Iceland sometimes appears the home of the hardy adventurer, the Viking spirit seems alive, and well in the Land of Fire, and Ice. Icelanders cope admirably with difficult conditions, short days, harsh winters, geothermal activity, including erupting volcanoes, and earthquakes shaping them into a resilient race, which truly seems to laugh in the face of hardship. They seem to epitomise the ‘outdoor type’, put on a woolly jumper, or if raining a waterproof jacket, and nothing is insurmountable, they even swim every Tuesday on a Reykjavik beach, year round!
It is the iconic Icelandic horses however, which seem to make even the Icelanders look dare I say it ….. soft. The horses are everywhere on the island, usually grouped together in windswept, exposed fields, completely at the mercy of the elements. Rain, or shine, sun or snow, these spirited little beasts rarely seem to notice the conditions, going about their business with nonchalant indifference.
Their coarse, thick hair obviously gives them an advantage, and short, stocky legs, a low centre of gravity certainly must help in the gusting winds, which have kept even mighty trees at bay. However, when the Arctic wind is howling across the open fields, straight off the ocean, and the sky is thick with snow, only the coldest heart can fail to feel sympathy for them.
They are usually friendly, this little group was initially slightly standoffish, and almost bolted when I first arrived with a camera in hand, guess they were a little shy. However, after some gentle coaxing, they slowly crept closer, and before long were posing like the best models. It’s often the same when taking portraits of strangers, build a rapport, smile, chat, break down their reticence, and then snap away when they’ve relaxed…. resistance is often futile.
This was the second group of Icelandic horses I photographed that day. The earlier equine models had been far more eager, almost clambering over each other to have their picture taken. They had even photobombed each other, deliberately standing in front of the principle of several images. I like these spunky little horses, they have spirit, watch them for several minutes, and their individual characters soon become apparent, the timid, the extrovert, the funny, and the feisty.
Incidentally don’t call them ponies, wrath has no bounds than Icelandic horses called ponies, and apparently it one sure-fire way to get the usually placid Icelanders all steamed up too!
This group never quite got close enough to stroke, but they seemed to have a certain togetherness, standing behind the lead horse, which appeared the brave one, leading them forward one hoof at a time. They eventually stopped just out of reach, eyeballing the intruder that made strange, but reassuring sounds, and animatedly patrolled their fence stopping every so often to point a thing which clicked in their direction.
The landscape seemed typical of the normal habitat of Iceland’s horses, a barren field without shelter, the ocean within a stones throw away, and a backdrop of snow-covered mountains. A fitting canvas for these symbols of hardiness.