We, at Fjallabak, are not specialized in horse riding tours, even if we use pack horses in some of our treks, but we have some very good passionate friends that we can recommend to you here.
The participants of the riding tours travel off main traffic roads on horseback. They are lead by two very experienced guides who know all the historical paths and trails of the highlands. All luggage, food and necessary equipment is usually transported by a 4×4 vehicle between the stopovers. Accommodation is provided in well-kept mountain huts. But in some other remote areas pack horses are carrying all equipment and accommodation can be in tents.
According to the old tradition of Icelandic horse travelling in Iceland it is usual to take some extra horses along so that one can change mounts if and when necessary which makes the ride even more fun. To ensure a friendly atmosphere each group may not exceed 12-15 persons.
The Icelandic horse is intelligent, good tempered, versatile and beautiful. It can be found in over 40 different colors, with about 100 variations. Its average height is between 12.3 and 13.1 hands. It masters five gaits, among them the magical tölt. It is strong, enthusiastic, forward-going and docile. It is virtually unknown for a horse, born in Iceland, to kick or bite, and they are usually easy to catch, box and handle.
The history of the Icelandic horse can be traced all the way back to the settlement of the country in the late 9th century. Vikings who settled in Iceland brought with them their horses of various origins, though mostly of Germanic descent. Some sources claim that at the time of Iceland's settlement there was a breed in Scandinavia and Northern Europe called Equus Scandinavicus. Due to the isolation of Iceland, this stock remained pure while it was crossbred elsewhere. Other sources claim that the Icelandic horse is closely related to the English Exmoor pony. Whoever its cousins may be the Icelandic horse is pure-bred and unique today, over a thousand years after first coming to the land of fire and ice.
The Icelandic horse has played a vital role in its home country from the beginning. In heathen times the horse was highly regarded and renowned in Norse mythology. The horse played a big part in Norse mythological stories. Several Norse gods and their enemies, the giants, owned them The most famous of all these mythological horses was Sleipnir, the eight-footed pacer. The influence of the Norse myths is still visible, as many riding clubs bear names of mythical horses, as do herds of horses in modern Iceland.
The horse is often mentioned in the Icelandic Sagas as well, still playing a vital role, this time in the warfare of the Viking period. To a serious warrior a good horse was indispensable. Great horses were treated with much respect and sometimes slain warriors would be buried alongside their mount.
For centuries, the horse was the only means of transportation in Iceland, as well as, being the most important working animal in the days before machinery. The horse was called "the most useful servant" and literally followed man from birth to death, fetching the doctor and midwife to pulling the coffin to the cemetery. The first automobile arrived in Iceland in the year 1904 and almost immediately the horse became redundant. Enthusiastic individuals, however, kept breeding good horses and Iceland's first horse breeding association was formed the same year the automobile arrived.
Today, there are around 80,000 horses in Iceland, no small number for a country with 300,000 inhabitants! Thousands of people ride in cities and towns as well as in the countryside. The only practical role of the horse today is during the annual roundups when farmers use horses to round up sheep in the highlands. Most horses in Iceland today are used for leisure and competition. The first breeding shows were held in 1906 and since then horse owners in Iceland have concentrated on breeding an excellent stock of a unique horse, suitable for children and adults alike.