THE ICELANDIC HORSE
THE NATION'S MOST FAITHFUL SERVANT
The Icelandic horse is a unique breed of smallish horses that came to Iceland with the first settlers from Norway 1100 years ago. Archeological digs in Europe have revealed that it is descendent from an ancient breed of horses that is now extinct outside of Iceland, where it has been preserved in isolation.
The Icelandic, as it is commonly referred to, is known for being sure-footed and able to cross rough terrain. It displays two gaits in addition to the typical walk, trot, and canter/gallop commonly displayed by other breeds. The first additional gait is a four-beat lateral ambling gait called tölt.
Tölt is known for its explosive acceleration and speed; it is also comfortable and ground-covering.
The breed also performs a pace called skeið, or "flying pace". Skeið is used in pacing races, and is fast and smooth, with some horses able to reach up to 50 km/h (30 mph). It is not a gait for long-distance travel.
The Icelandic horse comes in many different colors, and the Icelandic language includes more than 100 names for the various colors and color patterns. It is small, weighing between 330 and 380 kilograms (730 and 840 lb) and standing an average of 132 to 142 cm (52 to 56 inches) high. It has a spirited temperament and a large personality.
The Icelandic horse has gradually developed into several strains. The most important of these are the Svaðastaðir and the Hornafjörður strain. Horses descendent of Svaðastaðir are considered to have a more attractive gait and to be more dainty and frisky; while those from Hornafjörður are larger, and have greater endurance and courage. The Icelandic horse is long-lived and hardy and has become very popular internationally. A sizable population exists in Europe and North America. In their native country they have few diseases; and as a result Icelandic law prevents horses from being imported into the country and exported animals are not allowed to return.
The Icelandic horse continues to be used for farm work in addition to showing, racing and recreation. Horse riding is a great way to explore unspoiled nature, offering stunning, views of panoramic landscapes and grazing sheep. Riding tours are offered all throughout Iceland by various and numerous farms, many of which are only a few minutes outside of Reykjavik. The tours suit all levels of experience and can last anywhere between half a day to ten days.
For further information on the Icelandic horse, please visit www.horsesoficeland.com
The extreme dark of the Icelandic winter has a few perks. Between September and April, Iceland is treated to a magnificent natural display: the phenomenon of aurora borealis, or what we commonly call the Northern Lights.