Icelandic Horses are left to roam in pastures wild and free during the summer months before being rounded up in the fall by their owners, and as a result they are both tame and wild as I would soon learn. Icelandic Horses are everywhere in Iceland. We probably saw thousands of these beautiful animals we had read about leading up to our trip. During much of our drive around Iceland’s Ring Road, I had yet to find a suitable opportunity to take photos of the iconic creatures. Either the weather was no good, or there wasn’t the scenic setting I had envisioned in my mind’s eye. We were a few days before the end of our time in Iceland and we were in the North-West of the country, making our way towards the West Fjords. The weather was the best we had seen and the scenery just perfect for my envisioned Icelandic Horse photos.
We approached a vast horse pasture filled with Icelandic Horses and backdropped by a dramatic mountain scape. This was it. We stopped the car at a pullout near the fence that enclosed the pasture where the peaceful horses were grazing off in the distance. I took a few shots from outside the fence but, the horses were quite far away and I really wanted to get closer. The barbed wire was pretty slack on the fence so I was able to separate the wires enough to pass through without getting snagged on the barbs. I tentatively and slowly entered their territory. The sheep pictured in the foreground below were not terribly impressed nor interested in human interactions and scattered immediately. The well-worn horse path in the bottom right of the frame below beckoned and so I followed it ever so carefully. The horses were just beyond a slight hill so if I could just get a wee bit closer I figured I could get my shots. If the sheep’s behaviour was any indication of how things worked in this foreign landscape the horses would be equally disinterested. I could not have been more incorrect in my assumption of the horses’ curiosity once they did notice a human presence on their turf.
Lead by the blonde in the forefront, the group perked their heads up over the knoll that was hiding them from my camera. No big deal I figured. So they are aware of me, nothing to look at here folks!
They wanted more than a glance and they were certainly not afraid of me. While this was all unfolding, and from the security of the other side of the pasture’s fence my parter called out “be careful with the horses!” Oh geez, what had I just gotten myself into here? Were they going to be gentle and loving, or wild and agressive? I had no idea. What I did know is that I have not been around horses much at all in my life so this was new territory for me. I kept snapping pictures as they approached at first trotting, then full gallop, the speed of my heart quickening with the speed of their hooves.
By this point I was pretty much shaking and figured it was now time to take my camera down, stay calm and accept their approach openly.
I could never have predicted what happened next. Once they got close to me I was surrounded. Each of them took turns leaning into me, encircling me like they were welcoming me into their world. I could feel their warm breath as they took in my scent. All the while I was softly speaking to them, assuring them as much as myself that we were friends. It was absolutely exhilarating. My heart continued to beat quickly, my hands continued to shake, but I kept breathing as they put a smile on my face that actually hurt. How could I have been afraid? It was all such a spontaneous and organic experience which I think only added to it’s impact. It’s a memory that continues to evoke the strong emotions I felt at the time on remembering and retelling the story to friends.
Once the initial human to wild horse pleasantries were conducted and we had established a mutual understanding of our benevolent natures, I gradually started to make my way back across the pasture where the opening in the barbed wire had led me to this adventure. But the horses were not done with me yet. They escorted me all the way back, gently continuing to surround me with their soft and warm nuzzling and leaning. Once we reached the fence I snuck back through and they visited with us for a while allowing us to pet them.
And as quickly as it all unfolded, our encounter was over as the horses started to disperse. Perhaps they were just hoping we would feed them and that’s what this was all about!
Even as they moved away they continued to look back towards us. Goodbye my Icelandic Horse friends! I thank you for your lessons on this day. Be curious, be free, be gentle, be spontaneous, be trusting.
Thanks for reading! Please take a look at my Iceland Image Gallery for more photos from our trip. It’s a stunning country with such a variety in landscapes. If you made it this far, shoot me a comment below and say hi. Would seriously make my day!
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