Useful information about our Riding tours
The Icelandic Horse
The Icelandic horse is a small breed of horse that has evolved in isolation in Iceland. It is indeed a horse and not a pony. They are small, but strong and very tough! The horse has survived in Iceland for 1100 years without any crossbreeding. The Icelandic horse is relatively small, its average height ranging from 132 to 145 cm high. Still is is so strong that it can easily carry a full grown adult. It has a spirited temperament and a wonderful personality. It comes in over 100 different colours and colour patterns, even colours you would not find among other breeds. Our horses are known for their extreme sure-footedness and ability to cross even the roughest terrain, glacial rivers and lava fields. It has two additional gaits. Beside the walk, trot and gallop you find in other horse breeds it also has the ability to perform the tölt and pace. The tölt is a four-beat gait where the sequence of foot falls is the same as in walk. This means that at least one foot is on the ground at any time. That being the case, there is no period of suspension within the tölt. This lack of suspension in the gait means it has a smoothness which is comfortable for the rider as there is no time when the horse bounces the rider out of the saddle. Some of the horses can also do the „skeið“, the "flying pace". It is used in pacing competitions and is very fast – even sometimes faster than a full speed gallop. Some pacers can go as fast as 50 km/h but it is not a gait we use for long distances. But the most exciting thing about our horses is their friendly „will to go“. We love to refer to them as our good natured „Porsches“ - with the speed but without the pollution!
For more detailed information about this fascinating horse breed, please have a look at this brochure provided by the Horse Breeders Association of Iceland http://www.icehorse-experience.is/en/about-the-icelandic-horse
We operate all of our tours in cooperation with local partners that are horse people through and through. They breed their own horses and train them themselves. Our partners are the experts we turn to in order to provide the most authentic and original experience for our guests. They operate their tours in their home region where they know each and every mountain, creek and canyon. Our partners are our local experts – they know the hidden gems you don´t read about in guidebooks and they know the tales, songs and stories associated with every trail. Meet our partners and guides!
Our tack is very similar to the one used by English style riding. But don´t worry if you come from a Western Riding background, we will assist you and you will get used to the tack in no time. We use safety stirrups on all our saddles and will ask you to wear a helmet at all times. You can bring your own helmet (please check Disinfektion of riding gear) or you can borrow one of our partner´s without extra charge.
Our bridles are very practical, they have clip on reins that you can release so that your horse can have some grass while you enjoy your break! We also provide you with a saddle bag, big enough for your picnic, gloves and a small camera.
Riding with the herd
(please note that we do not have a herd with us on all of our tours - please check under "Type" in each itinerary)
One of the things that makes riding tours in Iceland completely different from tours in other countries is the fact that we take lots of spare horses along when we travel. The sight of 40 – 80 horses running free over the mountain trails with the wind in their mane is a view you will not forget – we promise! On each tour you can expect to ride different horses every day. We usually start with the quiet ones and if you are ready for a bit more of a challenge we help you to work you way up to the "speed machine".
That means that we need at least three to four horses per person. The horses we are not riding run along freely in a herd. Our partners and their staff will take care of the herd and if you want to, you can help them with the herding. But please note that you should always follow the instructions by the staff. We will go over the safety procedures on the first day of the trip. Riding with the herd is an once- in- a -lifetime experience for every rider!
Never ridden an icelandic horse before?
