What does history say? Fall is here, and a unique summer in the lives of horse people is past and now is the time to look back and ask some questions.
What is the situation with Icelandic horsemanship and why?
My answer: Surely many good things have occurred and progress has been madein many places
* Systematic breeding work is bringing us more beautiful, larger and better horses.
* The horses are being better cared fore than before, improved pastures, feed, shelter and better housing.
* Breeding and training are in progress.
* Caring for horses, tidiness and manner of riding is improving.
* The possibility to make a living on horsemanship alone has increased.
* General interest has increased and there is greater respect for horsemanship and horse people.
What is causing this improvement?
* Social activity of horse people is powerful and well organized.
Democracy is respected; meetings and conventions are showing results which are being respected.
* Leadership on behalf of horse people has been successful and credible.
* Horse people have good and well read media, magazines, network editions and books in great numbers.
* Horse people’s education has increased from primary education to university level.
This current status of things can be traced to the fortune of open minded individuals who have acquired knowledge and managed to gather many interested persons along so that big steps towards progress have been made.
Icelandic people as well as foreign individuals, with diverse background have pointed out to us some weaknesses and ways to improvement.
Four individuals will be mentioned here, ones who have made a difference in the history of our horses.
Georg H.F. Schrader (born in1888) well off, German lineage but born in the USA. Comes to Iceland in 1912 and lives in Akureyri until 1915. He is very knowledgeable about horses and horsemanship.
He felt the urge to let Icelanders know that he thought that many things were lacking in the horsemanship sector and he wrote an interesting book called “Horses and horse people in Iceland (1913). He financed and built (1913) the horse hotel Caroline Rest. He disapproved seeing horses used for traveling standing without shelter in all different kinds of weather during visits in the town.
Daníel Daníelsson (born in 1866) was an educated photographer who frequently traveled to the neighboring countries for different reasons and traded both horses and sheep. He was a tour guide and had good relations with foreign visitors.
Daníel was one of the founders of Fákur horse club and its first president in 1922. His books were “Horses” in 1925, “How to handle horses” in 1932 and the book “Phases” in 1937 tell us about a leader as well as a broad minded pioneer.
Where would Icelandic horsemanship be at this time if Gunnar Bjarnason (born 1915) teacher and horse breeding counselor had chosen another line of work? This unbelievable man of idealism and campaigner had great interaction with horse people abroad, both amateurs as well as scholars.
Gunnar was one of the founders of the Association of Horse People (LH) which was founded in 1950. He was also the originator of Landsmót in 1950.
He formalized all the different levels which the judges work by, where conformation and the qualities of the horse are assessed.
He worked energetically with FEIF and in the field of horse export.
The fourth individual is Pétur Behrens (born in 1937 in Hamburg).
He came to Iceland around 1960 and had great influence on export and also had interaction with the chairmen of the Icelandic horse clubs within FEIF.
The Association of Horse Trainers was established at his initiative in 1979.
The establishment of Eiðfaxi was to a great extent because of his assistance in 1977. The book “Training” from 1981 and other writings of his as well as in Eiðfaxi magazine still have a great effect on all our conduct towards horses as well as refined horse riding.
Often one meets people within our ranks who think that things have just happened like this by themselves. History tells us this is not right, because it tells us about idealists, different matters, happenings and struggles we should not forget about. Everything which has to do with progress in horsemanship has happened because of individuals with visions and work effort which they have managed to make come true having other people work alongside them.
Gísli B. Björnsson