I got on a horse that wasn’t mine today. It was a client’s horse that I had known and worked on for years. We had a little more time than expected so she asked, “Do you want to get on?” Now, I divide horses into two categories: ones that I would ride, and ones that I would never ride. Simple.
This horse was one that I’ve always liked. So I figured, “Why not?” I donned her helmet and hopped on to do a little walk/trot around the arena. It felt great. As a timid rider that might seem strange, but I grew up catch riding and being assigned random horses at my show barn so I have learned to read a horse quickly and use a fresh slate every time.
Something about a new horse without any previous history of falls or misbehavior, help me a lot. This was something that became abundantly clear while I was in Iceland this past August. Four days of riding on different terrains, on four different horses can test anyone.
Sadly, I only rode three of the four days due to weather conditions. But each horse I was assigned was wonderful in their own way. The trick was that I had to adjust to them. I’m nothing if not an adjustable rider, one thing I am quite proud to admit.
On the first day in Iceland we rode in the Geyser area, which is flat and rocky, alongside a river. It was stunning. I was assigned a cute little mare with a lot of personality. Her name was Gáta meaning “riddle”. I definitely was tested in the first part of the ride, alongside the highway which we had to cross. She kept playing with her bit and so I had to make some adjustments to see which way to hold the reins that was most comfortable for her. She was incredible and while I only walked her, I loved her playfulness! She was sweet and sensible. Of course, I thought it was a shorter ride so by the time I dismounted I could barely move my hips and my knee and ankle were completely locked up. Awkward.
The second day was by far my favorite horse, Teitur “Cheerful” was a big gray potato. We were going to ride to a waterfall so I took the back position to film with my GoPro. The guides chose him for me because he hated other horses. Seriously! Every time a horse came near he would bite or kick. And I mean, KICK. I walked him around the arena to get to know how sensitive he was and the first thing he did was start pawing the ground. Uh oh, I knew what was coming. So when he went to buckle and roll I had my feet out of the stirrups to bail but was able to squeeze his belly and get him back up, laughing like a loon. He reminded me of Picasso at Watchung Stables who was known for doing that to everyone. After that little test, he had a perfect ride over a bridge and to the waterfall. The only mishap we had was when the guide stopped to close a gate and bolted up behind us. Teitur decided he was going to kick him so I had to block him a few times with my leg. He was a challenge, but nothing I couldn’t handle. He made me laugh because he was clearly not “cheerful” at all. Plus, he had the most comfortable tölt. I could have ridden him all day.
The third day we were supposed to ride the Black Sand beaches by Vik but the wind and waves were too dangerous.
The last day we rode up to a volcano. It hadn’t erupted in almost a decade (insert panic here) so I was assured it was safe. I’m nervous with heights so this was the most anxious I had felt through the trip. I was assigned a cute little gelding named Sjnall “clever” who was known for carrying children on the trails. He reminded me so much of Ferrous because he didn’t want to walk straight, he kept bulging. I couldn’t just drop my hands and let him go, I had to ride him straight with my body the entire time. Still, he was cute as a button and took good care of me. When we reached the top of the trail where it flattened it began to sleet, so I was a ball of anxiety when we had to go downhill. This little guy tested each footfall before placing his weight. Where on the uphill I had to ride him, on the downhill I had to trust him, giving him his reins and leaning back to stay out of his way. It was a true test of trust. When we got back to the flat I was sweating with adrenaline and was excited to tölt the path home. Funnily, I thought he had a terribly uncomfortable gait but found out later that he was actually doing the flying pace! While he felt very heavy to hold back, we were in the back of the group and I was exhilarated rather than scared!
So yes, when my client asked me to ride her horse after I adjusted his saddle and padding, I gladly agreed. I love riding different horses and learning how to adapt myself to them. Communication and connection is something that I have been working hard on.
I cannot wait to return to Iceland next year and ride different horses at the same barns to really get a feel for the individual gaits and personalities! Anyone want to come with me? Click here to register (only a few spots available).