This Quintessential Groove

By Suzanne Nuttall | January 10, 2016

I’d been dreaming about them since I was a little girl. I had posters and porcelain figurines in my bedroom. I even thought of myself as a horse. Not much has changed years later, except the horse pictures are framed.

Sure, I’d gone for a few trail rides over the years, but in my mind they were mythical creatures, much like unicorns. I would joke that there were too many cats on the web and never enough horses… until I saw a random Wild Women ad come across my newsfeed: “See Iceland on Horseback.” I jokingly posted “Shut up and take my money,” then felt bad about acting like a too-cool-for-school teenager and deleted it. I had wanted to visit Iceland and had loved horses forever. The trip seemed tailor-made for me, so I went to the website and knew I had to sign up. It was time to make my horse dreams real!

I arrived in Iceland a day early, filled with anticipation. Reykjavik and I got along well, as it was artsy, whimsical and other-worldly, but I was antsy to get to the real reason I was here: to spend time with a herd of horses!

 

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What was at first a disappointment became something I looked forward to. I was expecting to ride the same horse for the whole adventure, but we were assigned two different horses every day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Imagine, if you will, a kind of equine speed dating game! I got to spend time with, and get to know a dozen different horses and thus realized that each horse had its own personality, style, sense of humour… and unpronounceable name! The Icelandic language is impenetrable. Worse than Finnish which I didn’t think could be topped. But I digress…

For a woman that is barely five foot one, the Icelandic horses – never call them ponies or you will be glared at by Icelanders – were perfect. Their faces were right beside mine and I felt a deep connection. I was amazed at how their little hooves walked over everything and anything with such confidence and grace. All I needed to do was trust them. And I did. I felt so blessed to see the most gorgeous untouched landscapes because of their fancy footwork.

I learned so much along the way, everything from how to properly hold the reins to how to “keep a good contact with the mouth.” It was horse immersion, to be sure, but I had dreamed about horses my whole life, so I experienced an eerie sense of déjà-vu. Nevertheless, I was happy to find that a beginner could survive such an adventure though I must admit that at times I held onto my saddle and reminded myself to breathe. That’s why they call it an adventure, right?

In Iceland, I also made a lifelong dream come true. Let me explain. When I was a little girl, I was playing on a New Brunswick beach with my sister Carole when a young woman and her horse ran past us in the shallow water in full gallop. I was mesmerized… for a moment it was as though everything was in slow-motion… and this image became imprinted on my soul forever.

I even wrote a song about it…

Something about women and horses

Drives me out of my head

They’re a lethal combination

Must be something that Freud said

And if somebody tells me

This madness can’t go on

I let it slip

This ain’t no average fascination

It must’ve started years ago

When I was on a beach

This woman and her stallion

They seemed so out of reach

‘Til one day found the courage

As they rode by to wave my hand

Just to realize time is fleeting

Like hoof prints in wet sand

Something about women and horses

Drives me out of my head

They’re a lethal fascination

Though I know I’m far from dead

I been running such a long time

My life’s been on the move

‘Til finally I’ve discovered

This quintessential groove

When I found out we were going to be riding on a sandy beach on our last day, I shared my song with our guides, Cline Owen and Anna Margrét, and asked them if I could live out my dream of one day galloping on the beach. When we got there, Anna Margrét said: “Your staying with me.” We stood there and let the group go far in the distance. And then it was time.

 

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The guides made sure I was ready. I gave my horse Vegar a little kick and off we went at full speed under the hot Icelandic sun. We repeated this three times… just to make sure it was real. I almost cried and felt a kind of quiet happiness that was so deep that all wounds on my heart suddenly vanished. In Iceland, I finally discovered this quintessential groove I wrote about many years ago.

A huge Toronto hug goes out to all fourteen wild women I travelled with and to our three guides, Cline, Anna Margrét and Bella, for being such fabulous travel palominos. And to the Icelandic horses… You taught me that the journey really is the destination. I am forever changed.

 

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