Monday, March 28, 2011

When I finally move from the city to the country, I would like to make these guys part of the family. Smaller than your average horse, the Icelandic horse is a five-gaited breed, which, if you are familiar at all with horses, you probably just got a little excited. In general, most horses are four-gaited with a walk, trot, canter and gallop. Most Icelandic horses carry a natural fifth gait called a tölt.

Here's a little bit about the tölt from

The footfall of tölt
Here in this description:
1 = left hind foot
2 = left front foot
3 = right hind foot
4 = right front foot
In Iceland we talk about three types of tölt:

Clean tölt (tölt, hreint tölt, single foot, rack), with perfect four-beat. The beat you hear is 1-2-3-4-1-2-3-4-1-2-3-4 as each of the four legs step down.

Trot-tölt (brokk-tölt, fox-trot, trotty tölt), where you hear almost two-beat even though the horse is tölting. It becomes more up-and-down to sit on, and it's a mixture between tölt and trot. The horse wants to trot and does it if given free reins when brokk-tölting. 1--2-3--4-1--2-3--4-1--2-3--4.

Pacy tölt (bundið tölt, skeidtölt, stepping pace), where you hear two-beat even though the horse is tölting. It becomes more from side-to-side to sit on, and its a mixture between tölt and pace. The beat is still four beat, but nearer pace, you hear 1-2--3-4--1-2--3-4--1-2--3-4.

Only having a six-hour ride with one of these guys was a bummer. As with everything in life, riding has a lot to do with getting to know your companion. I will say, you get to know your companion a lot faster, when out of nowhere, you both are galloping through a hailstorm.

Prior to booking this ride, I called the stables and asked about the experience level one was expected to have to go on the longer rides. I had ridden when I was younger (a shout-out to Buttons at Pheasant Hollow!), but hadn't been on a horse in years, so I didn't want to sign up for a ride for which I wouldn't be fit.

The answer I received from the very kind woman at Íshestar:

"You must be able to know how to control your horse and will be required to keep up as there are some faster parts to the ride."

That was the first time that anyone at a stable was encouraging and allowing the rider to take the horse and ride to his/her ability. Not only that, but you were expected to both saddle and bridle your horse, which made me so, so, very happy. That never happens on a first ride at a stable in the States.

I've been waiting for this type of response for years, so naturally, in a really excited tone, I asked her to book me for the Monday ride.

Monday, as you know, was too rainy, so on what turned into Tuesday's ride, it was still cold, but looked like it would be decent.

Optimal? No, the weather was not optimal, but I'd never ridden a horse in the snow, let alone in a sideways windy hailstorm. It got so bad that at one point, when coming to a rocky pass, the riding guide, two non-English-speaking French riders and myself had to dismount and wait it out. The horses were great, the Frenchies were not.

In the end, one of the French riders ended up falling off his horse and the three of us had to circle back to help him back on. Eventful, eventful indeed. Speaking French definitely would have helped. Per the usual, German did not.

Photo taken 3.15.11.


Kelly said...

who the heck was Buttons? I remember no Buttons at PHF [flashes farm gang sign]

Alli Harvey said...

Buttons was an older white horse who HATED thunderstorms. And guess who always had to ride Buttons in thunderstorms? Yours truly.

While I don't know if we were concurrently riding at Pheasant Hollow, I know we've talked about Buttons.