We would like to make the bold statement that everybody can ride an Icelandic Horse! You just need to choose the right tour for your likes and abilities and we will choose the right horse for you. For our multi-day tours you should already have some general horseback riding experience. For the Comfortable Rides and Hotel Riding Tours intermediate riding skills are usually sufficient, but please check individual tour descriptions. However for our Authentic Rides where we ride across the remote highland accompanied by a herd of spare horses you should fulfill these requirements:
Please note: You do not need any prior knowledge of Icelandic Horses or the special gait tölt. We will explain our way of riding and will take time and patience to teach you how to ride the tölt. However, you might get more out of a multi-day trip if you know already a little bit about tölting. This is why we offer a pre-tour for our multi-day tours in cooperation with our partners. On this pre-tour you stay for two days and 1 night with full board on a farm with excellent horses and riding facilities and qualified riding instructors who will teach you in two days the basics of riding the tölt. All together you will spend up to 10 hours in the saddle and lessons will take place inside an indoor riding area and outside in the nature. This is also a splendid way to get back in shape in case you do not ride on a regular basis at home. That way you are done with the sore muscles by the time your long tour starts! We especially recommend this pre-tour for riders that are used to Western Riding. But as already mentioned above, this pre-tour is just a service to make sure you enjoy the tour even more but it is not a requirement. We will take good care of you either way! More information on the pre-tour: http://www.exploringiceland.is/riding-courses.html
Horse Welfare – Our Animal Welfare Policy
Horse Welfare is not just a slogan for us. All of Exploring Iceland Team Members own horses and ride on a regular basis. Some of us even breed horses. We love horses - in fact they are everything to us! That is why we carefully pick and choose our partners. We visit them on a regular basis – even without prior notice - to make sure that their horses are kept in good conditions all year round. That is also the reason you will not find many departures in a row for our own tours operated by ourselves. We want to make sure that both horses and the human team behind each tour get a good rest in between departures so that they can deliver 100% service once you arrive. To get some extra support we took Louise Martin, a young veterinarian and horse lover as our Exploring Iceland Horse Welfare Advisor on board. She came first to Iceland in 2007 and went on a riding tour across the Icelandic highland. By now she has her own Icelandic Horses. Please have a look at our Animal Welfare Policy http://www.exploringiceland.is/animal-welfare-policy.html on our website. Recently we were chosen by the Finnish University of Lapland to take part in their highly ambitious Animals and Responsible Tourism Project. More information on this great project can be found here: http://animaltourismfinland.com/
Here we will try to provide a bit more information about the way horses are kept in Iceland:
During the typical annual circle our horses are kept outside 24/7 during summer on usually rather large fields with access to good grazing and fresh water. If they are close to the stable or a paddock we will keep them there for a few hours during the day when we want to ride them in order to have them nearby and dry. Also in some cases to prevent them from eating 24 hours! Obesity can be a problem in Icelandic Horses. During autumn (usually from Mid September to December) we take their shoes off (all horses in Iceland are ridden with shoes) and they are turned onto big autumn fields where they live nearly „half-wild“ in large herds. During this time they are completely „on vacation“, they are not ridden but we visit them regularly to make sure that every horse is doing well. End of December/beginning of January we take the young and competition horses into the stable for training. Then they are kept in stalls but the Icelandic Law for Horse Welfare states clear regulations regarding stall sizes, daily playtime outside, paddock fencing, food etc. http://www.reglugerd.is/reglugerdir/allar/nr/910-2014
We often have multiple horse stalls because Icelandic Horses are very social creatures.
All of our Exploring Iceland Partners must 100% comply with these regulations.
Older fully trained horses, breeding mares, untrained youngster and horses that are not ridden during wintertime like many of our horses that we use for the tours usually stay outside on winter fields in large herds where they are fed with hay and where sufficient water and wind protection is provided, either natural or man made. From May/June all horses again are on summer fields where they stay outside 24/7 feeding on grass. A few exemptions from these rules are made regarding stallions due to their nature.
A few words regarding straw bedding: Due to Iceland´s northern climate we do not grow much grain, so straw is limited. Usually the only straw found in Iceland is barley straw of rather poor quality since the barley is often harvested in autumn and the straw does not dry properly. So most Icelanders use soft rubber mats and/or wood shavings. But let´s always keep in mind: Icelandic Horses are most happy when they can be outside in a big herd with good access to grass or hey, water and wind shelter all year round!
Please do not hesitate to contact us directly if you have any more questions!
Food on our tours and luggage transportation
On longer riding tours our partners prepare their food themselves. A cook accompanies our tours in a kitchen van bringing food, kitchen utensils and our luggage along. We always strive to buy local products and to introduce proper authentic Icelandic cuisine to our guests. But don´t worry - you won´t have to live on strange diets such as the rotten shark in case you have already heard of the (in)famous hákarl! We typically serve Icelandic fish like salmon, Arctic char, trout, haddock and cod. Of course you will also get to taste the wonderful Icelandic lamb – a delicious meat coming from free range animals. In case you are a vegetarian, no need to worry. Just let us know in advance about your preferences and we will cater for your needs as well. There will be few if any chances to buy food or beverages during the trip. So bring your chocolate and beer as well. During the tour all non-alcoholic beverages are included but in some cases you can buy a can of beer or a class of wine from our partners during the tour. We usually don´t serve soda drinks but lovely pure and healthy non chlorine Icelandic water! Please note that in our Hotel Riding Tours dinner is not included but our hotels offer an in-house restaurant. More detailed information here.
accommodation on our tours
Hotel Riding Tours: Double, twin or single rooms with private facilities. Sometimes triple rooms upon request. Single rooms require a supplement. Usually we cannot offer shared twins since most people who chose hotel tours don´t want to share a room with a stranger. Hotels range from comfortable 3 Star to luxurious 5 Star hotels (please have a look at the individual description) but all of them offer cozy rooms with private bathrooms and in-house restaurants and bars. Ideal for guests who want to do a proper riding tour from place to place but do not want to share rooms with strangers over night.
