About Icelandic horses

Icelandic horses (They are always referred to as “horses” as there is no word in Icelandic for pony) originated from people in the 9th Century settling in Iceland and bringing their livestock with them. In 982AD the Icelandic Parliament passed a law forbidding the importation of any more horses or ponies to prevent disease. Over the centuries of careful breeding and natural selection, Iceland now has a breed of horse which is hardy (have you seen the weather in Iceland ?) and as a rule, has an excellent temperament.

Icelandic horses were bred to carry the Vikings.  Although small (the Icelandic horse is rarely more than 14.2hh, or less than 12hh), they are extremely strong with high bone density, short coupled bodies, huge powerful shoulders and deep chest.  Due to their conformation, they are able to carry a surprisingly heavy rider (have you seen the size of some Icelandic men ?), which is great for those who don’t want to sit on a 16.2hh horse, but are too weighty for little ones.

The Icelandic horse was first brought to Britain to work in the coal mines as they were small but very strong; however they were never registered as they are today.  The Icelandic Horse Society of Great Britain was set up in 1986 to help promote the breed and encourage Icelandic riding competitions (check out their link).  There are a number of shows held around the country during the year including a breeding show (during which the breeding mares and stallions are marked for conformation, temperament and ridden ability).  A few times a year many owners and their horses get together for rides Christmas and Easter rides, and various courses are run in the UK where trainers from Iceland come over to impart their knowledge.   It is a very sociable crowd of mainly adult riders, though happily more youngsters are now getting involved.   There are also people in the UK who are involved in Viking re-enactment which both the riders and the horses seem to enjoy greatly!

Common misconceptions of the Icelandic Horse

  • Icelandics are “Horses” not ponies, they behave and ride like horses.
  • Icelandics as a breed are forward going, highly intelligent and love to please (think of a short hairy Lusitano and you are not far off)
  • Icelandic horses are hugely versatile and though they are a delight to hack, they can also turn their hoof to other disciplines like jumping, dressage, driving, Le Trec, endurance.
  • Icelandics are weight carriers, they are perfect for adults, competent children and teen agers.  They are in fact the perfect ‘horse for all the family’.
  • Icelandics  can be easy to ride, but difficult to ride well.    For the experienced rider they can offer a whole new world of challenges and for those with competition aspirations, the right horse can take you to the World Championships for Icelandic horses (a biannual event held at various locations around Europe).  For the novice they can offer an intelligent and dependable friend to learn with.  For the majority of riders they can offer fun and companionship.
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