Iceland review - 2002, Blaðsíða 39

Iceland review - 2002, Blaðsíða 39
ICELAND REVIEW 37 Fortunately, help has arrived from the British Court. Its emissaries have inspected the Princess’s proposed lodging, a recently restored Icelandic turf farm at Hofstadarsel, and deemed this style of housing – which Icelanders did their best to root out in the 20th century – as perfectly acceptable for a British royal. They have vis- ited Vindheimamelar and ruled that Princess Anne may sit on the grass like other horse-lovers. They have even simulat- ed wind and rain, and ruled that Princess Anne will be able to endure the drizzle- bearing northerlies – which the organisers are praying will stay away on the day. Like the Shinto priests of Japan, the organisers have invoked the spirits of long-dead Skagafjördur horsemen to ensure that the weather holds fine. Their invocations work. From the begin- ning of the championships on Tuesday till the grand parade on Saturday the weather is superb. Perhaps too superb, for the com- bination of sun and dry weather results in a veritable dust bath. And it is in a cloud of dust that the guest of honour makes her grand entrance on Saturday afternoon. All of a sudden, when least expected, Princess Anne comes driving up in her victory chari- ot past the pavilions of the besieging army and the ranks of American jeeps. “There’s the Princess!” someone cries and shortly afterwards the presidential vehicle sweeps up with an escort of landcruisers and police cars. On its bonnet fly the Union Jack and Icelandic national flag, so similar in colour and design under their coating of dust that they might be one and the same. A good “tölt” is all The Princess commences her inspection of Icelandic horseflesh. The Icelandic horse is essentially the same animal that the first settlers brought over from Scandinavia in the eighth and ninth centuries AD. Since then its blood has not been mixed with any other breed, which explains why it still bears a striking resemblance to a Mongolian nomad steed. It exudes an aura of primitive purity. It is really too small to race on a serious scale, yet pace-racing is part of the Landsmót, though its impor- tance is relatively low. The main emphasis is on the so-called “gædingakeppnir” or competition-horse classes. Unlike riding horses elsewhere with their basic staple of walk, trot, canter and gallop, the Icelandic horse (never “pony”!) has five specialised gaits. At the beginning of the 20th century, “skeid” (pace) was held in the highest esteem. However, when riding became a sport and leisure pursuit with the advent of cars in the thirties and forties, “tölt” (run- ning walk) became the favoured gait and is now regarded as the Icelandic horse’s most prized natural asset. This gentle motion, once referred to contemptuously as “the lady’s gait” by Icelandic farmers, is especial- ly favoured by breeders and riders, both at home and abroad, and horses are general- ly judged according to the smoothness of their tölt. On the grassy slope where Princess Anne reclines on a woollen rug and cushion, a representative of the Landsmót committee is attempting to initiate her into the mys- teries of the Icelandic horse show. An Icelandic Landsmót is a riding-horse com- For six days both competitors and spectators live like nomads of the steppe, for only a handful are lucky enough to have secured a roof for the night in the neighbouring district. 34 IR302 - Landsmót bs-rm 2.9.2002 14:20 Page 37
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