An Introduction to the Icelandic Horse
Unique, Pure, Treasured
Icelandic horses are the original Viking horses and one of the purest horse breeds in the world. The breed has been isolated on this rugged island in the North-Atlantic since settlement. That’s over 1000 years, without any genetic input from other breeds. Iceland is very isolated, and as such, very few horse diseases occur here, and no vaccinations are needed. However, this also means that no horse can enter the country at all. Once a horse leaves Iceland it can never return.
That said, Icelandic horses can be found all over the world. They have amazing adaptation skills and do well in the ice-cold climates of Greenland and Alaska, but also down under in Australia and New Zealand. The horses of Iceland are probably the country’s best ambassadors. They represent the country and culture and encourage their human friends to visit Iceland at least once, if not regularly.
What makes the Icelandic horse unique?
The Icelandic horse is known for its genuine and welcoming character. The horses are friendly, adventurous, smart, and quick to learn. They are in general very easy to handle, cooperative both on the ground and while ridden, and at the same time can also be powerful and hardworking.
The Icelandic horse is so-called gaited horse breed, which means that most have two extra gaits to offer. All horses perform three natural gaits without training but the Icelandic horse’s extra gaits are called ‘tolt’ and ‘flying pace’. Tölt is the unique four beat lateral gait that the breed is best known for.
The Icelandic horse is also one of the most colourful breeds in the world. They can be more than 40 colours with up to 100 variations, including skewbald, dun, palomino, silver dapple, splash-skewbald, roan. The rarest is ‘changing roan’, while the most common is chestnut and brown.
In times of uncertainty it is important for everyone to find time for themselves and retreat from the hustle and bustle. Everyone does this differently, but for me, owning a horse has brought so many benefits.
Working and playing with your horses can be wonderfully therapeutic, both physically as mentally. Nothing is more relaxing after a busy day at work than going to the stable and grooming your horses. Shedding everything else and finding your inner peace, focusing on the now.
Owning a horse strengthens you as a person, gets you into the fresh air and helps you build a strong relationship with nature. At the same time, you also forge strong relationships with others within local horse societies, that often lead to cherished friendships.
Having a horse opens up diverse opportunities and it can be very different for everyone. Some want to compete at various events, while others only want to ride alone with their four-legged friend. It opens all kind of options, which gives you new perspectives and can strengthen your social outlets.
Leadership & Qualities for life
Horse riding is mostly an independent sport and relies on you working hard to achieve a strong partnership with your horse. It is an amazing experience when your horse starts to listen and do as you ask. It trains your ability to lead, helps you develop confidence and self-esteem as well as leadership capabilities. Having a horse teaches you respect and dedication as well as many other qualities that make you a better person, such as passion and compassion. They teach us so many key qualities that are fundamental to all walks of life.
Written by Rosa Jónsdóttir; Founder and Managing Director of Cognitio, Events and Consulting ltd, Iceland