We started the day by visiting Mette Mannseth and Gísli Gíslason at their farm Þúfur. They gave us a warm welcome and introduced us to their breeding. A lot of hard work, but sometimes you also need at bit of luck - as when a stallion broke out from his field and the result was the exceptional breeding mare Happadís. It means Goddess of Luck in Icelandic, and this time it really was! Mette showed three horses in different stages of training for us. A four year old mare, a six year old stallion and her favorite horse Hnokki. Mette both bred him and trained him all from the beginning. Hnokki is the father of Fönix frá Syðra-Holti, and has won a lot of competitions together with Mette. A great team! Mette was sharing a lot of her philosophy about horse training and education with us, and to put it in a few words it all comes down to keeping the horse happy and satisfied at all times.
After saying goodbye to the people at Þúfur, our next stop was the farm Varmilækur. The owners Björn and Magnea welcomed us at the doorstep with Icelandic schnapps, and started their presentation by showing us a first price breeding stallion and a first price mare, ending with flying pace straight through the riding hall. We also got an introduction to their well-known breeding, and a well performed program by the Icelandic Youth Champion at Landsmót 2017. Afterwards we looked around in the stable that is very light and open, and well planned. It has a special twist - a straight track that goes along the boxes all the way to the riding hall. After getting to know all the horses and studying their pedigrees that were on display for each horse, we were offered a fantastic lunch with Icelandic specialities, all made by Magnea herself. As we were enjoying our meal Björn and some of his friends from the local choir entertained us with Icelandic songs.
After a short drive we arrived to the next farm, which was Hafsteinsstaðir. Skapti and Hildur with family gave us a warm welcome, and started by sharing some of the farms history with us. One of their sons had put up an amazing buffet for us, with local specialities as smoked puffin, different kinds of Icelandic beer and schnapps. While munching away on all the tasty food and drinks, we strolled around the stable looking at all the horses. A lot of interesting discussions were going on, about both the history, the present and the future of horse breeding and also about farming in general in Iceland. Then we went outside to have a look at the breeding mares with foals that were in a field just by the stable, and as a grande finale Skapti and team showed us three amazing horses in all gaits, for example the first prize stallion Oddi frá Hafsteinsstöðum and his full brother. With a happy smile on our faces, we once again got into the bus and hit the road.
Next stop was at what you might call the Mecca of Icelandic horses, the university of Hólar. Here we got a very interesting presentation of Hólar by Víkingur Gunnarsson, responsible for the Equine Science program. Except from being a university, Hólar is also one of the biggest farms in Iceland with about 50 000 HA of land and some 300 horses. A lot of the horses used in the education are also bred at Hólar. Young horses are used for teaching the students how to start a horse, and the older and very well educated horses are used for riding lessons at all levels. Since Hólar can’t breed enough horses to fill the school’s needs there are also high quality horses from many of the most well-known breeding farms in Iceland. We got a tour around the newly built stables, and then students from the first and third year were showing us horses in all gaits together with their teacher Anton Páll Nielsson.
A short walk from the riding hall is the Museum of the Icelandic Horse, where we spent some time together with Víkingur. He introduced us to the exhibitions, and as you go through the museum you really realize what an important part the Icelandic horse has played in the history of Iceland. Some of the most influent and important breeding stallions through the history were presented on the top floor, together with the super-mare Ragnars-Brúnka frá Sauðárkrókur, born in 1937 and who you can actually find in the bloodline of all Icelandic horses of today!
Happy and satisfied, and with our heads buzzing with new impressions, we ended the day with a three course dinner at Hólar together with our new friends from some of the breeding farms. To finally top off this great day we could see the Northern lights dancing in the sky on our way back to the hotel!