Endurance ride over Kjölur

In the end of August the first endurance ride in Iceland took place. This was a trial with 4 teams riding over Kjölur from north to south. Iðunn, daughter of Bjarni, rode for team Saltvík/Riding Iceland. 
For this blog she wrote a little text about how she experienced it. 


The first time I heard about the endurance ride was during a dinner with my dad in spring 2021. He told me about a trial race that was planned to take place in august that same year. The plan was to ride over Kjölur with three horses in four days.
To me it sounded like a fun challenge and adventure so of course I said yes to participate in this endurance race for Saltvík/Riding-Iceland. The horses I rode were all experienced tour horses and specially chosen for their experience, strength, power and independence. Moldi (15 years), Goði (18 years) and Týr (10 years). During the summer those horses had been in the longest tour Riding Iceland has organized; The Dreamtour – a 57-day trip around Iceland.
Those three horses were picked up in the westfjords (where the Dreamtour was at that moment) a week before the endurance race and dropped of in Höskuldsstaðir where they got new shoes and a good rest for the upcoming adventure.

The night before the race all four teams met in Lýtingstaðir where we had our first vet check. The vet took the pulse, checked the breathing and if there were any injuries.

First day of competition
We drew the lineup and then we started. There were five minutes between every one of us, I was nr 3. My first horse was Goði and he did great. It was a beautiful path with a nice river where he could drink some on the way. The first part was not difficult as there was a road that I could follow the whole time and we finished this part nicely. This part also helped me to get a feeling for what this race was about and how I should ride. I think I could have been a lot faster but like I said this was about getting a feeling fir what it was I had gotten myself into. When we approached the finishing line Goði was feeling great, his ears pointing forward and he was so positive. It was truly a good feeling to ride him 35 km with only a few short water breaks and him still being so happy and light.
When we were at the finishing line I quickly took the saddle of and my team started walking him slowly for cooldown before the vet check which would take place 30 min after we finished the ride. Goði passed the vet check with flying colors as expected 

To explain the vet check a little better:
The vets measure the pulse, breathing and if there are any injuries.  If there are any injuries on the horse the team gets a punishment point, if the heart rate is too high (should be below 58 beats per minute) the team gets a punishment point, and if the breathing is too fast the team gets a point as well. Every point is 2 minutes added to your time.
And if the horse is in a bad state, you get disqualified. Those rules are there to ensure that first of all the team brings a well-trained horse and (even more importantly) that the rider does not exceed the limits of the horse.

For the second part i rode Moldi. We drew the lineup and i got number 2. Moldi started of great and right away he was flying like only he can do. When we had ridden a couple of km, three of us riders had caught up with each other and realized that we were way too far east so we must have made a wrong turn somewhere. Luckily Hermann was one of us three, and he had gone this trail before and knew what direction to take, so he led us for about 2 hours until we finally found the path. Unfortunately, the last competitor got lost also and didn’t find the trail and the team/staff couldn’t find her. They called the search and rescue team but thankfully they didn’t need to come since eventually she did find the way back and all was well. The organizers decided to cut out this part since everyone got lost and, and decided to put our horses on the trailer the last kilometers.

Iðunn & Moldi

Day 2
We had to drive all horses to a different starting point since the original plan was to ride over the river Blanda but we were advised not to because of a too high waterlevel in the river. When we arrived to the starting point all of us started to get our horses ready. I started again with Goði. The ride was great and for most of the part I was riding on the soft trails except for the short time we had to ride on the road. I wasn´t really thinking about my time during this ride and it resulted in me losing my first place and going down to the third place.
For the second part I rode Týr, he was super fresh and so up for this challenge. We were on good tempo and the ride was going great. There was a gate I had to open and when I did that, I could see the rider who went last was not so far behind me so I decided to wait by the gait since I felt it was so rude of me to close…. Later that night I was reminded that it was a competition haha. But I gained a traveling companion for this ride.

The second part of day 2 was for sure the prettiest ride. We rode through Þjófadalur and then along the glacial river. Even though this day was gorgeous it was also the most difficult for me, as I had a lot of pain everywhere in my body and I think that was mainly because I had not slept a lot the previous days which is not good if you are doing something as challenging as this ride. That night we slept in a really nice mountain hut and just had great evening all together.

Iðunn & Goði

Day 3
I started with Moldi as he had a rest the day before. We were the last to leave but as always Moldi was quick to find his tempo and off we went. For the most part of the ride i could not see anyone but when we had only a couple of km left, I could finally see the others a little ahead of me. Eventually me and Moldi almost caught up with them and we ended up having the best time for this part and passing the vet check with flying colors. For the second part I rode Týr. He did great and because of a swamp, three of us caught up with each other since we had to walk over it. After that we rode together all the way to the finishing line. This ride was really pretty but also a challenge because of the gravel. They decided to cut this part short so it was only about 20 km. We were all staying in a tiny but cosy hut this night. In the evening it started to rain a lot but there was a stable so we could put the horses inside for the night.

Day 4
We drove to the place we were supposed to finish the day before. I started with Goði who had a rest day the day before. This was a nice ride with beautiful scenary and a good riding trail. There was one steep hill to climb but the rest was just straight as far as the eye could reach. Goði and I caught up with two riders in front of us and we rode together until the finish line. We had the best time for this part, and we passed the vet check without any comments. I decided to ride Moldi the last part and he did amazing. After a few km Annie who started after me caught up and we rode the rest together. It was so much fun and our horses where really in sync. Crossing the finish line was a great feeling and I didn’t expect so many people to be there. I walked my horse for 30 min as always after a ride, did the vet check and my last interview with the film crew. Then we took some pictures all together and the winner was announced. My team Saltvík Riding-Iceland ended up as winners!  

All in all, it was a great adventure. I started this journey with no expectations but to have fun and to enjoy. My team was a great help. First it was my mom and dad and then when dad had to continue with his own Dreamtour adventure, Hjörtur, my uncle, stepped in. The horses are the true heroes and it felt great to see how naturally this comes to them; they are real athletes. I know for myself what I could have done better, so I already have new goals for the next endurance ride in Iceland!

-Iðunn Bjarnadóttir

Note: A docu/film was made during this ride, and the trailer has just been released. 
Watch it here
(video made by Þorsteinn Roy Jóhannsson and Snorri Björnsson)

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