Finding a soul horse's successor

Replacing an irreplaceable friend

Losing my soul horse left a huge hole in my life

Picking up after the unthinkable happened

When Tandri died, he left a huge hole in my life. He’d been my soul horseif that is what you call a horse that fits you not only in good times, but also in the frequent crises that you go through together.


So here I was, wanting to fill that hole, as soon as possible. Even a week after his death, I knew that I wanted a new horse to follow in Tandri’s footsteps.

But how to find the perfect horse?

I didn’t want just any horse. I wanted another four-legged friend, a horse I could have a deep connection with that flowed both ways, like I’d had with Tandri. How would I even recognize such a horse in a short trial ride? Worse, how could I find a horse that was not a pale copy of Tandri, when I was still raw with grief and sure to look for Tandri in every horse I saw, instead of judging the new candidate by his own merits?


Impossible odds. My husband, sensibly, recommended I wait a few months before I started looking. I did not want to be sensible, and started looking immediately.


How do you find a new horse after your soul horse died?

So many Icelandic horses in the world, how do you find your soul horse?

Looking for Tandri's successor proved difficult

Every other horse I’d ever bought, I’d found at the stable where I was riding. I had a lot of time to get to know the horse, both under the saddle and on the ground, before I had to decide whether or not the horse would fit me. This time, there was no suitable horse to be had at my stable. For the first time, I faced a situation where I would have to decide whether or not to commit to a particular horse, with only the limited experience a short trial ride or two could provide.

But then I met Helgi

The first few times we went out to look at horses were fairly disappointing. They were all perfectly good horses, pretty to look at, friendly and willing to work. But the spark just wasn’t there. Things never even got to the point where I wanted to try the horse under the saddle.


And then came the day I met Helgi.


Things started out pretty unspectacularly. We arrived at the breeding farm to check out two 6-year-olds, both of them barely ridden, both of them pintos. That was a couple of points against them right from the start: I wanted a horse with a solid basic training, and I definitely did not want a pinto, since Tandri had been one. When we arrived, both horses were standing in the stable aisle, ready to be saddled. One was a chestnut pinto with a pretty face and mane, the other had and interesting dark brown color, unusual in a pinto. They were both pretty, but slightly built and smaller than what I was looking for. I mentally prepared for another disappointment.


A perfect horse for an imperfect rider

Icelandic horse Helgi proved to be the perfect fit

The first ride was ... a mixed experience

The horse breeder and his daughter saddled the horses and rode them on the oval track while my husband and I watched. Both horses started off rather pacy and stiff, but relaxed after a few minutes. The one with the interesting color did a good job. He looked dependable and easy to ride, just what I was looking for. But: No spark.


The chestnut pinto, on the other hand, showed some nice gaits as he relaxed. More importantly, his facial expression seemed to say that he was enjoying the workout.


So, when asked which horse I wanted to ride first, I opted for the chestnut pinto, Helgi. And got another disappointment as soon as I got on his back. The little gelding was nervy, and reacted to my weight in a way that I wasn’t used to at all. Every shift in my seat made him swerve from a straight line. Trying to trot resulted in a wild mix of trot, tolt, and canter, and at a tolt he shifted back and forth between pace and canter, with only short spells of tolt in between.

But on the trail, he was a dream horse

And yet, there was something there. Helgi, though nervous under the strange rider on his back, was cooperative and willing. Not his fault that my riding skills weren’t up to communicating what I wanted him to do.


The horse breeder, watching me struggle to manage even the most basic exercise with his sale horse, took pity on me and offered to go on a trail ride. This was Helgi’s first time on the oval track, I learned, so no wonder that he didn’t quite understand why I wanted him to go in senseless circles.


Once on the trail, Helgi was in his element. Still nervous, he kept offering to go faster, but stayed at a walk when I asked him to. And once I allowed him to tolt, he did so with a will.


Wow, what a horse!

On a trail ride with Icelandic horse Helgi

Cuddling with my soul horse

Helgi was the perfect match

We rode for about half an hour, the horse breeder on the other pinto. Helgi shied at a few new sights, but was always ready to investigate the danger instead of fleeing from it. His canter was heavenly, and the few steps of trot I managed to get out of him one time felt energetic and jaunty.


A must have had a goofy smile on my face the whole time we were on that trail ride. I never tried the other horse, and I bought Helgi the next day. What a silly, impulsive move! I didn’t know anything about my new horse, except that he was fun to ride on the trail.


But when he settled in at his new home and I got to know him, I realized that I had found another soul horse. In some ways, Helgi is very different from Tandri. Enough so, that I was never tempted to compare him to his predecessor. But he has the same mischievous curiosity, the same eagerness to try every silly idea I come up with. And the same affinity to humans that Tandri had.

Helgi and I formed a bond almost immediately, and it has persisted through a lot of ups and downs in the five years he’s been with me.


I am one lucky human, to have found not just one such perfect fit, but two in a row.

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