I had a nightmare the other night that my grandfather’s beloved horse Frosti (‘Frosty’) had become sick and weary beyond cure and was being lead to the slaughterhouse. I woke up with a start and needed a few minutes to realize it was just a bad dream.
But the fact of the matter is that Frosti is getting old. Twenty-five years is a lot for a horse. He has lost a tooth and is having some problems feeding, not gaining as much weight as he should.
That said, Frosti’s spirits are as high as ever, making my granddad hold the reins tightly when we’re out riding. Otherwise he would dart off.
When playing with his brother Freyr (named after the Norse God of fertility)—my riding horse—in the paddock, one would think they were a couple of teens.
Still, there are signs that Frosti has come to recognize his age. He used to boss Freyr around, now he lets his younger brother have the upper hand.
Frosti now allows Freyr to pass him on the trail and as Frosti has become a slow eater, Freyr tries to steal his food supplement.
Brotherly love excludes food, it seems, but otherwise they’re like peas and carrots. If I take Freyr out riding, leaving Frosti behind in the paddock—even with a bucketful of treats—they neigh desperately for each other.
Frosti, Freyr and myself with Lake Rauðavatn in the background. The last ride of the season in June 2012.
The riding season started in late December and my granddad and I have taken advantage of the good winter weather.
One clear and calm winter’s day when we went out riding, the heavy wet snow from the previous evening had turned the landscape white overnight.
Frosty temperatures then turned the snow to powder, making it light enough for the horses to plough through without risking it getting caked underneath the hooves.
We rode through a forested area and it was like entering a fairytale. The snow had given each branch and twig a coating and everything was pristine white and glittering.
The weather rarely stays the same for long in these parts. On another trip a few weeks on the rain was pouring down in absolutely wind-still conditions.
We rode through Rauðhólar, distinct pseudocraters near the stable area, and the rain accentuated the deed red color of the lava against the dark green moss that grows on it.
Raindrops clung to the now bare branches. At a closer look I noticed that they had started budding, deceived by the mild temperatures (the ‘fake spring’ has even tricked the tulips in my garden to start sprouting), and birds were chirping cheerfully.
The days are notably getting longer with every evening a little brighter than the one before, enabling us to go riding in daylight on weekdays after work.
The other night I was late leaving the stables and as I returned home darkness had fallen. The air was cool and the sky pitch black. Suddenly I noticed a luminous green strip of northern lights dance across it. It was the brightest I’d seen in the light-polluted capital.
Spring is an illusion; winter still reigns in the northern hemisphere. When I wake up in the mornings, daybreak is still several hours away.
I recently realized that the brightest star of the Selá breed, the farm where Frosti and Freyr were born, resides a few stables away.
The stately Birtingur (‘Bringer of Dawn’) has earned his current owners numerous awards at tournaments, his mane fluttering as he overtakes his contestants at flying pace.
Winter may not be over but horses and riders are eager to take opportunity of the fair weather while it lasts; perhaps I will spot Birtingur out riding? It’s odd to think that his mother Birta used to be my riding horse.
As frost eventually gives way to thaw, birthing new life and promise of brighter days yet to come, nostalgia over springy days of youth and sorrow over lives that may soon be lost sets in.
At the same time I look forward to observing how the landscape transforms day by day with my trusty companions, whose old age doesn’t prevent them from enjoying life.
Eygló Svala Arnarsdóttir – firstname.lastname@example.org