Sigrún Helga Halldórsdóttir (11) and Arnar Orri Guðmundsson (18) both grew up around horses. They enjoy the company of animals and love being on horseback: Competing and riding outside in nature.
Sigrún Helga doesn’t remember how young she was when she first sat on a horse, “but I started riding by myself in the corral when I was four or five,” she says. She was also quite young when she first rode outside with her parents. To begin with, they held the reins of her horse, but from the age of five or six, she was able to control the horse herself. “I was never scared,” she says.
Sigrún Helga lives in Reykjavík, where her family has a stable in Víðdalur. During school breaks she often visits her grandparents at the farm Bjargshóll in Northwest Iceland and really enjoys riding in the countryside. Tourists come to the farm to go on riding tours outside in nature, and helping out with the sheep roundup in the autumn is also popular. Sigrún Helga has been invited to take part in these trips.
Sigrún Helga has attended several riding courses and recommends them for kids who are interested in trying horseback riding. “It’s a lot of fun. I learned how to fasten the saddle and practically everything.” She is a member of horse club Fákur and regularly competes for her club. She goes riding almost every day for practice, mostly on Gefjun frá Bjargshóli, a mare bred and owned by her grandparents.
In mid-April, Sigrún Helga and Gefjun competed at a tournament in Reykjavík, in tölt and four gait, where they also demonstrated walk, trot and canter. They proved very successful and ended up in first place in tölt and fifth place in four gait. Sigrún Helga plans to continue with horsemanship and competing as an adult. “I’d like to join the premiere league and national team.”
In May last year, Sigrún Helga and Gefjun won the Reykjavík Championship and in July this year, they became Icelandic Champions in loose rein tölt. She glows when she describes the feeling of winning. “I was so happy with my mare after winning so I gave her treats and complemented her a lot,” says Sigrún Helga. “Gefjun is my favourite riding horse.” She puts her trophies on a shelf in her room. “My dad said I had won so many trophies that we had to go to IKEA to buy a new shelf!”
“My family has had horses since my granddad was 24. He wanted to become a farmer but that didn’t work out, so he decided to buy horses instead,” says Arnar Orri. He has just completed his second year in junior college and spends most of his spare time at the stable area in Víðidalur where his family has about ten horses. He is also a member of horse club Fákur. “We bring the horses to the stable around New Year’s and release them back to the pastures in June or early July.” He goes riding nearly every day and sometimes, if the weather is nice, many times a day. He likes riding with his family members or friends, but he doesn’t mind going by himself. There are many riding paths in Víðidalur and he usually rides around Rauðavatn lake, to Elliðavatn lake or between the Rauðhólar pseudocraters.
Even though Arnar Orri has practiced horsemanship since his early childhood it wasn’t until three years ago that he became passionate about it. “Then I went horse herding. We visited family in Borgarfjörður and rode all through the valley.” When asked about what was most memorable from the trip, he says: “Just being with the animals and experiencing nature all around. Every horse has its own personality. They are social beings. The riding paths are more remote than the walking paths and there is no noise pollution and no buildings. It’s much more peaceful [than the city]. So calm and quiet.”
To Arnar Orri, horsemanship is mostly a hobby and not a competition sport, even though he thinks he might enter a tournament at some point in the future. He has attended riding courses and picked riding as a voluntary subject in secondary school. He has also completed Knapamerki, the Icelandic Riding Levels, 1 and 2. Arnar Orri has worked at a riding school, too, Reiðskóli Reykjavíkur, which he recommends. “It’s a lot of fun to take a riding course. There’s a lot of social life and lots of kids. You experience being around horses, work with them and play all sorts of games.” He says that even though horsemanship is time consuming, the benefits make up for it. “You may lose out on some of the social life, but you get to know other people who have horses and get a different kind of social life. The horses themselves are great characters and you never feel alone when you’re around them.”
Text: Eygló Svala Arnarsdóttir. Photos: From private collections. Top photo by Ola Photos.
A longer version of this article was published in Icelandic in youth magazine HVAÐ, which was published in May 2019.