This is a full report about my experience at Ishestar horse tours right outside of Reykjavik. Im making this especially for fivegaited since she will probably be able to confirm and discuss my experiences.
First off, id like to begin stating that I usually stay away from horse tour type tourism. Many places that offer horse rider tours do not care much about the wellfare of the horses and the instruction the riders are given. Im pretty sure we can all imagine those hard handed riders direct reining on those curb bits and not having a clue what they are doing to their horses…Kind like when I went on a trail ride at Yosemite… yuck.
I went on an advanced 3 hour tour through the lava fields and special roadside horse trails with some breaks along the way for the horses and riders. Now heres the deal with “advanced” tours: the guides are going to assume that you already know how to sit all paces of the horse with confidence. They don’t how what or how you ride, and they don’t know what you’ve been taught. All they can do is give you general tips to maximize horse and rider communication and overall comfort. I thought this was important:
"not all of our horses can tolt or pace easily. It is best to let them travel at the pace that they are most comfortable with at the speed we are riding"
I was going to ask the guides for an easy tolter, but unfortunately, some Swiss people asked before and took them -_-
THIS is the Ishestar riding video that we were shown. Its a bit basic with all that “pull this way and that way to get your horse to do that” crap, but what else could I expect? :P
My horse was more of a trotter but when we took them to a higher speed, he found it difficult to keep up with the horses at the trot and he would switch in and out of the canter. I just let him go at whatever pace he felt more comfortable with (even if it wasn’t that famous smooth gait). He was also very light and responsive (unlike some other experiences I have had with tourist trail horses in the US). I also liked how the horses were bright and alert to their surroundings and each other. They played and scratched each other at our rest stops, and took direction easily without being robot-like.
One thing which I thought was insane is some of the terrain we traveled on. At some points in the trail, we were going along huge stones! not just gravel or smooth stones, but big football sized lava rocks littering the narrow pathways! I watched the horse in front of me tolt with ease through the rocks without loosing his footing. I feel like this was a good place to injure a horses legs and feet if the horse was to trip, especial at a higher speed. It just felt a little bit careless to me, however, I’m amazed at how surefooted these little guys are.
Another thing that bothered me is that many (if not most) of the horses had pretty bad growth rings in the hooves and many of them had flared toes.
A few little things such as not getting the thick mane out of the saddles way or the forelock out of the bridles way were minor things that I fixed once I was mounted, but thats just me, and I’m sure most tourists overlook this.
Overall, It was a cool tour, and although I feel a bit sorry for horses that are ridding by a different riders every day, Im happy to have shared a few relaxing hours with the horses and I was able to ride him as I would with my own horse. Next time I visit Iceland, I will defiantly look deeper into getting a riding lesson with a reputable Icelandic instructor on a school horse who can teach me how to tolt!