The team of Equestrian Adventuresses travels the world to film a documentary-series about empowered women working with horses in unique travel destinations. It’s no coincidence that they ended up in Greenland for the next stop in the film tour! As Adventuress Krystal would soon learn, riding Icelandic horses in Greenland is an off-the-beaten-path destination far from the busy crowds and mass tourism. And what better way than to discover such a unique and mysterious place than with a horseback adventure! In Greenland you will meet the amazing adventuress Naasu who started the riding operation along with her husband Piitaq owners of the Inneruulalik Guestfarm!
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Author: Krystal Kelly
Arriving in Greenland
I stepped off the plane, already in awe from the spectacular view out our window. My husband and I had caught a flight from Iceland to Narsarsuaq in Greenland. The flight wasn’t terribly long, it was a small plane with mostly Danish backpackers wearing matching North Face hiking pants and jackets.
My husband and I didn’t really fit in with the crowd, our tall Ariat riding boots was our biggest giveaway. I was sporting my Equestrian Adventuresses hoodie, praying that my Californian lack of ability to handle the cold would survive one of the coldest places on Earth. I took solace in the fact that it was early August, still summer in my mind, and I hoped that that would be enough for light winter wear.
It’s Amazingly Warm in Greenland
Christian, my husband, on the other hand is from Eastern Germany. Stepping off the plane he began stripping his layers down and was soon down to just a single light jacket. Apparently, as I would learn from our other Eastern German guests joining our group on this horse-riding expedition, this was considered “hot” weather. (During the riding we actually experienced some of the warmest weather in Greenland and the horses began to sweat! I personally never stripped my layers down much but then again; I was the only person in this riding group from a warm country!)
Christian and I were in Greenland on a mission. Not only did we want to experience Greenland from horseback and learn as much as we could about the culture, food, traditions and people, but we had another, grander quest at stake. We were there to make a documentary film for the Equestrian Adventuresses YouTube Channel. And the star of the show was going to be the woman behind the only horse-riding operation in all of Greenland run by locals. Her name is Naasunnguaq or “Naasu,” and I was excited to meet her.
Visiting a True Adventuress
When I set out to create a YouTube Documentary Series for Equestrian Adventuresses, my mission was simple: To inspire and empower women to achieve their horse & travel dreams by sharing the stories of amazing women in the equine industry. I knew that Naasu was the perfect candidate to educate outsiders on the beauty of her country. And what better way to see the beauty than on the back of a horse with a group of Adventuresses!
Piitaq and Naasu started the horse riding tours about 4 years ago. They already had horses because they are sheep farmers and use the Icelandic horses to gather their 300+ sheep from the mountains before winter comes. The sheep are left in the mountains each summer to roam freely and graze on the mountain grass. During our horse riding tour we saw plenty of sheep and climbed up plenty of mountains!
Our Rides: Icelandic Horses in Greenland
The horses we were given were very healthy and rugged. The horses also spend a lot of time roaming the mountains and are extremely sure-footed. Their Icelandic “tolt” (their extra gait) is very comfortable to ride. I adored my little Icelandic horse, Picolo. Picolo was convinced he is the fastest horse alive and I was happy I got my perfect match. (I always love to ride the speedy ones!)
The other ladies joining us on the group also chose their horses for the ride. They too fell in love with their calm, easy-going ponies. Christian got a horse named Charlie, who we were told would be the best match for him to film from.
The Perfect Camera Horse: Charlie
Christian and Charlie developed a funny relationship during our week long riding adventure. Because the horses are sheep herding horses first and tour horses second, Charlie didn’t have a problem with Christian dismounting randomly to film something. Charlie would simply stand by himself and take a quiet nap in the sunshine while Christian ran up the stones to get the best shot.
Eventually, Christian would return to Charlie and mount up and canter to catch up with the rest of us. Only once or twice did Charlie decide to leave Christian on his own to catch up on foot!
Greenland’s Fascinating Culture
Greenland is without a doubt one of the most beautiful places I have been. (I would say my top 5 would be—in no particular order—Iraqi Kurdistan, Greenland, Laos, Yemen, and Indonesia.)
I was also completely fascinated by the culture. I mean, let’s face it, in my mind Greenland is an extreme place where people aren’t supposed to survive! Yet people have been living there since the Vikings first discovered it over 1,000 years ago. The Vikings were in Greenland for about 400 years but they eventually disappeared. The Greenlandic Inuit tribes, however, thrived. They were better adapted to the extreme nature and toughness of Greenland. They fished, hunted for whales and seals and dressed in seal and polar bear fur to stay warm.
It’s Getting Warmer
Nowadays, the climate is warming up and we witnessed more icebergs than usual breaking off of the nearby glaciers and floating in the fjords. Seeing the glaciers and icebergs was an outer body experience for me. I never would have imagined seeing such a thing growing up in California! We even rode our horses around some of the icebergs that had washed up on one of the beaches and enjoyed a good canter. Sometimes you could hear the icebergs cracking and breaking during our ride, but our horses were used to the loud booming sound of icebergs and didn’t even bat an eye.
