The Icelandic horse

The Icelandic horse

Characteristic of the breed are individuals who are brave, strong, persistent, intelligent, curious and calm.

Today you use the horses very widely in everything from tour riding in light or difficult terrain, to take part in gait competition or more speedy events. Several individuals can develop a good jumping technique and can be educated in classical dressage. But most common is to have the horse as a family member and a riding horse for the whole family. Most Icelandic horses can adapt to the rider and therefore the youngest person in a family can have equally fun with one horse as an adult. You often hear that a horse with lots of will and strong character can be complicated for the most experienced rider but still calm and obedient with a child on its back.

What makes the Icelandic horse extra interesting is the four or five gaits. Apart from walk, trot, and canter most individuals have tölt and some pace. You separate the horses in four-gaited or five-gaited horses consider if they have the pace or not. The gait tölt is the Icelandic horse’s specialty. It is a soft and smooth gait which most riders prefer. It’s possible to ride the tölt in different speed, from slow collected tölt to a speed where they can keep up with canter. A good tölt horse has an even beat, is smooth with high front legs movement, and can carry itself with proud radiance.

The individuals who have the pace and are five-gaited have “the fifth gear”, a two beated gait with a flying moment where the same side front and hind legs move simultaneously. Flying pace is very fast and speed-pass is used as a race on shorter stretches of 100-250m. You can also compete in showpace.

Since the breed has its origin on Iceland it has had to adapt to living outdoors in a cold climate and with the limitation of feeding much of the year, it is somewhat more resistant to weather than other breeds. Even the thick coat helps to isolate the body from chilly winds and rain. In Sweden, the Icelandic horses live both outdoors all the time and in stables, the way that suits for every individual and its owner.

The official breeding goal for Icelandic horses is to breed a healthy, fertile and durable riding horse, who is sturdy but still elegant. A multi-purpose horse with five gaits. The size of the Icelandic horse can vary. A wrong belief is that the horses are much smaller than they actually are. The average size of the horses that are shown is around 140 cm, and a height between 130-150 cm is most common. The colors of the breed are the most varied in the world with 40 colors and up to 100 varieties. The most common colors are chestnut and black and the rarest color is true roan.

Original text in Swedish: Svenska Islandshästförbundet