Tell your friends about this page!
Don't Forget to BOOKMARK! Don't Forget to BOOKMARK! Don't Forget to BOOKMARK! Don't Forget to BOOKMARK!
Don't Forget to BOOKMARK! Don't Forget to BOOKMARK!
Don't Forget to BOOKMARK!
Don't Forget to BOOKMARK! Erill fra Sperdi, owned by Brett Arnanson, Photo © by Andrea Tobias Gaited Horses! The Site for the SMOOTH Ride Enthusiast! Don't Forget to BOOKMARK!
Don't Forget to BOOKMARK!
Gaited Horse Registries Gaited Horse Breed Profiles View Gaited Horses Classified Ads
Gaited Stallions Standing At Stud Gaited Horse Message Board Human Interest Stories with Gaited Horses!
Don't Forget to BOOKMARK!
Don't Forget to BOOKMARK!
Gaited Horses Articles Resources to find breeders and help in the Gaited Horses Community! Photos sent in by the Gaited Horses Community!
Gaited Horse Trainer Profiles Gaited Horse Events Gaited Horse Clubs Gaited Horses Books Email Lists about Gaited Horses Web Rings about Gaitd Horses
Don't Forget to BOOKMARK!
Don't Forget to BOOKMARK! Don't Forget to BOOKMARK! Don't Forget to BOOKMARK! Don't Forget to BOOKMARK!

 
 
Icelandics, the smooth secret from Iceland!
Icelandic Horses, Breed Description and History

The Horses found in Iceland today have been isolated from the influences of other breeds for over 800 years.  Icelandic horses most likely came into Scandinavia from Asia and are the descendants of the Mongolian horse. 

Iceland was settled between 874 AD and 935 AD.  The settlers came in open boats and brought their livestock with them.  Prior to settlement, Iceland's biggest mammal was the arctic fox.  The settlers were very often independent people unwilling to be ruled by the Norwegian king, so they moved to this island without any kings.  Because of the limitations the small ships imposed, settlers couldn't take many animals with them. The chiefs brought only the best of their best when bringing horses to Iceland. When there were enough horses, importation stopped and nature molded the breed thereafter. Today’s Icelandic is the direct descendant of the Viking horses of Norway, who possessed lateral gaits.
 

The foundation stock for the Icelandic horse was drawn from several regions. The settlers came from Norway, the Western Isles of Scotland, Ireland and the Isle of Man. The Icelandic horse has without doubt kept its characteristics truer then any of the breeds that were its forefathers. One of the most fascinating features of the Icelandic horse is its extreme genetic purity.  The Icelandic horse has been free from infusions of outside blood for over 800 years, and there is only one breed of horses in Iceland.  The old Althing, the world's oldest parliament, passed laws in 982AD prohibiting the importation of foreign horses into the country to prevent disease.  This law is still in effect, so no horse (even those used in competition) that leaves Iceland can ever return. 

Iceland horses have been treated with respect and dignity and raised to the highest levels by selective breeding.  In Iceland, horse breeding is considered an art, just as much as an agricultural business. No other horse breed in the world has as much status in the minds of a whole nation. 

For centuries, the horse was the only means of transportation in Iceland, as well as, being the most important working animal in the days before machinery. The horse was called "the most useful servant" until the first automobile arrived in Iceland in the year 1904. Almost immediately the horse became redundant. Breeders kept breeding good horses and Iceland's first horse breeding association was formed the same year the automobile arrived. 

Proper roads that could be used for cars were low in number in Iceland until a few decades ago, making the Icelandic an incomparable pack animal and riding horse.  The custom of simply releasing loaned animals and allowing them to return themselves home has caused the Icelandics homing instincts to become extremely well developed. In the middle of the 20th century the Icelandic horse is still used for all the purposes that horses historically were used for in other countries. 

The country is rough, with lots of lava and mountains, developing a sure-footed animal.  The climate also contributed to the Icelandics slow maturity rate. A well nourished Icelandic can be started under saddle just prior to 4 years of age, but if it does not get enough to eat it isn't grown until at 6-7 years of age.  And Icelandics aren't generally considered ready for really hard work until 6-7 years old. 

Selective breeding for lighter horses has changed the average body type a bit, but the metabolism of the horse remains the same. Iceland in the Middle Ages did not have the European demand for heavy trotting horses to carry knights in armor.  Icelanders wanted a smooth, fast, energetic horse, which could be used for trekking for weeks without getting sick or giving their rider a sore butt. So the tolt, pace and hardiness was never lost in this wonderful breed. Icelands tradition of going on long treks with 2-4 horses per rider allows the horses to trot or tolt all day long.  The horses that aren't carrying a rider get a breath while one of them takes the burden at a time.

