Get to Know Iceland Guide and Wrangler Tina Künzel

When GuideAdvisor happened upon an exotic young horse riding Iceland tour guide, we couldn’t believe our luck: talk about unique! East Iceland’s unpredictable weather can make careers in the outdoors tough, but the sun-one-minute-rain-the-next environment only served to inspire Tina Künzel who loves nothing more than to share her love for the land she rides upon with everyone. After all, who wouldn’t want to explore rugged Eglisstadir and the river Jokulsa (keep your eyes peeled for the whimsical turf-covered church) on a hefty Iceland-born-and-bred horse? We caught up with Tina to ask her about her love for horses, the country of Iceland (the most sparsely populated European country, which is characterized by active volcanoes, breathtaking mountains, and glaciers) and how the two work so beautifully together.

Tell us, Tina, how did you discover your fascination for horses?

I’ve loved horses since I was a little kid. In fact, I started riding them at only 6 years of age. Ever since, horseback riding has been my favorite sport.

How did you manage to turn your passion for horses into a profession?

Cheesy as it may sound, I just chased my dream…and caught it! Horses are my life, and I cannot imagine anything better. I enjoy that every day is different, every horse is a new challenge (challenging horses do not scare me!), and every person I work with shares my passion, which is crucial to creating a lasting work environment.

How did you make the transition to becoming a tour guide?

I was born and raised in Germany, but I moved to Iceland almost ten years ago, and when I moved here, I decided that since I love getting to know people and enjoy being outdoors, guiding was (and always will be!) the profession for me. There’s something great about introducing travelers to Iceland, and showing them our country’s beautiful breed of horses and their unique gaits, especially the tölt, which gives the riding experience a sense of liquidity. That said, I’m actually not just a tour guide: I’m a professional horse trainer too!

What has been the biggest highlight in working on your farm-cum-guiding-outfitters, Stóri-Bakki? 

Every day there are new highlights, but I like the springtime most because this is when our foals are born; it is nice to finally see them after waiting 11 long months for them!

What does a typical day look like for you?

We wake up at 7 o´clock in the morning and immediately feed the horses. Next, we train them, and after that, we do other farm-maintenance tasks. There’s never a dull moment at Stóri-Bakki since there are always new things in progress on the farm, and in between farm work, either Benni (my partner) or I will be guiding tourists up and down the hills, through the mountains, and along the river. The day in the summer often does not end before 11pm, and we go to bed exhausted, but fulfilled!

There’s something great about introducing travelers to Iceland, and showing them our country’s beautiful breed of horses and their unique gaits, especially the tölt, which gives the riding experience a sense of liquidity.

Since we all know that no job is perfect, would you mind sharing some of the downfalls to being a guide in Iceland?

The worst thing is probably the weather. Over the summertime in our region, it is often okay (quite dry and very warm), but in April/May and September/October, you can get everything: sun one minute, rain and snow the next! For those months, it just takes a little more planning and careful packing.

As an experienced guide, can you think of any tips that people should know about before going on a guided tour?

My advice for travelers going on guided trips is to tap into themselves and listen to what they need. We sometimes get guests who think it is no problem to ride for 2 to 4 hours at a time, but then get too tired. As a life lesson, it is important to be true to yourself.

In your opinion, what makes a good tour?

Three things: good horses, good weather, good talking!

What does it take to be a good tour guide?

It’s important to be open, to speak many languages, and to be an entertainer. The worst guides are those who don´t know what to say to the guests. Boring is no good!

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?

At the moment, Benni and I are mostly interested in visiting Sweden, Norway or Canada. They are somewhat similar to Iceland, but still so unique.

Flying Icelandair? Maybe you can take a tour with Tina and enjoy what Iceland has to offer like Kat did: Best Stopover Surprise in Iceland Ever.

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