How Moldi Taught Me to Fly
In Icelandic, the horse’s name Moldi sounds nice. The d has a soft “t” sound, the el is basically dropped. Of course, the subtleties of pronunciation are lost on us. We call out his name like a fungus: “Who’s riding Moldy today?” He hasn’t held that against us, though. His name means earth-colored and Moldi is a robust dun gelding with an eel stripe and a black and white mane, which nicely shows off the Norwegian Fjord DNA of Icelandic horses.
I was originally scared of Moldi. He was one of Disa’s horses and she trained primarily competitive horses. Moldi was not one of those, but the first year we came to the farm he was still very young and hence not completely trained. Horses like that—green and frisky—I eye warily, but Kat takes them on with no problem. In Iceland, she exhibits a cowgirl bravado. She rides with a confidence that she doesn’t have back home. She got off Moldi that first year and said breezily, “What a sweet horse,” scratching him under his chin like a kitten.
It wasn’t until Moldi was about ten years old (and well-trained) that I rode him. Not only rode him, but paced him, by accident. Pace is the fifth gear in the Icelandic horse, also called flying pace because the horse’s feet leave the ground laterally at once and the horse is actually suspended briefly in the air, flying over the ground. The Icelandic word for this gait is “skeið” (pronounced something like skaith, I think), which is funnily close in my mind to the word for Cheers, “Skál” (pronounced something like skauth, I think).
So one dark and stormy day I rode out with Christina and we were going fast and she rode slightly behind me giving me instructions that were partly obscured by the wind. She called out to me in her cute German accent, “Tauwri, do….and bring him …..Tauwri…then he’ll….just…Tauwri.”
“Wha???” I kept saying. I felt like the dog in the Gary Larson cartoon—all I heard was my name.
I wanted to canter, natch, and kept asking Moldi for it and he kept trotting faster and faster until it felt strange and I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t sit to this fast trot and I couldn’t post to it either. I tried my thin arsenal of riding tricks: leg on, leg off, sit forward, sit back, tight reins, loose reins. Then I just let out my inner John Wayne, “He-yah,” inspired by the recent viewing of Stagecoach (Bev brought the video with her this year so we could study the trick riding). “H’yah, h’yah.” But Moldi increased speed without going into a canter. Christina rode up next to me, said, “Tauwri, he’s pacing. You’ve got him in a pace!” She said it as a compliment, as if I meant to do this. Nice. Pacing clocks in at 25 miles per hour, about the speed of a Model T Ford. But on a horse it feels like flying. Skál to skeið!