Nearly 20 horses and riders fell through the ice on the frozen Reykjavík Pond during a tölt show yesterday, organized by insurance company VÍS’s Championship League in Horse Sports. Both animals and humans were rescued but some horses grew very weak.
Sigurbjörn Bárdarson at a 2003 horse festival. Photo by Páll Stefánsson.
“It was horrible,” rider Sigurbjörn Bárdarson, who had been in the lead, told Fréttabladid. “The horses were fighting for their lives and it took immense effort to get them back up on the ice […]. We were inches away from a tragedy—the horses were about to give up.”
Bárdarson had not at all expected the ice to break. “It had been measured and a path had been marked for us so we just trusted that everything would be all right.”
Bárdarson’s horse Ísak along with the other horses that fell into the pond were warmed up with heating lamps after the accident. “There is a great risk of hypothermia. Then they lose their strength and appetite and it’s simply ‘game over’.”
One of the heroes of the day was Fjölnir Thorgeirsson, a journalist for Hestafréttir horse news, who jumped into the pond and took control. He made the horses step on his thigh for footing because they slipped on the silt on the bottom of the pond.
Tölt horse shows on ice are regularly held in Iceland in winter. Whenever the Reykjavík Pont freezes, various activities are undertaken on the ice, not only riding, but also hockey and football.