A few weeks ago, I visited a horse stable in Singapore. It was a small concrete estate at the end of a beach boardwalk, with just two pens for students to practise riding, through round after identical round. Under the glaring sun and equally intense gaze of the jodhpured instructor, both students and horses looked spiritless. I decided not to sign up for lessons.
By contrast, in Iceland, where open space isn't a rare commodity, we rode our horses for hours through the countryside. The stable we visited was an hour's drive from downtown Reykjavik, and was located in the middle of nowhere.
Upon arrival, we were assigned horses based our weight and experience level (zilch). Mine was a slightly temperamental gelding (male horse) with a name I couldn't pronounce. It took only one quick introductory round in the stable's pen before we were led through an open gate and into the wild.
Horse-riding isn't by far the most comfortable mode of transport - the bouncing hurts your back and your bottom, and more than once I got a mini heart attack when I thought I was going to fall off. But it's an incredible experience learning about your horse's personality and how to communicate with him. There's an implicit understanding that you're on a journey with someone - and it makes you feel so much more immersed in the embrace of the rustic surroundings.