The Icelandic Horse has many unique features . . .
One of the keys to enjoying Icelandic Horses is their well-rounded versatility. They are superb, natural jumpers, enthusiastic driving horses, and competent, talented partners in dressage. Endowed with tremendous stamina, Icelandic Horses stay healthy, fit and mentally well balanced with minimal stress and training.
Bred to carry adults smoothly and willingly over difficult terrain, Icelandic Horses bring their cheerful outlook and sensible attitude to each ride. Always willing and energetic, they are forgiving and patient with beginners, yet offer the competition rider a challenging experience.
Care and Feeding
With a metabolism adapted to minimal forage, no inherited ailments, natural breeding, and freedom from difficulty during foaling, Icelandics are hardy and healthy and easy to maintain. Innate good manners make routine veterinary and farrier visits pleasant experiences for everyone involved.
An ideal addition to the family, the very social Icelandic Horses enjoy human companionship. Kind and affectionate, with their approachable size and good nature, Icelandic Horses adapt themselves to meet individual family requirements; thus providing equine experiences the whole family can enjoy.
A Thousand Years of Isolation
Considered the world's purest breed, Icelandic Horses were brought by Viking ships to serve as the sole source of transportation over Iceland's rough terrain. Isolated by law, nature gifted these horses with no natural predators, but in turn challenged them with sparse forage and a harsh climate. Survivors of this natural selection process, the calm, sure-footed Icelandic Horses learned to stop and think rather than panic and flee. Read our History of the Icelandic Horse.
A Special Look
Strong, yet never intimidating, and capable of carrying large adults due to their unique bone density, Icelandic Horses average 13 to 14 hands in height. Icelandic Horses are found in all colors and have beautifully defined heads and abundant manes and tails.
The Only Naturally Five-Gaited Horse
In addition to walk, trot, and canter, Icelandic Horses also tölt, a four-beat running walk that produces fluid, rhythmic, forward movement. The tölt, the most pleasurable gait, is free flowing and effortless, allowing the horse to cover rough terrain swiftly. Many Icelandic Horses also pace, an exhilarating racing gait which can be performed at speeds up to 30 miles per hour. Whichever gait you choose, Icelandic Horses perform naturally and smoothly—no bouncing, no posting!
We get questions . . .
Can Icelandic Horses be kept alone?
The Icelandic Horse is a very social animal and though they form strong bonds with their humans they need the companionship of other horses to be well adjusted. Although they will get along with other types of horses they strongly seem to prefer their own kind.
How much land do I need to keep an Icelandic Horse?
Here in the Northeast you will need two acres per horse in order to not feed hay during the temperate months of the year. Less land, and you will have to feed hay year around.
Was the Icelandic Horse the original horse of the Vikings?
Yes, horses were brought to Iceland by the first Viking settlers. Their boats were small and only a few horses, the very best, were brought along.
What makes Icelandic Horses different from other types of horses?
Their calmness and kindness when being handled and their willing temperament when being ridden. They don't waste energy fussing around but want to do their job as fast and as good as they can.
Explain the evaluation system for Icelandic Horses
The International Federation of Icelandic Horse Associations, known as FEIF, has developed a judging system for the Icelandic breed that is standard in all affiliated countries, including the U.S. and Canada. In this way the results of all judged horses can be compared, in no matter what country the horse was judged. The judgment consists of two parts. Conformation counts for 40% and ridability for 60%. The total is expressed in a figure from 5 to 10. Most horses score 7.5, the average for kind and docile horses who get along with their riders, and a horse with 8 or higher is very good.
What is the Blup system?
Blup stands for Best Linear Unbias Prediction and is used to predict the offspring of evaluated stallions and mares. The horse gets a score around 100 in each evaluated trait. Above 100 means he can improve this trait, below 100 indicates negative development of this trait.
How tall is the Icelandic Horse?
Their height varies from 12.2 h.h. to 14.2h.h. In spite of their size these horses are ridden by grown-ups without any problem.
Why are Icelandics always called horses and never ponies?
The word pony is an English invention, probably from the old French word, poulenet, a diminuative form of poulain, or colt. So it defines small breeds on the British Isles like Shetlands, Welch, Dartmoors, Exmoors, and Connemaras. But pony is often used imprecisely. For example, it's used to describe polo horses and mustangs, which aren't necessarily small. The Pony Express in the 1860's used thoroughbreds and Morgans.
In Iceland, which had its own written language when most of Europe still relied on Latin, they're called only one word, hest, or horse.
What colors do Icelandic Horses appear in?
Every possible color. Not just chestnuts, bays, blacks, but also roans, spotted horses, all shades of duns, palominos, and even silver dappled horses. In the summer, their coat is short and shiny, but in the winter, their coats can grow up to four inches long, and all of them grow a long beard.
How are Icelandic Horses named?
In Iceland and other countries where Icelandic Horse are bred, the horses are given Icelandic names. Every horse has a personal name, and most horses have a surname. Sometimes the names express the hopes and feelings of the breeder and are chosen to fit the horse. A lot of horses are named after their color. The surname is the name of the farm where the horse has been bred.
For example, our stallion is named Loki frá Hofi. Loki is his personal name, and it's the name of the trickster god of Norse mythology. Frá is Icelandic for "from," and Hofi is the name of the farm in Iceland that raised him.
Is it true that Icelandic Horses are one of the purest breeds of horse in the world?
Yes, the purity of the Icelandic Horse is unique. No horse has been imported to Iceland for more than a thousand years. This situation has not changed, even though a lot of horses have been exported to different countries.
How long can I ride, and breed my Icelandic Horse?
Icelandics mature late and are not ridden before they are five years old. On the other hand they can be used for riding and breeding purposes up to a very old age. Riding horses of 20 years and older are very common, and a 25 year old broodmare is no exception.
What are the gaits of the Icelandic Horse?
Icelandic Horses are four- or five- gaited. They have the three basic gaits: walk, trot, and, canter. They have two more gaits, tölt and flying pace. A four-gaited horse does not do the flying pace. Tölt is a regular four-beat movement which resembles a rack. It can be performed at different speeds, varying from a slow tölt, a bit faster than a walk, medium tölt, which compares in speed to a medium trot, and fast tölt, as fast a medium canter. Flying pace is ridden at very high speeds and only over short distances, with both the legs on the same side of the horse touching down at the same time.
Where can I learn more about The Icelandic Horse?
There are regional Icelandic clubs around the country that enable you to become active with your horse on a local level. We are a member of our local club, the Vermont Icelandic Riding Club, that offers regular social events, group rides, and clinics.
Eiđfaxi International is an Icelandic Horse magazine published bimonthly in Iceland and translated into English. Everyone who has a interest in the Icelandic Horse should receive this publication. Tölt News is an informative American periodical published quarterly. The national breed organization, the United States Icelandic Horse Congress, also has a quarterly newsletter for its members.
There are also a number of very educational books written by Christine Schwartz.
What is the perfect horse?
A horse who fits its owner. Different owners have different uses for their horses. It is also a horse who is well trained, responsive and a pleasure to ride.