Icelanders have had to trust the horse more than many other nations.  There were no roads here, and you couldn't use carts.  Maybe the Icelandic horse has become sure-footed because men chose the horses for breeding that were outstandingly sure on bad roads, rocks, moors and steep hillsides.  An unforgiving nature has chosen the strongest individuals, with good temperament.  Icelandic horses that are doing the best at shows are frequently great trail horses.

Today there are about 80.000 horses in Iceland (but only 260.000 people, and the horse/people ratio in the country is a world record), and about 80.000 Icelandic horses in Europe.  There are also over 2.500 of them on the American continent. It is still common custom to name all Icelandic horses with Icelandic names, regardless of country of birth.  Sometimes this can cause a bit of trouble in pronunciation, but mostly this is a fun tradition, which honors the deep roots that this horse has in the Icelandic culture.
 
 

The characteristics of the Icelandic horse.

The Icelandic Horse is known for stamina, speed, and smooth gait. Among these are two unique gaits, the Tolt (running walk)  and Skeid (flying pace). These unique, smooth gaits give the rider a sensation of floating. The Icelandic Horse is even  tempered, a bomb proof horse. The small size (13-14,2hh) of the Icelandic horse does not take away from its strength. An Icelandic  Horse can easily carry a rider, at speed without tiring (the heavyweight in boxing, George Foreman, rides big Icelandics, as an example).

The Icelandic horse is enormously muscular, and with very dense bones, often with a heavy head and compact body.  This breed is possessed of great agility and is also very sure-footed. The Icelandic is economical and easy to keep.  Many horses in Iceland are still kept in semi-wild conditions, living on pasture all year round, only given hay out on the snow in the worst winter months, sometimes supplemented with salted herring.  The average horse eats 15 lb. of grass per day.  The youngsters and mares well along in gestation may get a handful of grain with a supplement, or salted herring (which is rich in salt and proteins). Seldom requiring shoes, if they are only ridden in mud, dirt or sand, but shoeing usually benefits the gaits of Icelandic riding horses.  Foaling is also easy, the mares will in most cases just go off to themselves and have their babies out in pasture, usually in the morning when you are not watching.

 The state runs a selective breeding program, having breeding evaluations in many places in Iceland each year, and sending judges to other countries.  Breeding programs are based principally on the quality of the five gaits peculiar to the Icelandic horse, along with temperament and conformation.
 

The main competition and show season for the Icelandic horse is during the summer, but winter games, ice-riding and indoor shows take place from February to May. The Icelandic horse is suitable for most types of shows and competition. In Iceland there are two main types of competition, sports competitions and the so-called Gæðingakeppni. In the sports competition the main emphasis is on the rider's ability and the co-operation between man and horse but in Gæðingakeppni the horse's abilities weigh more. 
 

 Icelandic horses have five gaits: 
Walk - Trot - Tölt - Canter - Flying Pace

      WALK - the usual slow four-beat gait in which there are always at least two feet on the ground. However, most Icelandics have an extremely good walk which covers the ground very well. 

      TROT - a two-beat diagonal gait (diagonal pairs of legs move together) which has a moment of suspension in which there are no legs on the ground 

      TÖLT - a four-beat lateral gait in which there is always at least one foot on the gound. The rider sits virtually bounce free at speeds up to 20 mph.  As there is no moment of  suspension this gait is very smooth and comfortable for the rider. It can be performed at any speed from a slow trot to a gallop. The Tolt is similar to the running walk or rack of a Tennessee Walking Horse or the Corto of the Paso Fino. In the Icelandic Horse, Tolt is  a very smooth four-beat gait which, while reaching speeds similar to  fast trotting,  is      much less jolting to the rider. It is an excellent gait for trail-riding or horse-trekking. 

      CANTER - a three-beat gait with a moment of suspension. The Icelanders count canter and gallop as a single gait. 

      FLYING PACE - a two-beat lateral gait in which the pairs of legs on the same side move together, and there is a clear moment of suspension. This is a fast gait used for racing over short distances, and the horses can reach 30mph. In the Pace, the hooves on the same side touch the ground together. Often called the Flying Pace, this gait can equal the speed of a full gallop and is used in Iceland for racing. To Icelanders, riding at the Flying Pace is considered the crown of horsemanship. The pace is fun and comfortable to ride.

