An Unplanned Excursion in the Snow

Bright-Eyed Adventures

Trainer Johanna Tryggvason instructing Sigrid on Icelandic horse Helgi

For the first time in years, it hasn’t only snowed a lot, but the snow has stuck for several days. The horse’s field, normally too wet to use in winter, is protected by a thick layer of snow, so the horses can go out for the first time in months. They’re ecstatic.


Goal-oriented Skarpur walks only a few steps before burying his nose in the snow to get at the grass below. He ignores me completely.

Helgi tries to motivate his friend to play, but gives it up as a lost cause after a minute. Instead, he comes to me, looking expectant. I give in and walk next to him while he proudly shows off his panther walk skills. It fast becomes obvious that wants to run, though.


I trot for a few steps, which Helgi loves. But even if I was in top form (which, it being the end of a long winter, I’m definitely not), I wouldn’t be able to keep up with him when he’d much rather gallop. Helgi is visibly frustrated and canters around me a few times before he gives up in disgust and follows Skarpur’s example, digging for grass under the snow.

I let my eyes rove over the snow-covered field, and see to my shock that one of the fence posts has fallen over. The fence is down over several meters’ length, buried under the snow. Oh dear, I really should have checked the fence before I let the horses out into the field!


Let’s see if I can fix this. There’s certainly snow enough to rig a temporary prop to keep the fence post up. I walk in the direction of the broken fence – and Helgi’s head comes up. He comes up to me and starts doing panther walk again. I make a tactical mistake.


Instead of drawing Helgi away from the broken fence, I assume I’ll be able to keep him with me while I fix the fence. But before I can right the downed fence post, Helgi sees his opportunity, and takes it. He’s on the other side of the fence before I can stop him. He doesn't run away, but he resists my attempts to lure him back into the small field. The harder I try, the more he drifts away from the fence. He’s not stupid – unfortunately, in this case!

Riding young Icelandic horse Helgi

Icelandic horse Helgi loves exercises inspired by Intrinzen

I right the fence post so at least Skarpur doesn’t join Helgi in his illicit adventure, and join my horse in his exploration of the big field bordering ours. Helgi loves it. He runs off at a gallop, stops about fifty meters from me, turns around and gallops back. I give him a treat to remind him that he wants to stay close.


This seems to be a great game – he immediately repeats it, and again. He looks happy enough to burst. Slowly, he gets is courage up, increasing the distance he runs, first to a hundred meters, then two hundred. I trot after him, hoping to remind him that he can and should come back to me to get his treat. He obligingly does so, and stays for a couple of minutes before running off again.


I watch him gallop off, torn between joy that he looks so happy, and the fear that he might forget to come back and run off for good: The field we’re on is huge, but we’re getting inexorably closer to its edge, where the fence is down.

After a few tries I manage to lure him back to the fence of our home field. But he’s got me figured out: I cannot convince him to step over the downed fence so I can close him in again.


When I try once to often, he canters off again, this time all across the huge field to the hiking trail beyond. To my relief, he stays in the field rather than crossing to the train and running off who knows where. I trot after him, plodding through the snow.


Helgi isn’t the only one who’s getting plenty of unplanned exercise today!


I start wondering how much longer this will go on. At this rate, it may be hours before I can convince Helgi to come home with me…

Training a young Icelandic horse is not easy

Icelandic horse Helgi loves exercises inspired by Intrinzen

But a few minutes later, help arrives in the form of another rider from our stable on her gelding. They’re coming back from a trail ride in a snow, and Helgi canters over to say hello to the gelding. Happily, the fence is intact on that stretch of the trail, so Helgi can’t get too importunate before I arrive to hold him back.


The other rider lends me the noseband from her bridle, which I use to lead Helgi home. Since the other horse is going back towards the stable, Helgi is happy to go back, too, and our excursion comes to a happy conclusion.


Despite my worry that Helgi might decide to run off for good, the unplanned adventure was a lot of fun! And Helgi seems extremely happy with the afternoon’s unusual activities.

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