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Alyona and Kapteinn on a horseback riding vacation in Lapland

I was a bit reluctant to leave sunny Paris behind and swap plus 20° to minus 10° in Lapland but the taxi was waiting and I was eager to discover the Great North. During my comfortable SAS flight to Kiruna, a town in the far north of Swedish Lapland, my seat neighbors kept telling me how rare the Northern lights are. They were openly questioning if their 3 night stay in Kiruna would be enough this time to get a glimpse of such a rare sight. It was their third time to Lapland, hunting the Auroras. Unfortunately, they had not had any luck sighting the elusive Northern lights the previous winters. We landed on the snowy field and the pilot wished us “bonne chance” with the Auroras Boreales in his pronounced French accent, emphasizing once again how rare they were. I decided to keep my hopes up, no matter what.

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Sarah from Ofelas Icelandic Horses met me at the beautiful red airport of Kiruna and off we went, ready for adventures. Of course, my main aim was to have a horseback riding vacation with Icelandic horses and discover the vast nature of Swedish Lapland. However, I was still hoping to get a glimpse of the Northern lights.

We had been driving for 10 minutes when I saw it. First a flash of green light struck the sky, dancing around the road. Then another one. The green particles were waltzing in the sky; creating intricate forms and fading into blue or pink shades. Magic!

Sometimes we could even see heart shapes or animal figures appear. It looked as if the whole sky had turned into a talented cappuccino art cup…Even Sarah told me that this Aurores were spectacular and she has been living in Kiruna for two years. What a start to the Lapland adventures!

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Riding Icelandic horses in Kiruna, Sweden

The next morning I was extremely excited to meet the horses. My company for the day would be Kapteinn, a very handsome Icelandic mister. It was love at first sight. Kapteinn was willing, easy on the mouth and such a good teacher! He was definitely not a beginner’s horse and I felt that during my booked “tolt” lesson (I do love the challenge though.) If the rider does everything right, Kapteinn goes into a beautiful tolt and changes gates perfectly. However if you hesitate even one second, he starts playing with you. I had so much fun, during our ride, getting to know this wonderful creature! We galloped and tolted in the pristine snow, that shined like millions of tiny diamonds. Precious.

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Lunch around the campfire

When both the riders and the horses were tired of gallop, we made a stop under the magnificent pine trees. The horses got their oats first, as soon as we liberated them from their saddles. Kapteinn munched happily, grunting from pleasure. The dog got its treats and was trying to steal the raw meat from the bags now. It was our turn to have lunch. Sarah started collecting wood for the fire and everything seemed much better in the warmth of the flames. We enjoyed our feast of fried reindeer meat and cookies for dessert, sitting on the saddle bags in the snow. Such a simple and tasty lunch! It felt like proper camping.

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Reindeer are important to the Sami culture in Lapland

I had also managed to cram reindeer sledging in my 3 day visit to Lapland. We fed the reindeer, had a proper Formula 1 reindeer sledging tour and learned about the Sami culture. Sami are the people who traditionally work with reindeer in Lapland. From generation to generation they pass the reindeer mark (special ear cut to mark the family reindeer). This mark should be unique and easily identifiable, so that when people round up the animals in spring, they may easily pick out their reindeer. If a Sami does not have this mark, he cannot work with animals. It’s such a humbling experience, talking about this ancient culture in a tippi around the fire with a Sami host. I sat on reindeer skins munching away, enjoying a traditional Sami meal.

It is said that in a Sami tipi, coffee and ficka mean a lot. Sometimes, the hostess of the house does not need to say anything – but just puts the coffee kettle onto the fire and the guest knows if he’s welcome or not. Considering the great amounts of coffee that we have consumed, we were definitely more than welcome.

If You Go:
Ofelas Icelandic Horse Riding
Puoltsa 1057 981 99
Kiruna, Sweden

This is a guest post by Alyona Belozerova. Follow Alyona on Instagram @Horsetraveller