to hold on to them.

3. Never feed them anything.

4. Be careful taking photos. Your camera’s flash could cause a stampede.

5. Be especially slow and careful when approaching mares with foals. Never get in between a mare and her foal or she may become aggressive. Never hold onto a foal.

6. If you become surrounded by a herd of horses in a field, move slowly and carefully through them until you reach the edge, talking to them all the time. You do not want them to become afraid and stampede. You could get knocked down and hurt.

7. Do not go into a stall, a corral, or a small fenced-in area that has horses in it unless you are intending to catch (and halter) a horse to ride and you know what you’re doing.

8. When approaching a horse that is tied up, talk to it. If you have to pass behind it, either stay at least a full horse length away, or go close enough to place your hand on the horse’s rump and reassure it that you are harmless.

  • Safety Around Horses
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Safely Exploring Nature in Iceland

Safely Exploring Nature in Iceland

Iceland is dangerous. The weather changes quickly and dramatically, the terrain is difficult to walk through, and there are very few warning signs. Whenever you go out for a walk, no matter how far you intend to go, be sure someone goes with you or knows where you are going and when you are coming back. Always take:

1. a raincoat with hood (rain pants, too, if you’re going out for more than an hour)

2. a warm sweater or fleece

3. gloves and a warm hat or ear warmer

4. water

5. chocolate, a granola bar, or some emergency food

6. some form of identification and contact info

7. a cellphone if you have one

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Horse Trekking in Iceland 101

Horse Trekking in Iceland

For several years I’ve been fortunate enough to ride on treks in Iceland every summer. There is nothing more satisfying than getting through a day being so close to nature, riding amazing horses, traveling with friends, and coming back to a home-cooked Icelandic meal. I am privileged to see the most breathtaking scenery I have ever imagined. Sometimes the landscape is completely untouched by man: No telephone poles or power lines for miles. The horses surprise me with their abilities and willingness. I am in awe.

There are times, though, when things don’t go exactly as planned and I find myself asking, “Why am I doing this?”

Admittedly, a little fear is part of the rush I get from trekking. In order to have an optimum experience on a trek, I know I must relinquish all control and just enjoy the ride. It’s all about staying in the saddle and trusting my horse. It is both physically and mentally challenging, and that’s why I love it.

But it’s not for everybody. For many years I have also organized treks through my company America2Iceland. Here are some tips I’ve compiled that I hope will help you decide if going on a trek in Iceland—with mine or any other company—is really something you want to do. I’m not trying to sell you anything—maybe the reverse. Let me be clear: Trekking is not for the faint-of-heart.

BE HONEST ABOUT YOUR ABILITIES

If you have doubts about your ability to enjoy riding six or more hours a day at a fast pace, over various terrain and under all weather conditions (think snow, sleet, freezing rain), and in all gaits, then stop reading right here. You’re not ready for a trek. Being not just physically up for the challenge, but mentally prepared for it are prerequisites. Ideally all riders should be intermediate to advanced in skill-level. If you come from a different discipline and have not ridden an Icelandic horse before, it would be wise to take lessons on the breed before hitting open terrain.

Even for intermediate and advanced riders, a trek is not like taking a trail ride at home. Chances are, you won’t know your horses very well before the trek. On some treks, riders like to try as many horses as possible, switching horses at each and every break. If that’s you, let your guide know and have fun. More important, if that’s not you, your guide needs to know. You will still need two or more horses to get you through a 40-kilometer day. You need to be a good enough rider that you can “read” each horse and adjust your riding style accordingly. And if I have to explain to you why you need more than one horse per day, well, let’s just say that trekking probably isn’t for you.

CHOOSE YOUR TACK WISELY
The tack you are given before the first ride is the tack you will use and be responsible for during the entire trek. Check it carefully for wear. Most of the tack used on treks is old and well-loved. Now’s the time to get a new girth or stirrup leather—not when it breaks 20-kilometers from home. Your guides will have checked the tack too, but it’s easy to miss something.

Be sure to pick a saddle that you will be comfortable in—again, if you don’t know how to do that by just looking at the available saddles, then trekking is probably not for you. On many treks, you will also be expected to fit the bridle and noseband on your horse properly. Your guide may show you how the first time, but won’t check it every day unless you ask.

At the end of the day, you’ll want to keep your bridle, saddle, and helmet together. I always bring along a roll of colored tape so I can mark my stuff. Sometime I mark my horses as well by a special hair braid woven with colored tape or yarn, especially if the herd is predominantly one color. People have picked out the wrong horse before. Trust me, it’s happened.