Our riding group was a smaller group. Two women from Germany, a girl from Denmark who has been living in Greenland for about a year and another girl who grew up mostly in Kazakhstan. Piitaq was our guide and was in charge of taking us to new destinations each day on horseback. Naasu was in charge of arranging everything for an absolutely seamless expedition and cooking our dinner.
Our Restless Hosts Are Working Two Jobs
It didn’t take me long to realize how much work both Piitaq and Naasu put into their sheep farm and the horse riding tours. During the day Piitaq would take us on long adventurous rides and in the evening, he was on his tractor baling hay. He needs to bale the hay for the sheep to survive the long winter months inside the barn. It didn’t really get dark at night and Piitaq took advantage of the light as much as possible, baling the hay until 10pm.
Naasu was also very busy. With two small children to care for and look after and a husband and 6 guests to feed, she was often in the kitchen preparing something or other. She also came to help us prepare the horses and it was clear that her knowledge and love of her animals ran deep. She affectionately greeted the horses upon sight and told us the story of how she and Piitaq came into possession of each and every one.
The Amazing Tolt – If You Get It…
Apparently, Charlie had been traded for some recyclable bottles! Although Charlie was an old gentleman, Christian had a great time with him. Charlie didn’t tolt, however, so unfortunately Christian’s ride wasn’t quite as comfortable as the rest of us.
Meanwhile, Picolo and I enjoyed hanging out in front and sometimes swapped places with Piitaq as the leader. Unless a good canter was coming, in which case Picolo and I loved to hang out in the back and let the others scoot ahead before dropping the reins and flying across the land at heart pounding speed to catch up. It was my first time to ever ride on Icelandic horses and I was sold!
“I’m going to have to bring my mom on a horse-riding holiday to Iceland and buy her an Icelandic horse,” I told Christian. Christian made a face as Charlie’s bouncy trot-like-tolt continuously shook him out of the saddle.
“I don’t know, I can’t rise to Charlie’s trot but I also can’t sit it,” he laughed. “Both are equally uncomfortable.” He squeezed Charlie into a slow canter, a sense of relief washing over his face. “The canter is lovely though!” Picolo’s speedy trot was equal to Charlie’s canter and we had no problem keeping the same pace with the others.
Naasu’s Big Dream
During our stay, Naasu confessed to me her dream to take over the riding tours. “I’m just waiting for the kids to grow, then it will be my turn,” she said. I knew that I would have to return one day soon to coach her. In fact, that was one of the reasons I had become a FEI Level II Showjumping coach during my travels. My talent for horses needed to be shared with others such as Naasu.
I can’t tell you how many times I met women with a love for horses and a lack of access to good riding instruction. Especially when the only instructors around were macho men that weren’t too keen on allowing women to ride. This made my mission all the more ingrained in my heart and I focused my career on educating men in various cultures to allow women to ride and empowering women to get in the saddle!
Greenland’s Equestrian Culture
“In Greenland,” she continued, “there aren’t any people to teach you things like horsemanship or how to ride correctly or how to train horses to be ridden in a more natural way. It’s mostly men riding horses, because the men herd the sheep while the women stay home and cook. The women have to have the meals ready for when the men return with the sheep.” I pursed my lips. I had seen this before many times. “I like to be outside though,” she said as she gazed into the distance. “I like to fix the fences; I like to care for the sheep.”
I felt my heart reaching out to her and I knew that she would get her chance to ride. “Have you ever ridden?” I asked.
“Yes, a little.” She shared stories about her beloved gray mare roaming in the mountains. She shared a special bond with that mare and had even sat on her without any saddle or halter on her face. “It was very fast that I fell in love with horses,” Naasu smiled, a twinkle in her eye.
Naasu Will Be The Only Greenlandic Woman Leading Horse-Riding Expeditions
I recognized that look all too well. I knew how addictive horses were from a lifetime of experience. I knew that she had been bitten by the “horse-bug,” for which there was no cure. I was confident that Naasu would go on to be the only Greenlandic woman leading horse-riding expeditions and nothing made me feel prouder.
When I spoke to her husband, Piitaq, he confirmed the same vision. “I was a bit shocked when I saw it was only ladies coming to ride horses. I didn’t mind so many ladies of course,” he laughed. “But I think Naasu will take over the horse riding tours. I will help teach her to ride.”
It was amazing to witness a couple as progressive as Naasu and Piitaq. Not only were they trail blazers on the trails, but they were trail blazers in business and in life too!
Inneruulalik Guestfarm – A Vision Became Reality
The horse-riding tour at Inneruulalik Guestfarm was an amazing experience, something I could only have dreamed about as a child. Because of their handwork and dedication to making the vision a reality, now everyone with riding experience can come and take part in this trip.
And to think that four years ago it was nothing more than an idea is surely enough in itself to inspire other’s in similar countries with similar ideas to also trail blaze new riding opportunities.
And I can’t wait to be the one to see it!
For more information on how to get to Greenland and how to get from A to B when you’re there, visit the website of Greenland’s tourism board. You can start at the page about the Inneruulalik Guestfarm on “Visit Greenland” website and then go from there to plan out your whole trip!
You can also find the “Inneruulalik Guestfarm” in our “Horse Riding in every Country” catalog, which lists over 400 riding stables and tours in more than 180 countries. The perfect starting point to find new inspiration and start planning your next adventure today!