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August 10, 2008 | | Comments 0

Icelandic Horses

Icelandic Horse

Discovering Icelandic Horses

The cold homeland of Icelandic horses is enough of a clue to the horse’s character. Since Iceland is obviously one of the coldest places on earth, only the sturdiest animals can hope to thrive in it. Among these sturdy animals are the Icelandic horses.

Icelandic Horse Breed Purity

The Icelandic horse breed is one of the breeds that has retained excellent bloodline purity. Unlike other breeds however, there is more to their pure bloodline than just the efforts of strict breeders. The first Icelandic horses were originally the product of the interbreeding of various horse breeds brought to Iceland from Europe by the first settlers of Iceland. It is therefore correct to say that these horses were not pure natives of Iceland. Since the time foreign horses were first brought in however, there were no other external breed influences introduced. Throughout the centuries, Icelandic horses were mated only among themselves.

It was initially thought that the residents of Iceland were protective of the breed purity. This was the usual explanation used to answer why there were no external breed influences introduced. It is likely though that external influence was hampered simply because of the difficulty of bringing in more horse breeds. Despite the difficulty of movement in and out of Iceland though, many Icelandic horses have found their way out of Iceland. As early as the 900s, neighboring areas were already introduced to the Icelandic horse.

Like many other horse breeds, Icelandic horses were primarily used as work animals. The demands on these horses however were far steeper than on other European breeds. The harsh climate made survival difficult for these horses and only the fittest truly survived. Hence, through the years, the Icelandic horse had grown into a strong and enduring breed.

Despite having been around for quite some time, breeders and enthusiasts only began forming official groups in the early 1900s. The first registry began in 1923. Since the 1900s however, more and more Icelandic horses have been brought out to the rest of the world. There are now Icelandic horses in Denmark, U.S., Norway, Italy and Sweden among others.

Icelandic Horse Traits

Icelandic horses are quite small, growing only to a maximum of 14.1 hands. Even so, they are not considered ponies. They are not too stocky but they are strong and muscular, allowing them to carry the heavy load of grown adults. More notable in Icelandic horses is their temperament. They are easy to manage, willing, lively and sociable but they are also quite spirited when they are required to be so by their riders. Because of their difficult environment, they have grown into an intelligent, calm and persevering breed. Icelandic horses are also noted for their unique tolt gait. This is described as gait at four beats in which the horse invariably has one or two feet on the ground.

Changing times have eliminated the traditional use of Icelandic horses. Even so, these horses are still held in high esteem as family horses. Some of them may also be used in competitions.

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