Iceland horse riding holiday

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2018: 29 Oct, 12 Nov, 26 Nov, 3 Dec
2019: 28 Jan, 11 Feb, 25 Feb, 11 Mar, 25 Mar, 8 Apr
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Responsible tourism

Responsible tourism: Iceland horse riding holiday

Environment

Much of Iceland has a fragile eco system easily damaged so the rides are always small groups, headed by trained guides and kept to defined trails. The guides we hire have a sound knowledge of the ecology, geology, plants and animals of the area. They have many insights into the remarkable flora and fauna of Iceland but will also remind the riders not to stray from the trail onto the delicate mountainside causing erosion. The guides have also undertaken safety training. These skills are put to good use on the rides but are also transferable skills for those seeking employment outside the riding season.

Sometime around the year 900 AD Norsemen brought horses to Iceland from Scandinavia, and thus began the distinctive breed that we know today. Natural selection due to the harsh climate, coupled with selective breeding, has moulded a resilient, multi-purpose horse. The breed society was established in 1904. The ranch we use has about 300 horses which include riding horses, stallions, brood mares and young stock. For the last 5 years the ranch has been involved with a first class structured breeding program. The goal is to breed top riding horses—suitable for both riding pleasure and producing well-gaited riding horses that are physically strong and full of stamina.

The quality of life that the horses have is exemplary. The young horses grow up in large meadow expanses and diverse landscapes, where hillocks and hills, brooks and rivers and lakes are part of their everyday experience. In summer and autumn, all the young horses are together, from foals up to 4-year-olds, along with the breeding mares. This way the young horses learn to respect those that are older and stronger than they are.

Most of the horses get a well deserved break at the end of the riding season. They are let out into the endless fields as part of a herd. Some stay at the ranch a little longer for the for the winter rides. These are the horses we use for this ride.

On the rides the horse is always respected. There are 3 horses used per person per day so that each horse has a rest. When a horse is not being ridden it runs freely with the other horses so remains part of the herd. English saddles and snaffle bits are used as they are comfortable for horse and rider. The bridles have detachable nose-bands and clips on the end of the reins so they can be easily removed when grazing.

Community

We are acutely aware of the economic, ecological and ethical impact tourism should have on indigenous communities and fragile environments. Although riding is a form of transport that is gentle on the environment and supports a long culture and tradition it still needs to be undertaken with care.

The horse is a vital part of traditional Viking culture which is rich in sagas that date from around this time and there are frequent references to horses. The stables we use are actively involved in a breeding program that is ensuring the survival of the Icelandic horse and thus an important part of Icelandic culture. We feel we are supporting the traditions of Iceland on this trip where travellers will hear stories and learn lots about the role of the horse in Icelandic culture.

In addition we support the local economy by using locally run and owned farm house and stables. The environmental policy of the ranch encourages recycling of water, waste management, use for renewable resources and uses locally grown organic products and offers home cooking which in turn supports the local growers and provides employment.

Before our clients travel we issue them with a Field Manual which has information in it to encourage travel in an culturally and environmentally aware manner. For example reminding people that ''Used boots, riding wear, helmets, saddlebags etc., must be disinfected before arrival in Iceland and why to reminding people not to pick up rocks as little souvenirs of their ride and why. We also ensure people know the water in Iceland is of a good quality and to refill bottles on their ride rather than using bottled water.

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