The vast expanses of the Icelandic countryside, including its hills, meadows, highlands and grasslands are best explored atop a horse. What many do not know about Iceland is that it is home to many varieties of purebred horses. The country is a true paradise for those who love spending time with these majestic animals while taking in the essence of pristine Icelandic surroundings.
Trotting down the countryside on horseback is perhaps the most natural way of enjoying your time in Iceland. One should also know that the horses bred in Iceland have quite gentle characters and are friendly with riders. Many would also agree that horseback is the best mode of transport to get across the rugged Icelandic terrain.
Read on to gain a better insight into the horses of Iceland.
Key Characteristics of the Icelandic Horse
Well adapted to weather extremes - Icelandic winters are quite long are marked by very cold temperatures. However, Icelandic horse breeds adapt quite easily to weather extremes as they grow winter coats on their bodies. Comprising of two layers, such a coat keeps them adequately warm even in the harshest of conditions. The majority of Iceland-bred horses are also capable of storing fat as an insulation mechanism. A horse’s fat layer also functions as energy stored to combat scenarios of food scarcity in winter.
Gentle yet resilient - The Icelandic horse is an animal known for its resilience and strength. Most of these horses are incredibly strong as they have learned to ace the difficult Icelandic terrain from an early age. It is evident that they can easily go across uneven terrain and steep mountainous lands. Icelandic horses can also cross rivers due to their adaptability to the land. Despite being so resilient, Iceland-bred horses are also capable of exhibiting unmatched calm when the need arises. Since they grow up with minimal human intervention, the horses of Iceland are well suited to face the trials of nature.
Some of the healthiest - Iceland has some of the healthiest horses in the world and it has a lot to do with the environment. Any horse lover will be glad to know that these creatures reside in some of the best conditions. There are a number of factors responsible for their conditioning, and the first factor is Iceland having active volcanoes. The soil has a mineral-rich profile, meaning that the horses can feast on quality vegetation. Icelandic hay is also quite high-quality and provides adequate nutrition to these animals. Hence, you will come across some of the healthiest horses on your Iceland trip.
Five gaits lend to their fame - Icelandic horses are considered as unique as they have five natural gaits, compared to the usual three or four in other horse breeds. Gait refers to different ways of movement exhibited by these animals. The five gaits of Icelandic horses are - Walk, Trot, Canter, Tölt and Flying Pace. Icelandic horses are renowned across the globe for their five natural movement patterns. The Tölt and Flying Pace gaits are the specialty of Iceland horse breeds. You can explore all the gaits of Icelandic horses under the guidance of trained professionals during a horseback riding trip.
Unique and purebred - The combination of characteristics of Icelandic horses, including their gaits, appearance and behavior patterns is unique. It comes down to the fact that these horses have been exclusively bred in Iceland for more than a thousand years. Since the first horses were taken to the island by the Vikings, no other breed of horse has been allowed to enter the Icelandic shores. Till this day, any horse that has left the country is not allowed to return back. This is done to ensure the purity of the Icelandic horse breeds. So, if you want to see, ride and pet an Icelandic horse, you can only do it while you are there.
Great variety of colors - Horse enthusiasts will be delighted to know that Icelandic horses exhibit some of the widest color variations. Iceland has over 40 different colors of horses and close to 100 variations. Most known colors are usually found within their own breeds. Breeders aim to preserve the natural colors of the breed through careful breeding techniques. Brown and red horses are the most commonly found variations in the country. But Iceland is also home to the very rare color-changing roan. Some of the color variations you can expect to see include grey, skewbald, splash-skewbald, silver dapple, palomino, and dun.
Dependable companions - Horses have been used for various transportation and convenience purposes for many centuries in Iceland. Horse breeds of the country are genuinely friendly, intelligent and are fast learners. They are remarkable animals and you will see how welcoming they are during your ride. Icelandic horses are some of the most relied upon animals and help the country’s people scale different terrain, offer transportation during weather extremes, and can even be lifesavers. They are calm but can also exhibit commendable courage when the situation demands. The Icelandic horses you will come across are some of the most loyal companions and offer surprisingly comfortable rides.
Part of Icelandic heritage - Horses are not just a part of Icelandic life but integral to the cultural fabric of the nation. The first horses arrived during the 9th century when Vikings from Norway came to Iceland's shores. The breeds found in Iceland are not found anywhere else, and thus are renowned worldwide. A large part of the Icelandic population participates in breeding horses, taking care of them, and using them for agriculture, commute and goods transportation. The lives of these gentle beasts are closely intertwined with those of countless people. Vast expanses of the rough terrain can be traversed easily, only with horses.
If you love horse-riding tours, Iceland-based tour operators have a great number of tour options. These range in duration from a single day to more than a week and are suited for people of all experience levels. Animal lovers can spend time with Icelandic horses and go for the ride of their lives. The amazing horse breeds of Iceland await your arrival.