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BE PATIENT
There are times when you’ll be told to hurry up and wait. Some horses can be difficult to catch, and the bigger the field or enclosure, the longer it can take. Sometimes it can take 3-4 people to catch one horse, and everyone is welcome to get involved in that process. It’s a great way to work up a sweat before riding!! But before you can safely take your trusted companions out for vigorous work, you must also attend to their needs. Each horse is inspected first to see if it needs salve applied to its lips, needs shoes, or if there are any lameness issues—in which case the horse will be left behind at the night’s corral and you’ll be assigned a new one. It can be really frustrating to be all ready to go, only to find yourself eating your packed lunch before the start of the day. But at least the sun is still shining! Not always:(

CHOOSE YOUR POSITION
On most treks in Iceland, the spare horses—whether 10 or 100—run loose between the riders. You need to decide, are you a front rider or a back rider? Sometimes your horse makes the decision for you: Always ask your guide if your horse is a front or back horse before you pick your position.

Front Riders: As a front rider, you have chosen to ride in front of the loose herd. Ideally you are on a horse that prefers to be ridden in the front. Some horses that are unruly in the back tend to calm down in the front. The front riders are responsible for keeping the pace of the ride and for opening the gates. That means they have to be close to the guide and somewhat close to the herd, but they also have to be aware of terrain changes because the herd behind them will also have to go through it. An example would be going through a lava field with sharp rocks. The front riders need to slow down to a walk so that the loose horses doesn’t go too fast and possibly injure themselves. Same thing for going up and down hills or through deep water crossings. The front riders need to be constantly aware of the herd behind them, so they don’t lead them into danger. There are cattle guards and gates to be aware of too, so front riders must always be in communication with the guide. If you have eyes in the back of your head, this is the spot for you.

Back Riders: The back riders have the best view, unless it’s dry and dusty. Again, find out in advance if your horse can be ridden in the back. The back riders must make sure not to push the herd too hard, or else the herd can bunch up and split off in different directions. If and when that happens (and it probably will), you might find yourself blessed with a horse who thinks it’s his job to keep the rest of the herd in line. If you end up with a work horse like this on your hands, it can be loads of fun—just make sure you are ready for it. It’s also possible to ride in the back and just go along with the herd. Back riders have to close the gates, but usually your guide will have helpers to do that. If you can summon your inner cowgirl or cowboy, it can be a fun job to close the gates just to have the opportunity to ride fast to catch up with the group.

Horse Trekking in Iceland

THE STARTING GATE
The beginning of the ride is always the most adrenaline pumping, heart-in-the-throat part of the entire day. Do try and remind yourself of this. The horses have been waiting as patiently as they possibly can. Once the herd starts moving, your horse will go whether you are on it or not. So, unless you are good at a flying mount, be sure you are on your horse before the guides are on theirs and/or the gates are opened. Ask one of the guides to hold your horse’s head if you have any doubt you can mount safely—do not put your fellow travelers at risk by asking a friend to do this for you.

The main thing is to make sure you’ve got the right horse, your tack is on correctly, your stirrups are in their proper positions, you have both hands on the reins, and you follow the guide’s instructions. There is no turning back at this point. Most of the horses won’t be able to stand still, so the key is to let them move a little if they are getting anxious. Just sit and breathe, relax into your seat bones, and wait for the fun to begin.

ENJOY THE SCENERY
Once the horses understand they are actually on a long-distance trek, they go into “energy conservation” mode. They pick their positions within the herd, settle down, and choose their favorite gait—which you hope is also your favorite gait. This is when it’s maybe possible to take photos and enjoy the scenery.

If you are a back rider, then you are fortunate enough to observe the herd dynamics while traveling. The loose herd is constantly establishing a hierarchy, and sometimes this can wreak havoc. A lone horse may feel more comfortable tagging along with a friend who is being ridden in the back, or you might see the herd trying to split up and go in different directions.

Horse Trekking in Iceland

RELINQUISH ALL CONTROL
More often than not, the herd will stick close together, and it’s highly unlikely that your horse will turn around and take off in the opposite direction. Your job as a rider is to pick a position, either front or back, and stay there. Getting caught in the middle of the herd is not a desirable place to be.

But other than keeping your place in the herd, there’s not much “riding” you can do. If you are a control freak, then a trek might not be for you. When traveling with a herd, it’s not possible to micromanage the horse’s every step. Your horse is better able than you are to pick the best footing, so just trust your horse. As long as your horse isn’t pushing the herd too hard (if you’re a back rider), or leading the group too slowly or too fast (as a front rider), then you just need to go with the flow.

