Innovation on Earth

Global Citizenship Resources for Innovation Academy and Beyond

Hay is for Horses and Sheep

As we’ve been driving around Iceland, I’m seeing miles and miles of fields filled with these bizarre plastic wrapped hay rolls.

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Icelandic farmers wrap up their hay rolls to make them last longer. Here’s how they do it so that the hay stays dry for up to 3 years! I wasn’t able to film this myself, so I found this video online:

It’s amazing to see so much open space in Iceland, especially compared to my experience in Japan. In Tokyo, the population density is 15,663 people for every square mile. Even in Hokkaido, the rural island where I spent time visiting wetlands, there are 44 people for every square mile. In Iceland, the population density is about 8 people for every square mile. That’s why there’s so much open land here!

Don’t start thinking that this land is wasted. It’s home to thousands of hay eaters — horses and sheep! We’ve been seeing them everywhere.

Most of the time, these animals don’t want us to get too close. But sometimes, if we’re lucky, we get to go over and introduce ourselves.  This little guy didn’t seem too bothered by me taking this photo.

Sheep Close Up

I was especially excited that this afternoon, we visited Gauksmyri Horse Farm, where we learned about the unique Icelandic horses.Gallop

BeerThey are much smaller than horses in the United States, and they have 5 different types of gaits. While most other breeds of horses can just walk, trot, or gallop, the Icelandic horses can do much more. At the farm, we got to see a demonstration of the five types of movement, and they even showed us how a rider can travel holding a full cup of beer and manage not to spill it! That’s how smooth a ride it is! (Don’t worry — she wasn’t drinking and riding!) I tried to capture the different gaits on camera, and you can see the rider holding the glass at the end of this clip:

I even got to get close and personal with some Icelandic horses, and so I thought a selfie was necessary:

Horse Selfie

It’s no surprise that the tourism industry tries to capitalize on their sheep and horses. I haven’t purchased anything yet, but I’m tempted!

These creatures are definitely an adorable highlight of the trip. I’m just trying not to think about what’s going to happen to the lambs come September, when the weather gets cold and the cuties are healthy and fattened up…

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9 thoughts on “Hay is for Horses and Sheep

  1. Anna S. on said:

    The wrapped hay bales look like giant marshmallows! But it’s very smart of the people in Iceland to wrap up their hay bales so they can last longer.
    I love the horses!!!! I never knew that they had 5 different gaits, and how a rider can ride a horse without spilling anything from a cup!
    Hmm… I wonder if some horses in other parts of the world have more than 5 gaits? Ooh! Did you get to ride one of the horses Ms. Krakauer?
    I feel bad for those sheep too…….

  2. Caitlyn P. on said:

    Wow that is really cool how the Icelandic horses have 5 gaits and they’re so pretty, that must have been really cool. and that’s amazing how the rider didn’t spill anything from the glass while she was riding! Did any of the horses you saw have a name?

    When I first looked at the picture with the hay bales all wrapped up in the field I thought they were giant marsh mellows. That is a really smart idea though to wrap the hay bales so the will last longer.

  3. It’s so cool how a rider can hold a full glass of beer and not spill it. I really like horses and I took a few lessons this summer . But I never knew that horses from lceland were that smooth. How can those horses have five gaits? Iceland horses sound cool .

  4. Anna H. on said:

    At first I thought that the plastic wrapped hay looked like giant marshmallows! I think it is cool the way they wrapped the hay. I think I would like to go to Iceland because there are lots of sheep and horses. I think I would like it because I love animals. I had no idea that Icelandic horses were different than ours! I would love to ride a horse there because it would be a very smooth ride.

  5. Jack C. on said:

    Wow that is a huge difference between the people per square mile in Iceland and in Japan. Were there lots of ranches or just a few?

    • Hi Jack! Yes, there were lots of farms and horse stables and such. I didn’t hear them use the word “ranch” very often. Usually, they give their horses a big area to roam in, almost like they are free. So, it’s sort of different than American ranches where horses are usually kept in smaller pens. They also let the sheep roam very farm, and they live kind of a “free” life, but they are owned by someone. At the end of the summer, they round up all the sheep and deliver them to the proper farm.

  6. The sheep are cute and the horses are beautiful. For our birthdays and Christmas and other holidays that include presents our grandfather gives my brother and I money for a horse back riding lesson in the summer, fall, and spring. I love horses and seeing the Icelandic horses I would love to ride them. It is also cool that I got to see how the farmers wrap up the hay. Do they do that in the US to?

  7. Those hay rakers are very interesting

  8. Hannah.R on said:

    Do you know why they spread the hay out all over the place? The sheep where cute but kind of dirty. I ride horses and I was wonder what its like riding the 5th gate.

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