In Memory of Jón Bergsson from Ketilsstaðir. Born June 25, 1933 Died July 23, 2008.
Freyfaxi the riding club was founded in 1952. One of the founding members was Jón Bergsson from Ketilsstaðir at Vellir. Jón participated in club events right from the beginning. He was the president for few years, was a board member for many years and represented the club at the annual meeting of the Icelandic Horse Association (LH). He was also a member of the board of the Icelandic Horse Association (LH) for a while. Even though Jón participated in the club activities and took care of his responsibilities to the club, nevertheless it was his interest in breeding that got him excited.
From the beginning the policy of Freyfaxi was to service to breeding. There Jón was the key. He was a leader and image of horse breeding in Fljótsdalshéraði in the East of Iceland for many years and still is. Horse breeding was a vision he never gave up.
“If I someday die,” was a sentence Jón from Ketilsstaðir used frequently. It descripes him, his humor and attitude to life. Stoicism! He was expecting five foals when he passed away. Years of illness and paralysis didn’t hinder him. “How many are you breeding this summer?” was a question he frequently asked his fellows visiting him at the hospital where he stayed the last years of his life. “I’m breeding five” he said quickly even though it looked like he wouldn’t last long enough to see the foals born. Jón set a deep mark in the history of horses and horse breeding not just in the East but in all of Iceland. He was a pioneer.
He was among the first in Iceland to specialize in Horse farming. He was not alone at the time because his son Bergur Jónsson was then with him, a hardworker and one of the best riders in Iceland. It wasn’t ideal at that time to put so much trust into your “mares”. There were no freebies in that kind of farming, no cash payments or secure sales of products. And it wasn’t like Ketilsstaðir was in the center of the horseworld, set far away from the area where most sales were happening. But the father and son kept their plans. Jón never doubted the value of the Icelandic horse and that horses could be a real farming speciality. It is no doubt that Jón’s commitment and dedication to his vision had a lot of influence on horses and horse breeding in the East.
Jón was an uncrowned leader of the horsemen in the East. The horses from Ketilsstaðir were and are among the best. Every horseman in Iceland knew who Jón from Ketilsstaðir was. He didn’t always sail on calm seas, there was always a powerful wind around him. He had big a temper, it was in his heritage. He wasn’t looking to be popular. He had his views and didn’t always choose his words carefully when voicing his opinion. That was only one of the sides of Jón. The other side was full of humor, kidding, warmth and trust. He was especially a fun storyteller and enjoyed good stories himself. In good company he was the center of attention. When he laughed tears ran down his cheeks. In a larger crowd he withdrew and didn’t say much but watched carefully. He was loved by his family. The kitchen in Ketilsstaðir was a meeting place like they occur warmest and most fun by Icelandic common people. It was as much a restaurant, meeting place and a club. There Jón’s wife Elsa Þorsteinsdóttir is in charge. Many horse people have been regulars there and many of us have great memories from there. Frisky, sweet, - and horse politics!
Jón Bergsson was first and foremost a Horse man and a breeder. Even though he ran a mixed farm most of his farming, the love of the horse kept him going. He was born and raised in a Horse family. His mother’s father, Hallgrímur Þórarinsson from Ketilsstaðir was a passionate horseman and excellent rider. Hallgrímur had good horses. Including Fála 1286 from Ketilsstaðir that was the mother of Ljónslöpp 1817 from Ketilsstaðir, the ancestress of the Ketilsstaðir breeding. Jón got both the art of riding and the horses from his grandfather. He could count his age on one hand when he started traveling around the east of Iceland. Hallgrímur worked for many years to measure the earth quality for farmers in the east.
He often traveled far on horseback and the trips sometimes took a few days. The rumor was that he rode willing horses and rode fast. “Fála was a hell of a horse, very willing and good looking” said Ingimar Sveinsson from Hvanneyri in an interview once, Jón’s cousin. “ She was very limber and it didn’t matter what kind of terrain she was ridden on for her it was all level.” Ljónslöpp was very much like her mother and those who knew her described her the same way. When Hallgrímur passed away in 1947 Jón inherited Ljónslöpp.
