They say that the descent into the Ísafjörður Airport in Iceland is one of the world’s most difficult landings. The plane skims so close to the mountain on its right side that passengers can make out every rock and goat path on its slope before the pilot banks a hard left to land abruptly on an impossibly short runway.
Little did I know that less than 24 hours later, that perilous descent would pale in comparison to skating a sheep trail on the edge of a loose shale mountainside with an 80% grade, hurtling down into a valley at full “tolt” and chasing after a freely running herd of the toughest equines I’ve ever encountered.
When Horse & Style Magazine was invited to experience the incredible beauty of Iceland, on horseback with Riding Iceland, it was impossible to say no. This is the best part of my job – opportunities to travel to far-flung corners of the world just don’t come along every day, and when they do it reminds me that this career I’ve chosen really is a dream one. I’m H&S Editor Erin Gilmore, and along with H&S Web Developer Christina Gray Parker, we are spending the next 12 days as guests of Riding Iceland, trekking through the West Fjords and Northeast Iceland.
On any other horse, the paths we traversed would have been unthinkable. But today, on what I was later told was the “easy” day of riding (what then does “difficult” entail?!), my new best friends, the adorable and amazing Icelandic horses Gloi and Kuldi, steadily trotted and tolted and carried me safely through rivers and bogs, rocky gullies, and into some of the most amazing country I’ve ever laid eyes on. The Icelandic horse prefers to go everywhere fast, very fast, tolting its way through rockbeds and footing situations that your show horse would never dream of attempting (the solution when riding along a barely-there path of rock on the steepest mountainside, by the way, is to find your Zen place and sit absolutely still on a loose rein. The Icelandic horse, amazingly, takes care of the rest.)
Who knows what’s coming up tomorrow. We didn’t choose the “advanced riders only” tour for nothing, after all. But no matter the challenge, it’s good to have an Icelandic to depend on for whatever lays around the next bend.
Stay tuned for more updates from H&S in Iceland!