Keen to experience the unique joy of riding Icelandic horses in their natural environment, my adult son, his fiancee, (both raw beginners) and I (25 years of Pony Club, showing, 3-Day Eventing, trail, and pleasure riding--but not for 25 years) all booked the Meadows and Mountains tour in late September. After a week of incredibly beautiful weather, nature decided to rebalance the average that morning, but we took heart upon being fitted out with waterproof outwear to cover our warm winter clothes, and it was not raining when we mounted up and our full group of about 20 riders (only 2 of us experienced) and 2 guides left the stables, single file at a slow walk.
After about 20 minutes in the saddle following in line through a field, my d-i-l was experiencing a great deal of pain in one of her hips and, shortly after, when the group increased the pace to the tolt, the pain was so excruciating she had to abandon the tour and one of our guides escorted her back to the stables. At her instruction, my son and I carried on with the rest of the group, by which time the rain had begun to fall in earnest, and was soon pelting down so hard and the wind drove the slanting now sleet so forcefully it was difficult to see where we were going (although we had slowed to a walk again, and the horses mechanically followed in line with grim determination without requiring [and in many cases, apparently without responding to] any direction from their inexperienced riders.) We crossed a small stream (which must have been frightfully cold for the wading horses, particularly the shorter ones and a few which were sweating) and continued along our route following a paved road with only a few brief tolts on the trail to encourage visitors that there WAS hope of making it to the turn-around point, let alone back to the stable in time to meet our bus (the prospect of which, being warm and dry, became increasingly appealling to my son and me [and many other riders, too, judging from their increasingly disheartened postures and occasional regrouping/conspiratorial discussions].) The arrival of the guide who'd earlier had to leave the group helped increase the pace a little, which everyone seemed to welcome.
Fortunately, the weather did break shortly before we stopped beside a closed hut of some sort, which made the lack of refreshment we all could have done with less disappointing. (Our party had brought water, snacks, and a camera, but we were required to leave our knapsack in the stable; besides which, the group really needed a warm beverage in that weather!) Our genial guides ably assisted a few of the riders who needed to dismount to stretch their legs, rest their seats, and seek relief behind the shed, and took photographs of those who'd managed to bring cellphones or other small cameras. We would have paid for a picture of our experience, had there been an option to, as there'd been no time to snap one before we left as the group was moved quickly from the shuttlebus to tackroom, to the riding ring where we were given our mounts and (little did we know then) as soon as we arrived back at the farm we would be told to quickly dismount, move directly to the stable to remove the borrowed gear and collect our own, pay or hand in our vouchers, and rush straight to the shuttle which was idling and overdue to leave.
The final ½ hour or so, when we (and --more importantly!--the horses) could see we were making our way back the farm made the morning's experience a very good one, as the newbies no longer had to work at urging their mounts onwards (an exhausting and exasperating effort for a few) and, as the rain had cleared, we were able to enjoy looking around us at the impressive landscape.
As well as being hardy troopers, all the horses were well cared for, very calm, and well-tacked, and both our guides were extremely competent, friendly, and helpful. Highly recommend choosing a fair weather day, if at all possible, and suggest experienced riders enquire about more advanced tours which likely offer the ability to experience various gaits and see more of the area's incredible natural surroundings.
My son and I both enjoyed our rides, and we recommend this tour for inexperienced riders.
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