Over 1000 years ago the Vikings came to Iceland with horses that they thought were of an Mongolian bread. That bread has ever since adjusted to Icelandic weather and local conditions.
The land and weather has developed the Icelandic horse both physically and mentally, the horse has a huge tolerance to bad weathers and it can bee quite bad. The horses are overall very good tempered and use that to handle bad circumstances which Iceland offers a lot.
In an isolated environment, there is no surprise that the horses have very good health, and of course we don´t allow any importing of other horse breads which often are the reason for diseases in animals. The Icelandic horse is not very tall as other horse breads, but he is getting taller. Average horse is about 52 and 56 inches high. (132 – 142cm)
He doesn’t need much regarding food and shelter, he can adapt in almost any circumstances, during winter their body hair grows more, and they form a thick coat that will protect them from the cold. For example, they can swim for 1-200 meters without the water reaching their skin.
Throughout centuries, he has served the man with great enthusiasm and braveness. Both for work and travel, because of strength, efficiency and endurance, the horse has been exported to many countries. He has mainly been transported to UK and Denmark. By the middle of the last century, the Icelandic horse was first exported as a hacking horse. This expansion has been increasing from year to year and is today a major sector. The number of horses exported are hundreds with some fluctuations between years. The biggest markets are Scandinavia and Germany, but purebred Icelandic hacking is found all around the world.
The horse has over fifty baselines and over a hundred colour varieties. Red and brown are the strongest colour in them though.
The Icelandic horse is well behaved and has good gaits and it can be divided into three categories. A horse with four gaits is called a clear horse with a count. That would mean that he has the walk, the trot, the canter, the tölt, and the flying pace. The“tölt” that is used the most and the rider doesn’t feel it a lot in the saddle because of its softness.
From the settlement the horse like other livestock has been used for food and is still used as that.
The horses can reach up to 30 – 40 years, but most common is about 25 – 28 years.
Horseback riding in Iceland is a very big sport. Many families have their own stable and horses. The horses are taken into the staple, usually in the middle of December, after they have been free for several months in the field. Riding is done after work, in the evenings and weekends.
The University of Hólar Hjaltadal offers education in riding and riding instruction. A lot of students come from Germany and Scandinavia.
After graduation, these students return with knowledge and experience, and further promote horse riding.
The Icelandic horse has become known throughout the country for its capacity for stamina and talent. His popularity is so great that foreign tourists come to the country in order to ride him. They go for short horseback riding and for many horseback riding trips cross country. Many of these tourists come year after year and often seek to get the same horses that they have known over the years.
Every second year is the World Championships of the Icelandic horse. In 2019 it is held in Germany. The year that the World Cup is not held, we have a tournament called Landsmót here in Iceland. That tournament is not profitable, and the tournament draws thousands of foreigners to the country.
Both in Scandinavia and Germany there are many breeders who have their livelihoods for cultivation. There is a special program worldfengur.com where all Icelandic horses are registered and therefore easy to have an overview of the development of crop cultivation.
Source: Jakob Þórarinsson.
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