First of all, let me make it clear that this is not Dressage for Icelanders! My experience is that dressage may be coming to Iceland, but it lies becalmed offshore. I do not consider suppling exercises such as shoulder in, leg yields, etc., dressage. Perhaps an onshore wind will blow.
I think a pretty good example of the Icelandic attitude was voiced by my friend, Ingolfur, when I visited his home farm, Dýrfinnustaðir, to see where my horse, Sómi, had been raised and trained.
Yes, and the truth be told, my wonderful horse had been trained by chasing sheep from the mountains and riding around the farm visiting neighbors and, I suspect, taking care of a tipsy rider from time to time.
His new life in America turned out to be much different! He had only been here for a few months when my riding teacher urged me to enter a very low level competition. It would be a stretch for both of us because I had only been riding for a bit over a year and, to tell the truth, I had never even seen a dressage competition.
So I took the edge off by showing off — tolting up and down the driveway a few times.
That done, it was now or never. I would memorize the routine for a novice walk, trot, and canter… CANTER???? We had done a few inadvertent gallops on the trail, but no way could we canter in a 20M circle. So I talked them into letting me tolt in place of the canter. Actually, it was not difficult to persuade the judge and officials because they had no idea what a tolt was, having never even seen an Icelandic before and they were still getting over the notion that a 6′ guy was going to ride a “pony” so they were getting very curious.
Well, look what we did! I got a few points taken off for not cantering, but scored great compliments for tolt.
Cut to a few years later. Many clinics, lessons, trail experience, several spills, and I was getting more familiar with dressage. One teacher, Trish Helmer, felt that I should get the experience of sitting a non-Icelandic, a 17 hand Grand Prix horse and do a piaffe so I could feel the hind engine.
Now that I have gotten to know Sómi better, I know that he was delighted with his first blue ribbon and public performance in the New World. His training in Dyrfinnustadir, chasing sheep through the thufa, was excellent preparation.
That is a smile on both our faces!