Eighteen-year-old horse lover and vlogger Esme Higgs from the UK runs the incredibly popular YouTube channel “This Esme”. Last summer she travelled to Iceland to experience Icelandic nature and – of course – Icelandic horses. Visiting Hestaland, Lava Horses and Jaðar horsebreeding, Esme learned about the breed’s unique qualities, tried the special smooth gait tölt and went on a two-hour horse trek. The resulting video “Icelandic Horse Adventure!” was posted on YouTube on 6th September and has since received much praise and been viewed almost 70,000 times.
Horses of Iceland asked Esme a few questions about her trip to Iceland and “This Esme”.
You usually post one video a week on “This Esme”. How did it all begin?
I had had my horse Casper for about a year and it wasn’t going so well. I had this footage on my phone, like a video diary to track our progress, and there I could see how far we had come. I thought maybe it could be helpful for other people and tried posting the first video on YouTube. It got a handful of views. Then I did a tack tutorial, which got 2,000 views, and I was like: “Wow!” That summer, after I finished my exams, I made a video every day because it was so much fun and that got me up to 100,000 views. Since then I’ve posted a video every single week because I love it so much. It has given me a lot of opportunities and the response of viewers still surprises me. Some people tell me they have taken up riding because of me.
What are your videos about?
Mostly about riding and basic horse care, where I help especially younger people who are learning how to ride and caring for a horse by demonstrating my average day with my horses Mickey and Casper. I also work with charities, like when I went to West Africa to help raise awareness of the Brooke Animal Welfare Charity* and the amazing work they’re doing helping working horses, donkeys and mules in developing countries.
* Esme has just been made Ambassador for Brooke!
You’ve also taken your vlog to Australia and the USA. Why did you want to come to Iceland?
I’d been to Iceland once before. In 2014 I visited the country with some friends and thought it was so beautiful. I always wanted to come back and after I finished school last summer, it was like: “Yes! I need to go to Iceland!” The last time I was there I didn’t get to ride and I really wanted to ride Icelandic horses. I had heard so much about them.
What were your impressions?
I’ve never tried anything like the tölt before. It was incredible! It was so much fun. They are such attractive, pretty, sturdy horses. Everyone opened up their homes to us. Guðmar [at Hestaland] demonstrated fast pace in incredibly windy and rainy weather and with Lava Horses near Húsavík I went riding with Tora and Hilda Helga. That was lovely – my top memories of the year! We really captured that northern bit [of Iceland] less visited. Then we visited Aggi and Krista [at Jaðar horsebreeding] and saw a two-day-old foal. My goodness. It was so cute! In England you see yards with a few horses together but in Iceland there were maybe 30 horses on a field all together.
What did you think of the tölt?
It was a lot smoother than I had expected. I thought it would be a bit more bumpy. It’s hard to describe but it felt like it was somewhere between trot and canter. It felt very comfortable and natural.
Could you tell us more about your travels in North Iceland?
I went on a two-hour trek. We were riding across lava, which I’ve never done before, galloping on black sand and all around there were mountains with snow on top. We saw some wildlife, birds and seals. It’s a lot quieter up there. It’s busier around the hotspots in Reykjavík.
How have people reacted to your Iceland video?
It has had 70,000 views so far. It’s one of those evergreen videos which always get new views. What’s interesting is that people who aren’t subscribers to my channel are watching it. They’re googling Iceland and come across it. We can see from the comments that they like the video. It has 500 comments and 4,000 likes.
Would you like to come back to Iceland for a longer trek some day?
Yes, that’s my goal. To go away for a few nights and ride in a group with loose horses. We saw six riders with about 20 horses. It was incredible!
Text: Eygló Svala Arnarsdóttir. Photos: David Higgs.