Ponies are a very special feature of the Icelandic landscape that you’ll see everywhere you go if you visit Iceland. These very placid friendly little guys stay out in all weathers, experiencing the most extreme conditions Iceland can throw at them. I’ve seen them huddled in blizzards with winds so strong it’s been impossible to open the car doors or stand up if one manages to leave the car for a quick photograph, such is the way of photographers – quite mad really. Who else would try to open car door in 30 metres per second winds to take a photograph of the blowing snow.. hmm (see below).
The ponies are a unique breed with a unique gait. They are extremely well adapted to the Icelandic climate and when there was a general call amongst the Iceland community to treat the ponies better, many of them became ill simply because they were unused to the richness of additional food in the way of hay and silage that they were provided with. It’s true that in times past, a good pony was the equivalent of a Porsche for young guys hoping to attract the girls.
One of the ponies I was photographing, and as an ex-teacher I know there is one in every class, took great joy in sticking his tongue out, every time I pressed the shutter..
I had to ask the question why farmers would keep so many ponies on their land. Farmers, not renowned for their sentimentality when it comes to their animals (not that they don’t care for them of course), keep animals only if they can make use of them and in Iceland, the answer is meat.
The boom in the tourist industry however has given many of these ponies a reprieve as they are proving more valuable to farmers if they rent them out for trekking. Some farms, with spare accommodation, are offering all-inclusive riding holidays. This is bringing in huge amounts of revenue to struggling farms.
I mentioned the unique gait of these ponies earlier, they have a way of walking, and trotting, that keeps their backs almost completely level giving the rider a very comfortable and bump free ride. Just perfect for children and those with no riding skills.
In the worst of weather I have seen these ponies galloping, rolling and playing. This tells me these animals, despite their harsh existence, enjoy life tremendously.