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Company Q& A - Íshestar Riding Tours in Iceland


Interview with Einar Bollason, Managing Director of Íshestar Riding Tours

Managing Director picture
Einar Bollason, Managing Director of Íshestar.

How long has Íshestar been running holidays in Iceland? Since 1982, when our tour operator license was first issued. We were the first and had to pave the way.

How did the company begin? Well, the Americans had a lot to with that. Me and my friend organized a tour for the American Ambassador and the Admiral at the Navy Base in Keflavík, just for the fun of it. After the tour they encouraged us to start a business like this and arranged to join us on our first tour in the summer of 2003! We had only 136 clients the first summer and earned just enough money to pay for our logo! This year we estimate close to 23,000 riders will come to ride our horses, most of them on our short (2-7 hours) tours from our Riding Centre in Hafnarfjörður but also around 2000 on our longer tours in a total of 128 departures.

Do you work with partners? Yes we have nine Íshestar stations in Iceland, farmers that are also small shareholders in the company. Total number of horses (theirs and ours at the centre) are 13 - 1400. It takes a lot of work and many try-out tours before they are accepted into "the Íshestar family" but we have been extremely fortunate to have a fine selection of good people and excellent horseman. They are the foundation of our company.

river crossing on horseback
Between the river crossings and unpredictable weather that often brings wind and rain, it's difficult to stay dry on an Íshestar tour. The company will provide warm waterproofs and the scenery and the sheer experience will reward your efforts.
What do you believe is special about the treks you offer The main attraction of our tours is riding the Icelandic horse in its home country. Herding along free running horses through the highlands, across lava fields, rivers and through bushy vegetation, is the traditional way of riding, since horses are changed at least once a day - Nowhere else in the world will you experience this. We are proud to follow this tradition on all our highland tours and some of our tours in the countryside as well. On our day tours from our Riding Center we provide horses suitable for any riding level, for beginners but also for advanced riders. Even though you can not spend more then a few hours to experience the Icelandic horse we help you to make the best of it. Our international departures consist of riders from many different countries, some familiar with the Icelandic horse, others yet to experience the smooth gait tölt for the first time. We consider it a privilege to share a great adventure with people from many different nations. Many of our clients return, some even year after year, and we know that the Icelandic horse has taken its place in the heart of those who experienced riding it in the magnificent Icelandic landscape. Sure-footed and gentle, yet spirited and eager to please the rider, these characteristics have made the gaited Icelandic horse popular all over the world.

What's the best thing about running rides in Iceland? Definately to greet all those satisfied clients that come back from our tours. And the worst? Unpredictable weather!

Any funny stories from your clients? Well, I can remember this lady from New Jersey who in our early years gave me a 20 dollar bill and asked for a single room with a view over the sunrise. The problem was the accommodation we were headed for that night was a primitive cabin where we would all sleep together in one big room!

Have any famous people visited? Well, I was asked to take care of presenting two Icelandic horses to Hillary Clinton when she came over to visit and then she donated them to a home for troubled kids in New York State. It was a big media fuzz and the reporters followed me for days before she came, because the day was kept a secret for security reasons. The only way to escape the journalists was to saddle up my horses and ride into the mountains! We had Jude Law, the actor coming with his sons and he said this was one of the best tours he had made. Liz Claiborne came four years in a row with her husband Art Ortenberg and they even bought five Icelandics.

What's the nicest thing a client has ever said about your holidays? The same as the govenor of California said in one of his famous films: "I'll be back"! This is what we like to hear from all our clients.

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