Helga takes us out to the field of young horses, the two and three-year-olds that haven’t begun training. Icelanders believe in letting young horses stay wild in the herd, so they are more curious and respectful when humans start working with them. We are looking for one horse, Sonnetta, a filly that Esther wants to bring back home someday. Sonnetta is hard to find in the herd; she has a pretty face and a white blaze on her nose, but there are a lot of palomino horses with blazed noses. Helga unlatches the gate and we enter the pasture to get a better look. Once we are in their territory, the young horses rush toward us, curious and friendly, greeting us with head-on stares, but soft guileless eyes.
We are five people and they are about fifty horses crowding around us, closing up space until we are engulfed in them, shoulder to shoulder, part of the herd. They nuzzle the back of my jacket. I feel their velvety mossy noses on the back of my neck. They have the grassy, grainy smell of horse hair in sunshine. Though I love the smell of all horses, I particularly love the smell of Icelandics. They smell so clean to me, like glacial wind fresh off the mountains. If I had high blood pressure, this would be my pill. I put my face on their backs and sniff deeply. Helga shoos the horses a little bit to give us room. But I don’t mind their closeness. I didn’t go into the field thinking this, but I realize I am looking for a horse, my horse, to bring home. I think I will find it here in the field of youngsters, a two or three-year old that strikes my fancy, who meets my eyes and says hello, a mystical set up. It’s like looking for love in a bar and I am drunk on them. Helga points out which mares are beautiful. We ooh and aah, but most of them already have buyers. She points to a pretty palomino, tall and leggy. Is this the one for me, I wonder? Helga explains that Nicki is interested in her. Though I don’t know Nicki, I know she is an expert rider, a horse breeder in New York who rides with Martha Stewart. Next to Nicki, I am a piker. But there are plenty of horses in this field; I will find my own. A gray gelding nibbles my jacket. He is a muscular horse with a most handsome head and I like the idea of a gray horse–No, I get it in my head that I love the idea of a gray horse. According to the sagas, they are the stuff of myth. This is it, he nibbled me and it’s a sign, he’s mine. What about this one? I ask meekly, trying not to bring too much attention to my future steed. Helga tells us that he is going to be a great horse, has great confirmation and she can already see in the field that he has fine gaits. For me, for me? But she kills that idea, “He will probably be a competition horse. “ Even if I could handle a competition horse, which I can’t, I could not afford one. But I’ve decided that one of these horses in the field, after two or three years of training, could be mine. “Soon,” I tell Helga, “Start looking for a horse for me.”