About Ann Kopchenkov
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One the most unforgettable ways to visit Iceland is on horseback. Despite my initial fear, or perhaps because of it, the day I spent riding through the vast landscape of that beautiful country remains one of my most memorable experiences.
When I arrived at the Ishestar Riding Centre in Hafnafjöröur (approximately 10 minutes from Reykjavik by bus) in the company of twenty others from my cruise ship, I was unsure of what awaited me.
Although our cruise line had assured us that the excursion was accessible to all, I remained skeptical.
My fears were soon allayed! After a video briefing on the basics of riding, we were introduced to our Icelandic horses.
We learned they were unique in the world because they have five gaits (versus the four gaits of most horses).
They are also the purebred descendants of Viking horses. My horse, Ishka, was chosen for me based upon her gentle disposition and my status as a total beginner. Soon, my new friend and I were riding through a stunning and nearly treeless – except for shrubs – landscape on a clear, bright, day.
We could see for miles in all directions and, at every turn, our gaze fell upon mountains and more mountains (many of which were volcanic). Mounting, dismounting, and staying in the saddle were surprisingly easy. Not as easy was signaling to Ishka (on the two occasions when our group dismounted) that her snack period was over and that it was time to ride again. (Even kind, gentle, horses can be willful!)
Luckily, our expert guides were always among us assuring that we kept pace with the others and helping us communicate with our horses. I found that talking to Ishka calmed both of us! With the help of our guides, we became comfortable with one another and able to fully enjoy the natural beauty which surrounded us.
In addition to the remarkable horseback tour, the pleasures of my visit to Iceland included walking the coast road near the harbor while contemplating the deep blue water (so blue because of the very cold temperature) and visiting the capital city of Reykjavik. As my ship left Iceland and set sail for Newfoundland, I glimpsed the Northern Lights for the first time in my life.
As I stood on the chilly deck and the breathtaking phenomenon of green and blue lights streaked the sky, I knew that my time in a land of such awesome natural beauty would never be forgotten. Even now, when I dream of Iceland I dream of the seemingly endless landscape, the mountains in the distance, and myself riding through a serene and timeless space with my new friend, Ishka.
Top photo: Ishka, Icelandic Horse & Ann. Second photo: walking near the coast.