Review: Wild Horses of the Summer Sun: A Memoir of Iceland by Tory Bilski


Thank you to Liz Dexter for bringing this  book to my attention.

If you are a horse lover, you may already know that one of Iceland’s greatest natural resources are it’s horses. Short and sturdy, Icelandics are somewhat like the Fell Ponies we’ve seen Queen Elizabeth ride in recent years.

Tory writes vividly of the trail rides, which for me were the highlight of the book:

“The horses pick up the pace. They vie to be in the front of the pack. This is what horses are like in Iceland because they aren’t coddled like pets. They are brought up in semi-feral conditions: the young and the mares are set free for many months, driven into the mountains to live off the land with no human care. Since they are left to forage for food and water on tier own and figures things out for themselves, they grow to be healthy, sturdy, and for the most part, sane.”

The horses have four or even six gaits. The six gait horses are from a genetic mutation. Riding a horse through all of those gates must be a bit like getting a Semi through a short, uphill intersection for the first time. It takes practice to for the horse and practice for the rider to not only post properly, but to get the horse to agree to the different gaits.

I gotta go Iceland

Author Tory and friends, one of whom was among the first to import Icelandic horses into the United States, began going to the same horse farm in Iceland as an annual get-a-way, recharging mission, and gal-pal road trip on their favorite breed of horses. Horses that even swim them places! Now, that is my kind of road trip!!



Photo source: Wikipedia

All of the women are in mid-life, in the 40 to late 50-ish years of yo-yo-ing young adult children, aging parents. The marriages are settled and allow for alone time. The jobs are a now not stressful from inexperience but are now routine. “Going Iceland” is what they think of when the stress gets to them. In Iceland the worries are on another continent and for a week life is reduced to riding amazing horses in the beautiful natural world surrounding them.

Unique Icelandic Odd Horses Beautiful Cute
Icelandic Horse  photo credit

The trips are not without problems–one year it’s a mean girl clique, another year its a visit to a new touristy horse farm where anyone, even a novice, can ride Icelandics with a German, Norwegian or other hired guide working for the farm. This causes the ladies to see how truly blessed to have “their” farm to visit all those years.

There are fun side-trips to Iceland’s many quirky museums–a cod canning museum that recreates the workers living quarters is on–there are others celebrating folk lore, fishing and maritime history among other subjects (I actually knew of this–a professor of mine at I.U. wrote a book on the Anglo-Icelandic Cod War). Then there’s the horse show where they are rescue by Iceland’s answer to George Clooney and the ladies imagine one of their own being swept off her feet by him!


As Game of Thrones and various movies put Iceland on the tourist map, changes come to Iceland. The capital city, Reykjavik, goes from town to city, albeit a still-small city and suburbs begin sprouting around it. What changes are coming for the nation and its horses? The ladies start seeing writing on the wall, but choose to turn their heads–exactly s I would do! Your own version of paradise is just that–your own. Tourists, movie stars, McDonald’s–they can’t take it from you.

Wild Horses of Summer: A Memoir of Iceland by Tory Bilski

You can follow author Tory Bilski on Twitter @exploratoryish or on Facebook.

My other reviews of books set in Iceland:


Names for the Sea by Sara Moss


The Sacrament: A Novel by Olaf Olafsson

8 thoughts on “Review: Wild Horses of the Summer Sun: A Memoir of Iceland by Tory Bilski

Add yours

  1. This sounds interesting, and really perfect for you. I appreciate the other Iceland book mentions too, since that’s one of the stops on the cruise some of us hope to take next summer!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This sounds great. When my husband and I first got together we went on a mini break to Reykjavik and were supposed to go tolting – which does sound like a euphemism – on the Icelandic horses but it was cancelled due to the weather. I’d love to go back some time…

    Liked by 1 person

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