What Sets Icelandic Horses Apart from the Rest

If you asked us to describe Icelandic horses to you, we would be at a loss for words. With Icelandic horses, seeing is believing. But we are going to try anyway. Icelandic horses are one of the most looked after breed in the country. These majestic, small, and often the size of a pony are one of the most remarkable animals of Iceland.

The horses have a long life due to the measures the country takes to ensure the animals stay healthy and strong through the course of its life. When you reach Iceland, try looking for other horse breeds. There is a high chance you won’t find any. Iceland does not allow other horse breeds from other countries enter the country.

If they send an Icelandic horse to another country, they ban its entry back to Iceland, thus minimizing the risk of their animals contracting foreign-born diseases.

So, How Long Have Icelandic Horses been around for?

The origin of the Icelandic horses dates back to the 9th and 10th century when Norse settlers brought Icelandic horses, developed from ponies, into the country. If you read Icelandic history and literature, you will find small mentions of the breed with the first reference coming about in the 12th century.

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Did They Always Look this Way?

Centuries of selective breeding and natural selection due the wintery climate of the country have shaped the appearance of Icelandic horses. Dark times also fell upon the breed when a disastrous volcanic eruption wiped out most of the Icelandic horses.

Now, the horses are looked after by several different organizations of numerous different countries, assembled under the International Federation of Icelandic Horse Associations. Nowadays, the Icelandic horses have achieved celebrity status in Iceland with several people from all over the world, coming to see these exotic and stunning animals.

The Stunning Looks of Icelandic Horses

Weighing between 330 and 380 kg (730 and 840 pounds) and standing at 132 and 142 centimeters (52 and 56 inches) high, different shades of coats, and different hues of eye color, the Icelandic horses may be short in stature, but they are a delight for the eyes.

In Iceland, you will see horses with roan, pinto, gray, palomino, black, chestnut, bay, and dun coat colors and some even have blue eyes. What most people cannot get enough of is how fluffy their tail and mane is. Their double coat protects them for the harsh temperatures of Iceland, keeping them warm in the winters. In short, the Icelandic horses are definitely worth seeing and are frequently used in horse shows due to their five natural gaits.

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The Five Natural Gaits of Icelandic Horses

Unlike others horses, Icelandic horses are gifted with five natural gaits, the trot, the walk, the canter, the flying pace, and the tolt.

  • The “walk” is a gradual four-beated gait
  • The “trot” is a two-beated gait
  • The “canter” is a three-beated rhythmic gait
  • The “flying pace” is a high-speed gait with the horse going 48 kilometres per hours or 30 miles per hours
  • The “tolt” is a natural and smooth walk with the horse going 32 kilometres per hour or 20 miles per hour

If you are familiar with horses, you will know that the walk, trot, and canter are the usual gaits every horse possess, but the flying pace and the tolt are the two gaits that set Icelandic horses apart from the rest.

If you are ever in Iceland, take the time to visit the home of Icelandic horses and just watch as these beautiful animals walk in the wild and in the pastures. If you know how to ride horses, you need to ride an Icelandic horse. Once you do, you will understand why the horses are clear winners when compared to other horses.

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