Monday, October 13, 2014

Manolo Mendez Meets an Icelandic Horse for the First Time

Several years ago, I took my Icelandic horse Blessi (Veigar frá Búðardal) to a clinic given in the US by Manolo Mendez, one of the former chief riders of the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art.  I finally got around to applying for permission from Manolo Mendez to post an excerpt from the session.  What does one of one of the former chief riders of the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art think of the first Icelandic horse he ever gets to work with?

For more information about Manolo Mendez you can go to his web site and Facebook page at:

For folks like me who cannot duplicate Manolo's experience and timing for in-hand exercises, you can get some of the same benefit by performing the Tteam and/Connected Riding exercises.  Books like Connect with Your Horse from the Ground up by Peggy Cummings or books by Linda Tellington-Jones present exercises like (and I hope I remember the right name) "comb the reins" in which you can get the hind leg to come under the horse.

The video also says a lot about the Icelandic horse temperament.  What you can't see in the video is about 50 people in the arena watching from about 20 feet away plus all the activity of a busy barn happening on either side of the arena.  

You will find that his observations very much reflect those written  by the Polish explorer  Charles Edmond in Voyage dans les Mers du Nord à bord de la Corvette la Reine Hortense, published in 1857 :

"Icelandic horses are small, but hardy; they are, in addition, endowed with of all the qualities needed to cope with the fantastical terrain of their homeland. When faced with a river, since no bridges exist in Iceland nor, for the same reason, does Iceland have thoroughfares or carriages, the horse, nostrils flaring as if in a race, throws itself into the water and swims across. When it is necessary to climb a mountain, the Icelandic horse scrambles through the lava fields; it picks its way through the loose rocks; it finds firm footing through the marsh. After descending to the plain, the horse resumes his ambling step, which is as fast as our post horses. Powerfully built, it is more intelligent than man in doing his job. During dangerous passages, the horse resists the rider if he gives an ill advised command; the horse follows his instincts because his instincts are true."  (I translated from the French)

I think it is important to remember that the Icelandic horse makes a superb leisure horse because of its origin and we should not lose sight of this in all the emphasis on competition horses (not that a competition horse can't be a great trail horse also).

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