Iceland – Been There

When silence says everything

Icelandic horses are small but never called ponies as they are descended from Viking stock and their strength belies their size. Noted for their stamina, their unique style of trotting, the ”tölt”, allows riders to cover long distances quickly in comfort.

Photo by Frans Lemmens

Iceland – Been There

When silence says everything

Riding an Icelandic horse around Lake Mývatn – the "Lake of Midges”, named for its swarms of tiny flies – I am grateful for a fresh wind which keeps the annoying insects off me.

Kieran Meeke
Kieran Meeke Travel Writer

My horse seems tiny but it is very sturdy, descended from Viking steeds introduced to Iceland more than 1,000 years ago and purebred ever since. These Icelandic horses are noted for their “tölt” gait, a sort of fast-paced trot that is a very comfortable way of covering long distances – once I get used to it. In a rough landscape, with few roads, this was a prized characteristic.

In contrast to many other Icelanders I meet, my riding companion Bergur who runs a horse-breeding farm, says not another word after “Hello” until a “Goodbye” hours later – but he is not being rude. In a country with such a small population, being used to your own company is also prized and we are out to enjoy the spectacular scenery and the silence of nature.

The sagas of his Viking ancestors are still a popular read in Iceland and one says: “Often is there regret for saying too much, and seldom regret for saying too little.”

As we rest the horses and enjoy a view of towering clouds reflected in the clear waters of the lake, an exchange of glances is enough to show that we both appreciate the beauty laid out before us.

Kirkjubaejarklaustur is a popular weekend retreat for residents of Iceland’s capital, Reykjavík....

Kirkjubaejarklaustur is a popular weekend retreat for residents of Iceland’s capital, Reykjavík. It was once the site of a convent and there is a legend that two nuns drowned in pursuit of a hand they saw emerge from the waters holding a golden ring. Photo by Jurjen Drenth

Jurjen Drenth

Jurjen Drenth

Canon 1Ds Mark II

Aperture
ƒ/5.6
Exposure
1/750
ISO
400
Focal
300 mm

Kirkjubaejarklaustur is a popular weekend retreat for residents of Iceland’s capital, Reykjavík. It was once the site of a convent and there is a legend that two nuns drowned in pursuit of a hand they saw emerge from the waters holding a golden ring.