Today is a special day at playschool: The children will go horseback riding!
Cheerful children’s voices and joyful laughter mix with the sound of church bells and the chatter of tourists in different languages. The sun shines brightly when Krakkahestar (“Kids’ Horses”) arrive at Grænaborg, a playschool opposite Hallgrímskirkja church in central Reykjavík. The children have eagerly awaited the visit. Today is a special day at school: They will go horseback riding!
The children form a queue and wait patiently for their turn to mount one of the horses. Their faces light up when they find themselves next in line and an employee of Krakkahestar assists them adjusting the helmet and finding a balanced seat in the saddle, and then leads the horse around the playgrounds. The kids think the names of some of the horses are quite funny; Sportacus and Raggi Raisin-Butt are obviously the most popular.
Gunnsa loves her job!
“The kids always thoroughly enjoy it. Even if it’s just a small circle,” says Gerður Sif Hauksdóttir, principal of Grænaborg. The visit was organised in cooperation with the board of the parents’ association. “We decided to give it a try one year and everyone was so happy with the visit that we have booked them twice since. The children get a lot out of it. It’s important to them to come in contact with the animals, observe them up close, pet them and ride them.” Gerður says many discussions arise around the visit, before and after, especially because it also has an educational element.
Before going horseback riding, owner of Krakkahestar, Gunnhildur Viðarsdóttir (or Gunnsa, as she is called), shows the children various tools used in horsemanship, like a rasp which she introduces as a “horse toothbrush”. The kids look stunned when she shows them a horse skull and then hands them the rasp to try it on the skull. Gunnsa also shows them an old girth made of horsehair and a homemade comb. “My granddad made it,” she reveals. “When he was young it wasn’t possible to buy everything.” Gunnsa explains that her presentation is about life in the past, before cars and stores, when people made everything themselves. She also brings an old headstall, a chair for milking and more.
“Brushing” the horse’s teeth.
Gunnsa, a kindergartner by education, founded Krakkahestar twenty years ago. “My final project was about the effect of watching television and exercise on young children. I take a lot of interest in animals and outdoor recreation. The idea came to me when I went riding to the playschool where I worked in 1997 and noticed how much joy it brought to the children and not least the staff.”
At many playschools a visit from Krakkahestar is an annual event, often in connection with special theme days or summer festivals. Gunnsa arrives with three or four horses and four or five employees, and all the children who want to can go horseback riding. When it’s time for Krakkahestar to bid farewell to Grænaborg, the children pet the horses gently and even give them a kiss to thank them for the ride: “Goodbye, Raggi Raisin-Butt!”
Text: Eygló Svala Arnarsdóttir. Photos: Gígja D. Einarsdóttir.