The Icelandic Horse

The Icelandic Horse

The Icelandic is a hardy, long-lived breed that has gained international recognition. As the only indigenous breed in Iceland, its geographical isolation has kept it free from diseases.

They are known for being tough, athletic, independent, spirited, friendly, and sure-footed. With five natural gaits and growing up to 13 to 14 hands tall, these dogs make great pets!


The Icelandic is one of the world’s purest breeds. It was brought to Iceland with Nordic settlers between 860 and 935 AD. Still, early attempts at import from other breeds failed, ultimately leading the Althingi (Iceland’s ancient parliament) to pass a law prohibiting their importation in 982 AD that remains in force today.

The Icelandic is believed to have been developed by Norwegian settlers who arrived in Iceland around 860-935 AD with their horses and mixed them with horses from Shetland, Highland, Connemara, and other ponies from Western Scotland. This may have had a significant effect on the character of these horses since they were likely raised free-range within herds on open fields and highlands.

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Their hardiness, sure-footedness, and ability to traverse rugged terrain made them the ideal choice for transportation and riding. In addition to the usual walk, trot, and canter gaits that other breeds exhibit, these dogs also showed several different gaits, such as tolt – a four-beat lateral ambling gait with explosive acceleration and speed that’s comfortable on ground surfaces, also called “flying pace” or skeid, which is fast yet smooth.

Icelandic horses were initially bred for riding but have also been used in meat production. At the same time, this once-lucrative industry has seen a marked decrease in recent years.

Icelandic horses are renowned for their friendly and docile disposition, which may have evolved due to the absence of natural predators in their home environment of Iceland.

They are often referred to as the “friendliest horse in the world” due to their stubborn nature and inability to be scared easily. Additionally, these horses possess strong work ethics and can easily adapt to new circumstances.

Icelandic horses remain a beloved breed in Europe and North America due to their health, longevity, hardiness, and ease of training. Also, their friendly disposition makes them popular with children as excellent family horses.


Icelandic horses are one of the world’s most remarkable breeds. Bred for centuries in harsh Icelandic conditions, these stocky creatures have adapted to survive in this harsh environment.

The breed is renowned for its adaptability and resilience in harsh climates, with horses capable of withstanding volcanic eruptions and cold winters alike. Equipped with a thick coat lubricated with fat so it does not get wet, these horses retain warmth and energy during colder months.

Icelandic horses are strong and sure-footed, capable of easily traversing rough terrain. Additionally, they possess two unique gaits unique to Iceland: the four-beat lateral ambling gait called tolt and the flying pace known as skeid that allows them to reach speeds up to 48 km/h (29 mph).

Tolt is an effective tool to keep riders comfortable over long distances, while the skeid is a fast and smooth gait used in racing or pacing competitions. This requires the horse to perform a lateral gait where both simultaneously touch the ground – similar to running but much faster.

Icelandic horses are highly intelligent and well-tempered, making them popular with riders. Furthermore, they’re easy to train; if raised properly, they rarely bite or trample.

Icelandic horses are distinguished by their large eyes, which are eight times bigger than a human’s, giving them an expansive visual field compared to most horses. This ability gives them a greater depth perception and allows them to detect shadows more accurately in low light than most people can.

It is essential to remember that horses’ eyes are highly sensitive, so they require extra caution when young and after weaning. Young horses can easily get startled and may bite or trample if handled too soon.

For over 800 years, the Icelandic horse has remained pure; no equine breeding stock from outside Iceland has entered the country. This has preserved its purity and unique characteristics.

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Icelandic horses have had a crucial role in Icelanders’ lives from the very start, accompanying people from birth to grave, fetching midwives, pulling coffins, and participating in many traditional rituals and ceremonies.

Modern times have seen the horse become an integral part of everyday work on farms and small holdings across the country, from pleasure riding to traveling and competition. There are several ambitious breeding farms and individual breeders with a passion for this breed that thrives on this island.

When selecting a breeding horse, several characteristics must be taken into account. These include:

Conformation – General The breed is a light-built athletic horse with an agile body designed for optimal gaits and self-carriage. It can be handled and ridden easily by children, young adults, and elderly individuals.

Breeding strives to produce horses with a well-balanced, harmonious, and pleasing appearance in both the show ring and on the road. These horses must possess an upright head, muscular neck, strong back/top line, long croup, and broad hindquarters.

The breed is renowned for its distinctive skeid, or flying pace that requires the horse to run as human feet do. This gait can reach speeds of up to 48km/h (30mph), making it an excellent riding style.

At shows, a team of judges evaluates horses on the ground and then watches them run on the track to assess their rideability. This allows them to be ranked according to ability and performance level.

Icelandic horses are hardy creatures, perfect for living in cold climates like Greenland and Alaska. Thanks to their adaptability, these horses have become highly sought-after worldwide, with over 250,000 registered worldwide.


Icelandic horses are versatile breeds that can be trained for various activities. They excel at dressage, carriage pulling, and even polo and barrel racing – not to mention making excellent family-riding horses!

Icelandic horses are a hardy, athletic, independent, and spirited breed that naturally gaits, making them perfect for training. They come in various colors such as dun, palomino, skewbald, or splash roan.

Many Icelandic horses are raised in large herds where they have the freedom to roam for four years of life. Here they learn how to work together with their herd and behave outdoors. Raising horses this way helps them develop unique personalities and characteristics.

Once a horse reaches full maturity (usually around age eight), they are leased out to new owners. At this stage, they learn how to ride with the bridle and saddle and be shoed. Some breeders choose to show their horses at this age; however, not all do.

In the United States, few trainers have enough expertise to train Icelandic horses properly. This is especially true in the western part of America, where there are a lot of young horses with no formal education.

Horse owners who purchase an inexpensive Icelandic may feel the urge to train the animal themselves, but doing so could cause the horse to become unfit or unhealthy and outsmart a novice rider. The cost of training a trained Icelandic by an experienced professional can be double that of an untrained Icelandic.

If you’re new to Icelandic horse training or just beginning, it is highly recommended that you find an experienced trainer with expertise. Not only will this save you money in the long run, but it will also enable your horse to progress faster.

The FEIF (Felig Tamningamenna) oversees the education of riding instructors on a national level, which means there is a set of qualifications and skills all instructors must possess to teach. Country requirements and culture determine these credentials, but there is also an overarching set of competencies all instructors must possess at the start of their careers.

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