Since a few days I’ve started to ride Hetja. Hetja was born on the 17th of June (the Icelandic Independence Day) in 2010, and her name is Hetja (hero) for a reason! As I was here that summer 11 years ago, when Hetja got her name, these memories came back now I started to ride her to get ready for the upcoming summer. I thought it nice to share her story here with you all!
When Hetja was barely 2 weeks old, she stayed with her mom Gjöf (well known by many of our riding friends), one more mare & foal, and several other (young) horses in a field about 10 min drive away from Saltvík. The field was along the road to Mývatn, and at least twice every day somebody from the farm drove past there to check on the horses.
In the evening of the 1st of July, I drove with a few other girls to our place at Mývatn, where the girls were guiding some short riding tours. We saw all the horses chilling in the field, close to the road. The 2 foals sleeping next to each other. All good.
Next morning, we drove back to Saltvík and saw the horses again. A little further from the fence, but relaxing again. Only this time we saw just one foal, but we assumed the 2nd one was just sleeping flat out behind a little bump of grass or so. Nothing looked strange. But as it is not nice to not be able to count all heads, Bjarni and his father Villi went a little later to check the herd again. Unfortunately, they also did only find 1 foal. The foal of Gjöf was missing. Gjöf herself was very calm, as if nothing was wrong.
They searched the field a bit, but could not find the foal. As Gjöf was so calm, thoughts were that the foal probably had died and was laying somewhere, a little hidden. They went home again because there was much work to do at the farm, but Bjarni could not let the thought of the missing foal go of course!
So a little later Bjarni called the whole family and all the staff at Saltvík together to comb out the entire field. We went there and spent about one hour looking through the whole field, in every little corner, behind every small hill, in every ditch. But no foal. We had no idea about what could have happened, but started to think about going home despite this unfinished business, when suddenly Sigrún Anna, Bjarni‘s youngest daughter (she was only 5 years old that summer) claimed to have heard some whinny out of the ground right where she was standing.
After some short investigation, we found a small hole in the ground on the side of a little slope in the field. Two meters on from there, on top of the slope, we found another small hole. After being quiet, all listening closely at these holes, some had heard indeed some more whinny! Unmistakably from a foal.
We called some farmers living right around the field to ask for a flashlight and shovels. First we made the small hole on top of the slope a little bigger, so Bjarni’s nephew Villi could go in there.
As none of the farmers had a flashlight, he used a phone to see something underground. When he showed back up, he told us the foal was there in a space, at the end of a little tunnel, about 1-2 meters away from the hole (3-4m away from the “entrance” on the slope).
At his guidance, we started digging right above where the foal should be, and indeed, after a while we reached the ‘cave’ the foal was in. She was totally covered in mud, but otherwise lively and seemed fine. We enlarged the hole a bit, Bjarni went inside with her to lift her, so we could pull her out.
It was such a miracle to get her out alive, and seemingly healthy. We fenced off this slope with the holes, picked up a trailer, caught Gjöf (who was happy to take her foal back, luckily) and drove them home where we washed off the mud and gave her some antibiotics for a few days as a profylax; the whole face/nose was covered in mud and we’re not taking any risk on her developing some pneumonia! We kept them in a nice dry stall with a lot of straw for the next few days, before we let them back out to the fields again after they both seemed perfectly healthy!
First, we made some jokes about naming her “Moldvarpa”, which means mole. But as Hetja is a much prettier name, most votes were for Hetja in the end. And a hero she pretty much is! After crawling in a narrow tunnel being only 2 weeks old, not finding her reverse of course, she still was shouting for Sigrún Anna to hear her so we could dig her out!
And now she has grown into a very nice, sweet, strong mare, owned by Sigrún Anna. She has been used as a riding horse for some years already, but because she has been such an easy going horse, she did not have a real training yet to set her tölt. So that’s what I’m going to do now. I only rode her 3 times so far, but the tölt is very easy to find. I’m expecting her to become a complete tölting machine, just like her mom!
Text & pictures by: Mieke