Pia Ålander receives me at her horse ranch outside Fjärås on one of the last sunny days of summer. Pia has been living here for nearly three months.

“I’ve had a ranch before, but my last residence was an apartment and it just didn’t feel right. I missed the freedom and closeness to nature. I’ve now finally found a place that suits me and my horses,” Pia says.

Pia began riding at the age of seven, but Icelandic horses came into the picture only after Pia turned 40. She now has four Icelandic horses on her ranch, two of which are hers and two are her daughter’s.


Once Pia went to riding school with Icelandic horses and started trail riding, she was hooked.

“I liked it so much that I eventually started booking up the whole group for trail riding and invited my friends. A friend bought a horse and I helped her with it when she was out of town, and the craving for a horse of my own began to grow. No sooner said than done. One rainy summer, I bought my first horse, Sokki frá Thórormstungu, who is now 28.”

“You could say that Icelandic horses are like peanuts; you want more and more! They’re cool and collected and they rarely make a big deal out of anything. Their extra gait, rack and amble give riding an extra dimension. And you don’t need that much equipment, which makes things simple and unpretentious. You can just ride out into the countryside, which I like.”

Horses in the wild spend about 18 hours a day looking for food. This is difficult to replicate when the horses are in fenced paddocks, which means that Pia must be conscientious when it comes to feeding, which needs to be done four times a day. 

“I feed the horses every morning and evening, but during the day when I’m at work I have two paddocks of timer-equipped gates that open when it’s time for feeding. This way I never have to feel any stress – I know that the horses go into the paddock and eat when the gate opens,” Pia says.


An Icelandic horse feels at its best if exercised five times a week. For Pia’s part, this means she rides regularly. 

About once a month, Pia loads a horse in a trailer and rides at other locations. Sometimes it becomes a private lesson for some trainer that she wants to ride for.

“Taking a ride isn’t much of a bother or demanding from a purely exercise standpoint. However, it’s much more difficult to train a horse. Horses are different, some are more demanding than others. Now that it’s autumn and the hunting season is underway, I’m exercising the horses here at home in the paddock to avoid being out in the dark forest,” Pia says.

But having a horse ranch is not just beautiful views and rides in the countryside. Having a ranch involves hard work.

“My day starts at six with feeding. I then let the horses out and leave for work. When I get home, the horses and cats need food, the stalls have to be cleaned, water troughs washed out and refilled with fresh water, both in the stables and out in the paddock. If I have the energy, I usually take a round with the wheelbarrow in the paddock and clean up there, too, this to avoid parasites and thus deworming. One or two horses also need to be exercised, about 30–40 minutes each. On the weekends they’re exercised about an hour and a half each. Besides the daily routines, the paddocks have to be kept clear with a brush-cutter and posts sometimes need to be changed. Just now, 80 posts are waiting to get put into the ground. You feel the fatigue when it’s time to go to bed in the evening,” Pia says.


“Sure, there’s a lot of work here. Just mowing the lawn means taking 25,000 steps, so indoors there won’t be any major projects,” Pia says with a smile. “But the combination of meeting my colleagues at work, being part of a team where contributing to something makes sense and then coming home to the ranch makes for less stress. Here on the ranch, I can leave behind all thoughts of work and my stress factor really drops. The ranch and horses really help me to always stay focused when I’m at work.”

NAMEPia Ålander
TITLECoordinator, Stena Group IT
FAMILYLeft-the-nest, adult daughter
Pia has been to Iceland three times and participated in an equine fundraiser. Droving involves heading out to the mountains on horseback to gather the hundreds of horses that have grazed freely on the mountain sides throughout the summer.


The Icelandic horse is a purebred horse and originated in Iceland, where they had been around for more than 1,200 years. If they have once left Iceland, they will not be allowed to return. This is due to the risk of infectious diseases. They are known for their gaits, rack and amble, in addition to their walk, trot and gallop.

  • An Icelandic horse in Sweden eats about 1.5 tons of hay each year. The feed is supple-mented with various nutrients differing from horse to horse. 
  • The Icelandic horse thrives best when it’s cool outside and a little windy. 


  • Look for stables that offers riding schools, riding lessons and trial rides on Icelandic horses.  
  • If you buy your own horse, you can board it at a stable, with you helping with care and feeding. Full-board entails someone else handling care and you can come and ride whenever you want and can. (Note. Varies from country to country).

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