A Good Horse Has No Color is the
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
friendly dispositions, compact size, and comfortable gaits.
owned a horse before and I had always wanted one.
In 1996, I spent
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
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
sand to warm up.
That ride made me want an Icelandic over any other
In 1997 I returned to Haukur's farm, Snorrastadir, a patch
green between a lava field and the sands. The family there speaks no
and my Icelandic is poor. They welcomed me like a member of the family. For
next 20 days, there and at Sydra-Skordugil in northern Iceland, I would
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
up for only by buying the right horse.
A Good Horse Has No Color
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
and mythology, and its place in modern Icelandic literature.
Horse Has No Color is partly a travelogue, the tale of a 37-year-old wife
mother traveling alone by bus through an exotic country, relying on kindness
her room and board, horsedealing in a language she barely understood. It is
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
my first day in Iceland), I had lost the impulse for the trip. A shy person,
forced myself to ask strangers for help. I cultivated my patience and tried
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