Foundation of strong stock
Ljónslöpp was always number 1 in Jón’s mind. She was the best horse he had ridden in his life. Her value was also increased in his young mind that she was the daughter of his old riding horse Blesi frá Ketillstöðum, who he got as a gift from his grandfather Hallgrímur when he was a foal. Both Fála and Blesi were mostly bred from Skagafjörður lines, Fála from Uppsalir in Skagafjörður and Blesi grandson of Sörli 71 from Svaðastaðir. Jón got a few offspring out of Ljónslöpp. Three of them laid the foundation for the Ketilsstaðir breeding, the mares Ljóska and Rauðka both from Ketilsstaðir and the stallion Glói 582 from Ketilsstaðir.
All three were out of Lýsingur from Voðmúlastaðir that was a controversial stallion. Good riders thought he was valuable and jón was one of them. Lýsingur was a energetic horse and had a temper. He had very good hooves and legs compared to the other horses at that time. He was willing with extremely good stamina. Those qualities have been kept in the Ketilsstaðir breeding. Another chapter in the Ketilsstaðir breeding was when the stallion Ófeigur frá Hvanneyri came and the stallion Máni frá Ketilsstöðum was born. Máni turned out very well for the Ketilsstaðir breeding and he received first prize for offspring only nine years old. Very few stallions have achieved that so young, including Höfða-Gustr 923 frá Sauðárkróki and Sær frá Bakkakoti. No stallion out of Máni achieved any real hype but many of his daughters have turned out to be good broodmares.
It would take up too many pages to count all the Gaedingar that have come from the breeding at Ketilsstaðir, so only the main ones will be counted. Máni frá Ketilsstöðum offspring show at the Fjórðungsmót at Fornustekkum 1984 and later at Landsmót at Hella in 1986 were certainly a big chapter in the history of the farm. His offspring were without a doubt among the best over the country. The peak of the Ketilsstaðir horses was reached at Lansmót 1990 when Muni frá Ketlisstöðum, a son of Máni, won A-Class at Landsmót. Muni was owned by Hallgrímur Bergsson, Jón’s brother, who has bred horses from the same lines. Another Máni offspring, Hugmynd frá Ketilsstöðum was in sixth place.
Hugmynd has since proven to be one of the better broodmares in Iceland. She has six first prize offspring including Hjörvar frá Ketilsstöðum who received 8.77 for talent and 10 for pace that is rare to achieve. 1998 was a good year for Ketilsstaðir. Many young and promising horses were shown at breeding evaluations including Ljónslöpp (jr) frá Ketilsstöðum who is the mother of Tjörvi frá Ketilsstöðum. That same year Ketilsstaðir was awarded breeding farm of the year chosen by the farmer association in Iceland. The third stallion that has put his mark on the breeding at Ketilsstaðir is Gustur frá Hóli in Eyjafjörður. Ketilsstaðir has been very lucky with this stallion and have bred many good horses out of him.
Thank you very much
The horses from Ketilsstaðir are still in the front row. The last few years the father and son team, Jón and Bergur, raised the bar steadily for the quality of their breeding horses. Their ambition, vision and good results has been an inspiration to other breeders in the east of Iceland. Jón Bergsson has shown with his lifelong work that perseverance and will is all you need. He believed in his vision and followed it till the end. His unbelievable belief in the Icelandic Horse and the breeding was sometimes thought to be a crazy man’s dream. In 2003 he went abroad for the first and only time. He went to the World Championships in Denmark. Words could not describe his experience. There the Icelandic Horse was in its glory. Thousands of fans from all over the world were there together to cheer for their favorite. The surroundings and atmosphere were like no other. It was a fantastic festival. There he understood what people meant when they said the Icelandic Horse was the best Icelandic ambassador. When he was traveling back home there was no longer doubt in his mind. He said: “This was good to see. Now I no longer regret one minute I have spent on the horses.” Thank you for your life work Jón Bergsson
Board and members of Freyfaxi Horse club.