Iceland is a country whose flora and fauna are rare, uncommon, and hard to find anywhere else. And this uniqueness is not only related to plants and landscapes; its horses deserve a special mention as well. I know many of our readers love Icelandic horses and are chomping at the bit to know all about them. But don’t fret! We will learn all about them in just a second. Giddy up!
A first point and a very important one is to keep in mind that Icelandic horses are not ponies. It is true that the Icelandic breed is not as tall as their Viking humans friends, but they do not fall into the pony category either. Icelanders can get offended if you call their horses “ponies”, so beware of that. We will find out why shortly.
Icelandic Horses – The origin of the breed
Even though this breed of wild animals was developed in Iceland, this horses did not originate on the Nordic island itself but rather from another part of Scandinavia. Back in the olden days, when the Viking settlements started, the migrant population did not have the means to carry everything they needed. That meant that the Vikings chose their most valuable belongings, among them, the best livestock they had.
Thus, the breed we see today descends directly from a selection of the best member of the species. We also need to add the fact that Iceland is a remote island and these horses were not crossbred. These steeds are therefore high-quality pedigree and the result of 1000 years of history.
Icelandic Horses – Why are they so special?
The horses’ size catches everybody’s attention at first sight. They are usually between 132-142 cm (52-56 inches), so they are indeed small. Due to their size, many people tend to think they are ponies but they are not. A pony is a small horse with some specific characteristics such as being tamer, more affectionate and easy to handle compared to a horse. That is why the Icelandic horse is not considered a pony. The Icelandic horse has a strong temperament but they are still easy to work with. They behave and work just like a taller horse would, so they are not considered ponies.
This Icelandic breed comes in different colors and has a very thick mane. I bet most of us love their Justin Bieber-like bangs! Besides being in fashion when it comes to hairdos, they are the only horse that has a fifth gait. Typical gaits of the walk are trot, canter and gallop. The Icelandic horse can:
Tölt: A fast-paced gait that is smooth for the rider.
Flugskeið: This means “Flying Pace,” since the horse reach up to 56km/h while moving both, the hind and the front legs at once.
Icelandic Horses: a Spirited and Noble Breed
Icelandic Horses – Horseback riding tours in Iceland
Most of the tours to meet these cute Icelandic horses, or íslenski hesturinn in Icelandic, start in Reykjavik. These tours usually take around 6 hours. The ride itself is usually one hour but it is done out in the wild and there is a bit of explanation about this breed and its history. This activity is great for both adults and kids and family friendly so do not miss the chance to make a new Icelandic friend!