Riding Icelandic horses is on the top of everyone’s to-do list when they reach Reykjavik, and for good reason. Icelandic horses are unlike any other in the world, brought to the country by Viking ships 1,000 years ago. They look more like model ponies than horses with their long flowing manes, and each is more beautiful than the last. They can tölt, a distinct and more graceful gallop than your average horse. Not to mention with their friendly dispositions, they are every Icelander’s best friend, often resembling giant dogs.
I was able to attend a morning riding session with Viking Horses, just outside of Reykjavik. We explored landscapes that had the same minerals as Mars and the moon. It turns out, Neil Armstrong and fellow astronauts actually practiced here before going into space!
We rode at different speeds and bonded over hot tea and Icelandic chocolate in the farm’s loft afterwards. It was the best way to kick off a visit to Iceland, and really set standards high for the rest of the trip. Here’s everything you need to know about this experience.
Where is Viking Horses?
Viking horses is located on the outskirts of Reykjavik, a short drive away from the city center. We were picked up by a shuttle outside our apartment at 8:30am, like clockwork. The ride was about 20-30 minutes long, including a stop to pick up two other guests.
Don’t worry though, this isn’t a huge coach bus operation. The goal of Viking Horses is to provide small, intimate experiences that allow you to connect with others in attendance, not lag 30 people behind someone holding up a flag.
The staff feels more like a family than employees, and is made up mostly of young equestrians who have come from all over the world for the opportunity to work here. For many, training Icelandic horses is a dream job, and one look at these joyful creatures will show you why.
What makes Viking Horses different?
You have the option of riding in the morning, afternoon or evening, for approximately 2 hours. You can book online or email Viking Horses with any questions, they’re extremely responsive and communicate easily in English. I recommend you come prepared with appreciate riding attire, like long pants, some sort of riding boots or sneakers and clothing that you don’t mind getting dirty.
It was raining the morning of my visit, so Viking Horses provided waterproof pants and a jacket to help keep us warm and dry. They also have helmets of all sizes for your ride.
You won’t use riding crops (the guides will have one for use as a last resort). Instead, the guides encourage passive direction of the horses, leaning back and pointing your legs outward when you want to stop, and leaning forward and bringing your legs in when you want to go.
They also encourage verbal cues as opposed to kicking or nudging the horses in the ribs. Mostly, the horses who work here are older and docile, so you don’t need to prompt them too much and they’re happy to follow routine. On route, we came across another tour provider that couldn’t help but comment on how beautiful the our horses were. Notably, their group had twice the people and seemed a tad impersonal.
After our ride, we were invited upstairs to the loft for a delicious spread of sandwiches, hot beverages and Icelandic chocolate. We enjoyed the company of two
Tips for first time riders
Be aware that your horse may have a voracious appetite. Mine, aptly named Mossa for her affinity for moss, kept stopping to snack on greenery. It’s best to keep the horses moving so the group can stay together, so encourage yours to keep moving by making clicking sounds.
If you can, stick around to watch the horses when they get back to the farm. Those in our group were so happy to be back that they rolled on the ground like giant puppies! It was adorable.
It’s hard to take steady photos of videos on top of a horse, and I wouldn’t recommend bringing an expensive camera on your ride. Save the photo shoot for before or after; the staff is happy to help you get the perfect shot!
Finally, while it’s not mandatory or expected in Iceland, I always find it courteous to tip the staff for good service, and I have every confidence that is what you’ll get if you choose to ride with Viking Horses.
Till next time, safe travels!
*Disclosure: Viking Horses provided me with a complimentary morning ride. All opinions and horse friends made are my own!