One of the attractions of the breed is the wide variety of colors. Icelandics can be any color - dun, skewbald, black, red,  palomino or grey are easily found, and there are also rare colors such as silver dapple (almost black with a silver mane and tail) and silver bay (bay with white mane and tail).The Icelandic language has more than a hundred names for the shades and  patterns of horses; its wide range of colors is one of the distinguishing characteristics of the Icelandic Horse. While the majority of Icelandic Horses are chestnut, brown, bay, or black, there are many other shades, including dun, buckskin, palomino, white, gray, dapple, piebald, and skewbald. All colors except the appaloosa color patterns exist in this breed. The rarest colors are the wind dapples and the roans. Icelandics are distinctive for their thick and often double-sided mane and long tail.

The Icelandic is economical and easy to keep.  Many horses in Iceland are still kept in semi-wild conditions, living on pasture all year round, only given hay out on the snow in the worst winter months, sometimes supplemented with salted herring.  The average horse eats 15 lb. of grass per day.  The youngsters and mares well along in gestation may get a handful of grain with a supplement, or salted herring (which is rich in salt and proteins). Seldom requiring shoes, if they are only ridden in mud, dirt or sand, but shoeing usually benefits the gaits of Icelandic riding horses.  Foaling is also easy, the mares will in most cases just go off to themselves and have their babies out in pasture, usually in the morning when you are not watching.
 

The Icelandic horse is patient, adaptable, uncomplicated and sometimes very spirited. It has a friendly personality and a special affinity for people. Bred as a riding and working horse for the Icelandic farmer makes it an excellent family horse. With no natural predators in its home country, the horse has shed much of its natural "fight or flight" instinct.  The easy going, friendly disposition of many Icelandic horses makes them ideal family horses.  At the same time, the diversity within the breed is enormous.  You can both find the safest children's horses, and the hottest pace racehorses within this breed, so take care 

It has also been a habit in Iceland through the ages to keep horses in herds (stóð).  The horses have thus kept most of their natural herd instincts, and it is rarely any trouble to keep them in herds.  In fact these horses have more tendency to become grumpy if they are alone.

Putting the stallion with 3-20 mares in pasture for 6 weeks, and let nature take it’s course is the usual method of breeding. Young stallions are often kept with other young stallions in herds (with no mares).  This way the stallion has a relationship with other horses, and learns how to live and behave in a herd.  The stallions are also usually total gentlemen around people and horses, except of course they get fidgety if a mare in heat is in the neighborhood.   This results in a very high fertility in the Icelandic horse.  Twins are not unknown in Icelandics.

Even though quiet family horses are common among Icelandics, those that like hot, goey horses can also easily find them in this breed.  Riding fast for long distances, or pace racing (riding the horse in the race) is a common hobby and sport in Iceland. As the Icelandic horse matures late, they are not started until almost four years old.  But instead they are strong in their old age, and it is not uncommon to ride these horses in their late twenties.  The oldest icy, the mare Tulle, got to be 57 years old.

Icelandics are used for all sorts of in almost any equine discipline, like driving, jumping, hacking, trekking, dressage, racing, driving sheep and other livestock, long distance, western riding and more, and even in circus tricks, with good results.  They also excel in endurance, with the famous horse Remington being one of the top-endurance horses in USA now. They have also competed in dressage and jumping

The state runs a selective breeding program, having breeding evaluations in many places in Iceland each year, and sending judges to other countries.  Breeding programs are based principally on the quality of the five gaits peculiar to the Icelandic horse, along with temperament and conformation.

 In Iceland today, horses are seen as one way of preserving the country's agricultural tradition while improving its economy. Long distance horse trekking is popular among Icelanders as well as among tourists, as are horse  shows, horse races, horse trading, and pleasure riding. Exports of Icelandic Horses have increased since the first were sent to Germany in the 1940s. 
 

Written by Arnthrudur Heimisdottir. (http://www.isholf.is/langhus)  and Beverly Whittington


 
 
Don't Forget to BOOKMARK!
Tölt I. Footfall
Tölt II. How tölt is ridden.
Tölt III.   Shoes and Boots
Tölt IV  Cleaning Pacy Tölt 
 Tölt V  Cleaning Trotty Tölt  By Arnthrudur Heimisdottir

Join our FREE online community.
Gaited Horses offers a FREE page in our 
Gaited Horses Home Pages 
Easy to use templates makes it a snap to put your farm information online.
 
 

Your Ad Could Be HERE!
 
 
 
 
 

Why use Gaited Horses?  |  Advertising Rates  | WebPage Design  |  Email Gaited Horses

Don't Forget to BOOKMARK!

Are you stuck in someone else's frames?
Ride on out of there


 
 

Site Created by Fairwind WebPages
a portion of Proceeds to benefit
Equine Rescue
Copyright 1999, 2000 all rights reserved


 
 

 

Don't Forget to BOOKMARK!