Anita stifled a confused laugh when I responded “Hamster” to the question “What horse do you want to ride last?’
The answer expected I suppose was either one of your favourite horses that you had previously rode, or perhaps one of the group favourites (like Siggi or No Pants) so you could go home having ridden one of the good ones. I suppose the tiny neurotic horse was expected to go without having to work too hard.
But from the moment I heard there was a horse named Hamster, I decided it was fated. Much like my Chipmunk of the Mongol Derby, he was a bug-eyed little chestnut and a ball of energy. I had vowed to ride all of the “Rodent Horses” (stay tuned for future adventures where I will name horses Rat and Gerbil and… ok I am going to have to brush up on my rodents). So of course, this would be my last opportunity to ride The Hamster.
Things did not get off to a good start. It took a couple of mongol-derby style attempts to get the saddle on him. The wind was ferocious and my hood kept flapping up any time I approached Hamster, eliciting huge spook and spins. Eventually I had the good sense to remove the hood and stow it away (with help of course!), but the damage was done. I was a scary monster.
Part of me wondered what I had gotten myself into… it had been such a lovely trip, did I really want to end on a bad note?
Screw it, I am getting on!
Hamster rodeo. Its everything you imagine it to be. A big spook and shoot with a few movements I could only categorize as “creative”, however it wasn’t all that far from the ground. I stuck it and got right to work. Hamster was not about to stand still. Zoom! Its time to laugh.
We rocketed off to the front of the pack, his tiny legs moving like a locomotive. I realised quickly it was pointless to post, just sit light and imagine I am riding the spin cycle.
Then I heard a “clink” noise, he had stepped on a rock that *SHOCK* touched another rock and made a sound. BOOM! Off went the hamster bomb, leaping straight into the air. He was coiled so tightly, I began to expect and love the hamster bombs. They made the ride interesting and fun. Yes, Hamster was so much fun. A zippy little explosion of red. Had I not had my buff on for dust, I am sure my teeth would have been brown from grinning so much.
Then, came challenge #1. We had just crossed a bridge over a river when we heard some word about having to stop. It was very confusing, and not at all ideal when on top of the bomb, who didn’t know the word “still” in any language. What could be going on?
Word got up to us. Instead of crossing the bridge, one of the horses decided to go down and through the river, swimming the deepest part. You can see in the video above if you look closely, a black speck working its way by the bridge. We waited in anticipation for it to rejoin the herd, but it stopped at the bank. It was chest deep in mud and sinking. We were told later that horses are quick to give up and accept their fate (death) which was why this horse just sat there, calm as can be.
Halle jumped right in and after a few minutes managed to pull the horse from the river. It was an incredible sight, so brave! The horse wasn’t keen on following his direction (see above fate) but eventually it must have thought the rescue was worse than death and gave struggling a second chance.
I only managed to get that first video, as I was busy spinning on the hamster-go-round, but it was amazing to watch, and imagine what would have happened in the wild (or if anyone but Halle had been in charge)
Then there was challenger #2. Big scary bridge. We had done it on the way in, but doing it on Hamster, who was prone to spooking, and the high winds on the bridge… I was in a bit of a knot. 5 steps in and I breathed a sign of relief, Hamster did just fine. Still spunky as can be, but we did not jump sideways to our death. Phew!
The final challenge happened as we got closer to home. All the horses knew where we were, and they started to surpass us. While hamster was still pretty wound up, the herd was overtaking us. The biggest surprise was Klaus, who was supposed to be just exhausted, was leading the pack! I guess the longer you come back somewhere, the bigger second wind you get when you return!
We could see the mountains in the distance with a big looming storm cloud. It was one of the most beautiful sights, seeing the entire storm – almost black, in stark contrast with the low sunshine still on our backs.
We rode into home, untacked the horses, and most of them did not stick around to say final goodbyes… Hamster especially. We cleared out our saddle bags and stacked our tack up in the trailer then headed across the road to the cabin by the lake where a lovely party was waiting for us.
We relaxed, had some wine, bbq, sweets, more wine, until it neared dark and the vans were to bring us back to our hotels.
I did my best to sleep on the way home (which is more of a deep rest for me, never able to fully sleep during travel) when about an hour out of Reykjavik, the van stopped. Uh oh! Calls were made, engine models were googled, and we waited as the sun officially set. A little while later, rescue came and it was determined the fuel gauge was broken and we were simply out of fuel. We were stocked up, lines bled, and after a few tries the engine kicked in and we cheered. We were delivered safely to our hostels as the sun began to rise… an Icelandic all-nighter!