Comfortable Rides Tours: Usually rooms in guesthouses, farms or hostels. Mainly with made up beds and shared facilities. Often double or twin rooms, sometimes larger bed rooms. Guests that travel on their own will usually be asked to share a room with same sex travelers. Guests share bathrooms. This is a good option for people who travel by themselves but are happy to share a room with other riders to avoid single room supplements. If you do not feel comfortable with sharing a room or bathroom with strangers, please book one of our hotel riding tours. If a sleeping bag is required, it will be indicated in the individual tour description.
Sleeping bag accommodation: Some (not all) of our Authentic Riding tours have sleeping bag accommodation which means sleeping in shared rooms with shared facilities. Usually you will have to bring your own sleeping bag. Rooms can be anything from 2 or 4 bed rooms to a dormitory or sleeping attic in a mountain hut where many people have to sleep side by side. Both sexes may share a room, similar to youth hostels. In the mountain huts accommodation is often very basic and guests will have to live and sleep in very close quarters. Bathrooms in mountain huts are usually very basic or non-existent. Guests may have to use outside composting toilets. If you do not feel comfortable with sleeping in close proximity with strangers we recommend that you check the individual tour description or book one of our comfort or hotel riding tours.
If you need more specific information regarding individual tours please do not hesitate to ask!
Individual travel insurance is not included in the tour prices. We urge our guests to purchase relevant travel insurance before visiting Iceland. Guests from Europe should bring their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).If you would like to purchase extra coverage: https://www.worldnomads.com
Disinfection of riding gear
Icelandic horses are not vaccinated and are therefore susceptible to infectious agents from abroad.Visitors are asked to adopt strict biosecurity measures!
Importing the following equipment is strictly prohibited:
Thank you for your cooperation – by following these rules you are doing your bit towards Horse Welfare in Iceland!
More information on this matter can be aquired throught the website of the Icelandic Food & Veterinary Authority: http://www.mast.is/english/frontpage/import-export/import/ridingequipment/
What to expect in regard to the climate
The climate of Iceland is mainly cold oceanic, reaching tundra climate in the highland.
Iceland in the path of the North Atlantic Current, which makes its climate more temperate than would be expected for its latitude just south of the Arctic Circle.
The weather in Iceland is notoriously variable and often very windy. On our highland tours you can expect any kind of weather and good preparation is a key to a successful journey. When the sun is shining you need to apply strong sun protection similar to the one you would use while skiing in the Alps for example. Good layers of thermal underwear and ideally woolen sweaters in combination with a windproof jacket will keep you warm and snug even in colder temperatures. Good gloves and socks are important as well. Eat well in the mornings – we recommend the hot porridge we serve at breakfast that will keep you warm and strong during the ride. It is also advisable to bring some chocolate or any other kind of quick energy provider along. Always remember: A warm rider is a happy rider!
Here is a direct link to the Icelandic Weather forecast by the Icelandic Met Office: http://en.vedur.is/
Here are our recommendations on what to bring. Please make sure that you follow the rules set by the Icelandic Veterinary Authory http://www.mast.is/english/frontpage/import-export/import/ridingequipment/ (see above: Disinfection of Riding gear).
For Exploring Iceland on Horseback tours request a confirmation payment upon booking of 20% of the tour price. When the confirmation payment is received your seat in the saddle is secure. The remaining balance is due 4 weeks before the tour departs.
Our cancellation terms for Exploring Iceland on Horseback tours are: You can cancel your tour by e-mail, fax or letter. Cancellations usually include an administration cost of € 100,-. If the cancellation is received later than 4 weeks prior to departure, 25% of the tour price is charged. If the cancellation is received later than 2 weeks prior to departure, 50% of the tour price is charged. If you cancel later than 48 hours prior to departure, the full tour price will be charged
Exploring Iceland reserves the right to alter routes, itineraries or timetables without prior notice, should the necessity arise. We reserve the right to cancel the tour or exclude individual riders if we deem it in the person’s or group’s best interest. No liability is accepted for loss or expenses due to delays or changes of arrival or departures of flights or other services, injury, sickness, accident, strikes, damage, negligence, weather, wars or other causes outside the control of Exploring Iceland. All such losses and expenses are the personal liability of the traveller. The estimated duration of tours as indicated by km or timing can change according to road or weather conditions.
At last a few but very honest words about our Exploring Iceland On Horseback:
We select and hand-pick our partners focusing on quality, animal welfare and social responsibility.
Horseback Riding in Iceland is a thrilling adventure not be beaten by anything!
WE LOOK FORWARD TO MEETING YOU IN THE SADDLE!
Your Exploring Iceland Team!