Icelandic Horse Connection

A Good Horse Has No Color

Nancy Marie Brown

A Good Horse Has No Color is the story of my quest to buy two Icelandic horses and import them to Pennsylvania. A student of the medieval Icelandic Sagas in graduate school, I had visited Iceland often and ridden Icelandic horses several times. I was taken by their friendly dispositions, compact size, and comfortable gaits.

I had never owned a horse before and I had always wanted one.

In 1996, I spent the summer at an abandoned farm on the west coast of Iceland. Each day groups of riders and loose herds crossed the silvery tidal flats in front of our house. Once I rode that twice-a-day path with our neighbor Haukur, a gregarious 64-year-old horseman. We swam a deep stream on horseback, then raced over golden sand to warm up.

That ride made me want an Icelandic over any other kind of horse.

In 1997 I returned to Haukur's farm, Snorrastadir, a patch of green between a lava field and the sands. The family there speaks no English, and my Icelandic is poor. They welcomed me like a member of the family. For the next 20 days, there and at Sydra-Skordugil in northern Iceland, I would speak only a few words of English. I would find myself in the middle of many misunderstandings, some humorous, some frightening, and some which I could make up for only by buying the right horse.

A Good Horse Has No Color develops these stories and explains why I chose the two horses I did. It explores the horsebreeding culture of Iceland: its history, its medieval sagas, its folklore and mythology, and its place in modern Icelandic literature.

A Good Horse Has No Color is partly a travelogue, the tale of a 37-year-old wife and mother traveling alone by bus through an exotic country, relying on kindness for her room and board, horsedealing in a language she barely understood. It is also a memoir: as a writer without my usual command of words, I was outside of myself; as a rider suddenly afraid of horses (after a disastrous riding lesson my first day in Iceland), I had lost the impulse for the trip. A shy person, I forced myself to ask strangers for help. I cultivated my patience and tried to make myself interesting (American lady as entertainment) or useful (American lady as dishwasher). I relied on the Icelanders' advice to make an expensive purchase, one I was no longer sure I even wanted, one which would change my life.

Icelandic Horse Connection