Icelandic Horses

Icelandic Horses – Origins, Characteristics and Use

As one of the purest breeds in the world, this horse is versatile in its use. Due to its origins dating back to the arrival of Norse settlers, their characteristics are suitable for numerous equine disciplines.

Icelandic equines originated from Scandinavians ponies, breeds that were also used to develop many of the British pony breeds. Initially these ponies were used in battles. In Icelandic mythology, horses had a very important part in soldiers’ lives. It was a common practice to bury a horse next to its owner.

Due to fears of cross-breeding, importation of horses to Iceland was later prohibited and those of the breed exported could never return to their native country. Due to this arrangement these horses have few diseases. On the other hand, if a foreign infection was to catch the native horse stock, results could be devastating as the horses’ immune system is not as developed as those of continental horses.

Icelandic equines have been imported to many countries, most notably Germany and later Scotland. In 1904 a breeding society was established to ensure the purity and continuation of their bloodline.

Traditionally Icelandic horses were used in farm work but these days they are more commonly bred for leisure riding, racing, and showing as well as for meat. In recent years, they have also been a popular horse for trekking offered to tourists.

The Icelandic landscape shaped the breed resulting in sturdy horses that require little maintenance. Icelandic equines have a long back and short legs and their colour range is wide. Their tale hangs low and is of coarse hair. They grow a heavy double coat during winter months to keep them warm.

The special characteristics of the Icelandic horse include two additional gaits tölt and flying pace. Unlike many other breeds, they are late developers but usually live a long life often exceeding thirty years.

Although their average height varies between 13 and 14 hands they are always referred to as horses. This may have been due to their horse-like build or the fact that there was no word for a pony in the Icelandic language. Nevertheless these horses are strong enough to carry both children and adults.

Icelandic equines can be a very unique investment for any riding school or breeder. Their origins and unusual characteristics make an excellent riding or driving horse available for the use of both children and adults.

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