ALL GAITS REQUIRED
Admit it, we all love this breed because of the tolt. A good trekking horse can tolt for a decent amount of time. However, it’s not physically possible to expect your horse to tolt up hills, through mud, and on sketchy terrain. Please give your horse a break! Unless you’ve been blessed with a natural tolting machine, trying to force it into tolt the entire ride is not kind, nor is it good horsemanship. Let the horse trot when it needs to. You will most likely experience all of the gaits on a trek. There’s no avoiding trot, and sometimes there’s no avoiding piggy pace, so if that’s an issue for you, don’t go trekking.

Horse Trekking in Iceland

OBSTACLES
There are times when the trek will have to travel along Route 1 or another busy road to get to a trail. It can add an element of danger, but it is also an amazing sight for tourists, who will stop their cars to take photos. This is your fifteen seconds of fame, so enjoy it! You might also experience some very inept drivers—both tourists and Icelanders—who are completely unaware of how to operate a vehicle around a herd of loose horses. Always be aware!

RESPECT ALL RIDERS
Everyone has their own reasons for going on a trek. It might be one of their own personal riding goals, it could be on their bucket list, they might want to experience the beauty of Iceland, enjoy time with friends, or satisfy that inner cowgirl/boy. Whatever the reason, we are all traveling with the horses as a collective group. Therefore, the safety of all riders and horses is of the utmost importance.

Trekking is not a competition, but at times it can bring out a competitive nature in riders. The most successful treks are when all riders respect each other and work together. It requires a team effort, and if we can remind ourselves that these horses are living, breathing animals, not machines, then we can have a truly wonderful experience.

Horse Trekking in Iceland

WHEN IN ICELAND, THINK LIKE AN ICELANDER
Þetta reddast is an Icelandic phrase or philosophy that means, “Don’t worry, it will all work out.” It truly captures Icelandic optimism, but it can also be an issue with those who like a clearly planned itinerary. Remember this when trekking, because chances are most of your Icelandic guides will have this philosophy. Don’t be surprised if one of them runs into an old friend on the road and stops to talk, or is doing business deals on his or her cellphone while you are trying to ask a very important question. Just breathe and know it will all work out. You will be a better person after a trek, I promise. But make sure you’re ready before you go.

If you have realized after reading this that you are not suited for a trek, check out our most popular Educate & Rejuvenate trips. However, if you are interested in signing up for a Icelandic horse trek, check out our Trekking Adventures.

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2015 is almost here!

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A2I is now a full partnership between Gudmar and Rebecca. Joe will stay on as an employee, but has given his portion of the partnership to Rebecca. This increased ownership position will allow Rebecca to focus even more time and energy on continuing to raise the bar for the quality of A2I!

Gudmar is now nearly full time in Iceland and has new business ventures with Stadarhus, his farm and hotel, and the Horse Showplace Fakasel. This will serve to increase Gudmar’s connections to the thriving horse culture in Iceland and reap benefits for A2I AND our clients. Gudmar will be developing a structured curricula for the A2I clinics and will hand pick guest clinicians to give our clients a new and varied experience.

Due to the continued popularity of our original Educate and Rejuvenate trip we will be adding more of them in 2015. Every year we fill this trip and have a waiting list. It is unfair to have so many potential guests left out, so the best answer is to just make more! If you have never taken one of our trips, this is the best place to start. Whether you are a beginner or an advanced rider, there is something for everyone. In our experience, taking this trip is the best way to prep for one of our other trips that include a trek. We are also continuing to offer custom trips for your personal groups of 6 or more people. This is a great way for your family, and/or riding or photography club to enjoy the best of Iceland.

If anyone is wondering about the latest volcano activity in Iceland, the short answer is it is no risk to any of our operations. It is not near Stadarhus or any of our trek locations.

Hope to see you in 2015!

 

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Meet Gudmar Petursson

Gudmar Petursson was featured on Kentucky Life, a public television network. Here he profiles the Icelandic horse. A really great informational video about the history of this breed, about the unique qualities of the breed, about Iceland, and about Gudmar’s career. Enjoy the YouTube video and see some images taken on some of our trips! You won’t be disappointed.

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Exclusive Screening

America2Iceland is proud to present an exclusive screening of the documentary film Herd In Iceland at the annual Kentucky Icelandic Horse Show on Oct 12th in Louisville, KY. The film is a documentary about the annual round-up of the Icelandic horse. It was filmed from land and air, foot and hoof across the vast Icelandic landscape. Herd in Iceland captures the symbolism behind the horses and the nation they represent.

For information about attending the show, please see Gudmar Petursson’s Facebook page.

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