Einar Bollason, director of Ishestar Riding Tours, talked about
his plans to expand the company with associate editor Paul Felt at
the equestrian operator's new 10,000-square-foot Ishestar Riding
HAFNARFJORDUR, Iceland -- "We want to make the Icelandic horse a
symbol of Iceland in the same way the elephant is a symbol of
India," Bollason said.
A former professional basketball player in Europe for 20 years,
and a stout, Viking-like man at 6 feet 8 inches and 260 pounds,
Bollason said he has tested the limits of the horse's capacity to
carry a heavy load.
"[I am] living proof of the strength of the Icelandic horse.
Height-wise, it's a pony. But strength-wise, no way," he said.
Much of Bollason's business agenda, to make riding a must-do
activity in Iceland, is evident in the new riding center itself,
which opened March with a bar, restaurant and changing rooms.
"We are trying to establish a country club atmosphere," Bollason
said of the new facility.
To that end, large picture windows look out to the horse pen
from the dining area, much like a golf club restaurant overlooks
Wood trim abounds, particularly at the bar.
Other country club-like enhancements include a gazebo addition
to the restaurant, completed this September, and three outdoor hot
tubs to be installed by next summer.
"Next summer we will also have tables and chairs on the veranda
for outdoor dining," said Bryndis Einarsdottir, Ishestar marketing
Ishestar received about 10,000 people on short riding tours in
1999, up from about 6,000 in 1998 and 3,500 in 1997.
Einarsdottir said the operator's goal of 15,000 riders for 2000
appears to be within reach.Bollason said the majority of the
operator's guests have never been on a horse.
The point of developing a country club-like facility, he added,
is to appeal to the mainstream, non-enthusiast market, particularly
families and weekend, incentive and business travelers.
"The main purpose of this riding center is to get to the
non-riders, people that didn't ever consider going riding before,"
A diploma is presented to every guest who completes a ride.
Making the learning easier, all groups are limited to seven
riders per guide.
Horses are selected for their patience; Bollason noted that one
or two of every three horses Ishestar receives are sent back.
Looking ahead, Bollason said he sees the center becoming a base
for non-equestrian sports that also could be enjoyed in the
immediate area. The center is located about 20 minutes outside of
These activities include biking and hiking, kayaking on a nearby
lake and salmon fishing within walking distance.
Short walking tours of approximately one hour were introduced
Although the other sports aren't in Ishestar's brochures, "We
can organize almost anything people want to do for groups,"
"We are also looking at action combinations, such as
horses-and-jeep safaris. Most likely we'll put that in our program
For 2001, she added, "We will offer an option, for all the
people coming to our Riding Centre to go to Mecca Spa to have a
specially developed Ishestar massage."
The optional massage and two-hour spa visit is priced at about
$45 per person, including transfers.
Also new for next year is a two-day ride, entitled the Power of
Creation, which will depart every Monday from June 18 through Sept.
The 37-mile journey features six to seven hours of riding both
days through a conservation area of the Reykjanes peninsula.
Hotel transfers and an overnight stay using sleeping bags are
The cost of the ride is $333 per person.