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Known across Iceland for its horse farms and scenic rolling hills, Varmahlíð in north Iceland is a great place to meet and learn about Icelandic horses and enjoy a ride into the countryside. The Icelandic horse is a distinct breed, linked to ponies taken to Iceland by Norse settlers in the 9th and 10th centuries. Known for its gentle temperament and compact size, sure-footedness and ability to cross rough terrain, it’s still used for traditional sheep-herding work and this one-hour ride gives you an insight into the history of the breed and the chance to experience riding an Icelandic horse yourself.

After checking in at the Hestasport offices in Varmahlíð, make your way to the stables, where you’ll meet your guide and be paired with an appropriate horse for your size and experience level.

No prior riding experience is necessary. If it’s your first time on a horse, you’ll be given simple riding instructions and will walk at a gentle pace throughout the ride. Hestasport also offer a variety of different tours suited to more experienced riders.  

From the stables, head out into the countryside with your guide, exploring the surrounding valley and taking in the farmland scenery. Your guide will tell you a little bit about the history of the breed and its characteristics and traditional uses.

Icelandic horses  are unusual in that they have five gaits, with two additional natural gaits as well as the standard walk, trot, and canter/gallop. You’ll have the chance to ride the tölt gait (between a walk and a trot), which is unique to Icelandic horses. This gait is not taught, but present in the horses from birth. Riding it is a novel experience whether you’re a beginner or have already tried the standard three gaits.  

After around an hour, you’ll return to the stables.

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Photos of Varmahlíð horse riding