This was already high up on my list of unique experiences to have in Iceland and regardless of the weather, we were intent on doing it. Turns out, the weather was indeed awful everywhere else but when we turned up the rather scenic drive to Hestheimar, the weather quite literally took a turn for the better. Yes, there was still some wind but it was in no way near the gale force winds we’d experienced on the drive up! It was amazing and we all immediately perked up even more in anticipation of this experienc – a fun afternoon exploring the Icelandic countryside on horseback!
So, confession time, prior to this, I had never ridden a horse before. Heck, I’d never even touched one or really come close to one except maybe the police horses in London (and those things look rather scary so I always give them a wide berth). These horses at Hestheimar couldn’t have been any more different to my expectations. They were so playful and friendly and kinda reminded me of dogs in a lot of ways – each one had their own personality and they all loved getting attention! 🙂
Where are my manners? I’ve been going on about Hestheimar and not actually telling you what it is. Hestheimar is a family-owned guest house and horse farm run byLea Helga Ólafsdóttir, her husband Marteinn Hjaltested with their three children, Ísak Freyr, Sunneva Eik and Hákon Snær – check put the about page of the Hestheimar website if you wanna see a picture and find out more about this amazing family. The idea behind Hestheimar is that you do one thing or the other – stay in the guest houses or visit for the horses… or potentially both! We did, the horse bit but immediately we arrived, I really wished we’d stayed overnight there. As the day progressed, this wish to stay overnight only grew more and more and you’ll see why!
So, where was I? Right, so we arrived to much better weather than expected and I was thinking, we’d arrived, saddle up and go out straight away. There was nothing stopping us from doing that but as soon as we walked in, we fell in instant love with all the horses and had to see and pet every single one. They’re usually outdoors (and there were loads more outdoors) but the ones inside were the ones that that has just been exercising, training or had specific reasons to be sheltered indoors. We’d seen quite a few outside already roaming the countryside and so we were really pleased to be able to get up close with the horses inside.
Our guide for the day was Emma and she is one of the nicest people I’ve ever met! So sweet and such a calming presence for a rookie rider like me. Within minutes of meeting her, any concerns I had about horse riding flew right out of the window (to be honest, I didn’t really have any except this nagging though that I would be terrible at horse riding). Soon enough, we saddled up and hit the countryside. My horse was called Ásta, Lloyd’s was called þarey (pronounce Tharey – þ is the symbol for ‘th’ e.g. þingvellir National Park) – those two were the mares of the group, Georgia and Chris (whose horse were called Stufur and Vikingur) were the stallions of the group. They are all native Icelandic horses (the breed) and age between 12 – 18 years old (not sure about the exact ages for each one though). Random fact I learnt from Emma: You can not import horses into Iceland and if you take a horse out of the country to compete (or for whatever reason) you can not bring it back into the country as Icelandic law prohibits it.
Now anyone who’s ever been horse riding knows that you can ride a horse and hold onto a DSLR camera at the same time, seeing as I was a rookie, I wasn’t even going to attempt this but what I did instead was record the ride on the GoPro so check out the video below and let me know what you think. 🙂 If you approve, I will try to incorporate more videos in blog posts in the future. (I always feel like they add an extra ‘something’ to blog posts).
VIDEO: EXPLORING ICELAND ON HORSEBACK
It was still windy outside (as you can probably tell from the video) but it was BRILLIANT!!! Absolutely fantastic!!! I wanted more – I would love to go back this summer and spent a few days here just riding horse and taking in the dramatic landscape. I think a long weekend here might need to pop up on the calendar very soon!
When we got back, Emma made us all teas, coffees and hot chocolates served with delicious home-made cakes while we warmed up and excitedly garbed about how brilliant the experience was. Oh, and I almost forgot to add, due to the weather, we were relatively calm outside of the stables but once we got back indoors, we had a little gallop with the horses. You should have seen the excited looks on our faces and the high pitched shrieks and giggles as we rode the horses faster inside. My confidence had built up so much at this point that it all felt so natural at this point!
We then got to check out the guesthouses. The guesthouses felt so truly Icelandic and in keeping with the countryside. I love the wood (the smell is amazing) and the huge windows! I’d been talking to my friends about booking a cabin for ages and so this is just sheer perfection for me. Those windows would also mean you could look for the Northern Lights and stay warm indoors while you wait for them to show up – this would be a perfect place to see them too as there is no light pollution whatsoever.
By the time, we had to leave for our next stop on our trip across Iceland, it’s safe to say I definitely left Hestheimar with a HUGE desire to come back!