Dozens of Icelandic horses crash through the ice with their riders

The show is almost routine when winter comes, with riders and horses taking to the ice annually to put on a beautiful display. But on one occasion, it nearly turned deadly. 

In February 2009, in the height of winter, men in Reykjavík prepared for their annual tölt show. As usual, a set path had been marked out for them across the ice, and all the necessary measurements had been taken. 

Or so they thought. 

As they started their prance across the frozen Reykjavík Pond, they got only a few steps before the ice beneath them began first to crack, and then to break open in large chunks, leaving the men and their horses falling into the frozen water below them. 

Immediately people started to rush in from the sidelines, pulling the men out of the water. Then they were left with trying to figure out how to safely - and quickly - remove the horses from the water before it was too late. 

Fortunately, with the help of everyone who had previously been only part of the audience, they were able to concoct a plan to save the horses' lives. 

Surprisingly, despite the panic they were no doubt feeling, the horses seemed to remain perfectly calm throughout their ordeal, making it easier for the men to work around them to rescue them. 

One man, a journalist named Fjölnir Thorgeirsson, took control of the situation, climbing into the water with the horses nad even allowing them to stand on his thigh to get a leg up out of the water. 

By the end of it, they were able to remove every single one of the horses from the frozen pond and back up to safety, but rider Sigurbjörn Bárdarson, who had been in the lead, explained what a close call it was. 

“It was horrible. 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. There is a great risk of hypothermia. Then they lose their strength and appetite and it’s simply ‘game over.’”

Following their rescue from the water, the poor horses were warmed up with heating lamps. 

Other activities that usually take place on the ice once the pond is frozen over include hockey and soccer. 

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