It was a treat to myself.
Or should I say to my inner seven-year old pony-mad self?
The little kid with the blonde plaits and scruffy jeans who liked nothing more than to muck about with ponies.
I had arranged a Northern Lights Ride with Responsible Travel.
Three days of Icelandic horses.
On the first day I met this guy whose name was the Icelandic version of Storm.
I wish I'd written the names down but the others in the party (all Germans whose youth and style and general self-confidence made me feel a tad old and silly at times, though the fault was mine, they were lovely), were less horse-mad than me and I had to temper my enthusiasm a little so as to at least make a show of a stiff upper-lip.
Storm was afraid of mounting blocks, which made the first day challenging for me with my arthritic knees. He also seemed to be startled by the sound of ice cracking, which I thought was amusing since he must hear it often, until the guide pointed out that perhaps he was spooked by the elves. More on those guys later!
Storm and I got along like long-lost buddies. And he even performed a tolt for me which is, if you've never experienced it, like going into fifth gear on the smoothest road in a Ferrari after bumping along in a wheelbarrow over stones. Make sense?
The weather was not conducive to riding, a sharp frost on top of snow. Thick ice that made the horses slither and slide but never, not once, stumble, and thin ice that broke under-hoof plunging furry legs into deep and freezing muddy water.
The farm lent us warm outer-clothing and I had ski gloves and thermals so I was warm and toasty. And Storm had his double coat of Icelandic hair.
In the afternoon we had new horses. I'll call him Blackie.Blackie was a bit of a boy! Not as sure-footed as Storm, not willing to tolt, prone to getting left behind. It was a little nerve-wracking, especially since the afternoon ride was through a fast-flowing icy river and up and down some steep paths.
I started to get anxious. I am good at anxious, anxious having been my constant state for many years.
And then I thought, relax and let it be.
And so when the others got too far ahead and Blackie's bouncy trot was too hard on my back and he got so fast he stumbled, I let him him have his head and he cantered and instead of being tense and stressed we caught up with the end of the ride with him doing a good impersonation of a rocking horse and me laughing and happy.
And that was a major lesson for me.
The letting go and trusting.
So, seven hours in the saddle over some pretty challenging terrain, a fantastic first day!