The Icelandic horse or ‘Islenki Hesturinn’ have been described as small, hairy and highly addictive.
The Icelandic horse is a breed of pony that has lived in Iceland since the mid-800s, having been brought to the Island by Viking settlers. The Icelandic Horse is basically a man-made breed as it is a mixture of breeds and cross-breeds which were taken from Scandinavian and European countries to Iceland during the original and following settlements.
They are considered small but very strong for their size, think along the lines of hobbit stature with robust capabilities, able to carry a third of their body weight. It is thought an insult on Iceland to call it a pony, and all over the world they are rightfully called the Icelandic horses. Many riders have sat on an icy pony for the first time and return after the ride saying "This is truly a Horse", there is the feeling of power and personality that glows from an Icelandic horse when ridden. Due to their growing popularity it has become fashionable to take horse riding holidays in Iceland.
The Icelandic horse is enormously muscular, and with very dense bones, a heavy head and compact body. The breed posses great agility and is also very sure-footed. It carries grown men, at speed without tiring. The heavyweight boxer George Forman has been known to ride big Icelandics. The impressive endurance of this breed could be put down to the fact that they have a much higher ratio of red muscle fibres which use oxygen better than white fibres. Icelandic’s also have more fat than most other horses in their muscle cells and this fat can be metabolized quickly, which is probably a big part of their enormous stamina.
An interesting fact about the Icelandic horse is that is has 5 gaits. The gaits are walk, trot, canter and gallop, like in other horses, but also the super smooth tolt which most Icelandic horses manage to accomplish. The tolt is a smooth four beat gait, the rider sits virtually bounce free at a ‘flying pace’. You can carry a glass full of beer while riding the tolt, without fear of spilling it. The tolt is a natural gait, and you often see foals and grown horses tolting in the pasture.
The horses are known for their friendliness and calm character, a testimonial from a member of the Icelandic Horse Society is a fitting summary for these good-natured steeds. “Before reading more about Icelandic horses, beware! They’re like Belgian chocolates - you can't stop with only one. Countless innocents have bought "just one" Icelandic and then, a couple of years later, find themselves with ten (and increasing...). The trouble is, they’re just so good to be around”