Icelandic Horse

The Icelandic Horse

The Icelandic horse, also called Icelandic or Icelandic pony, is an Icelandic, versatile and robust breed of horse, which can be ridden by adults due to their strong physique. In Iceland, there is only the word hestur for horse and for lack of other Equus races on the island, a further distinction is not necessary; Ponies are generally referred to as smáhestur, “small horse”. In Iceland, the term Icelandic horse is preferred. Icelanders are considered morphologically from the race origin and size division internationally as Ponyrasse. In Germany, however, there are the name small horses, to which the Iceland ponies may be counted. Icelandic horses are among the gait horses, since most of them not only have the basic gaits step, trot and gallop, but also on the genetically fixed gaits Tölt and / or passport. Only “purebred animals” are recognized as “Icelandic horse”, without crossbreeding, whose origin can be traced back to Iceland completely. In Iceland, the import of horses to prevent disease is prohibited. Therefore, horses that were born in Iceland and have once left the island can not be reintroduced to Iceland.

Icelandic horses vary in type. While many – especially older horses – in the pony type, an elegant, flexible, well-muscled, standing in the riding horse Icelandic horse with beautifully worn, expressive head and full tail and mane hair corresponds to the current breeding goal.

Icelanders are race-type hardy and weather-beaten, because they develop a particularly dense winter coat that allows them to hibernate outside in their Icelandic homeland.

Thick winter coat
Icelandic horses have a variety of different coat colors. In addition to the basic colors foxes, crabs, browns, there are also molds, follies, isabells, earthy colors, smoky black, silver dapple or wind-colored and roan or color changer. The latter are relatively rare in this breed. Of the check drawings, Tobiano’s peckers are the most common among Icelandic horses. Rarer are Splashed White Punts on the Icelandic Horse. In a mare, the drawing “dominant white” was detected as a rarity. It is a spontaneous mutation, but 50% of it can be transmitted to the offspring. Other piebalds such as Sabino Overo or the leopard check do not occur with the Icelandic horse.

An Icelandic horse is only about seven years old. In view of the late physical maturity of the horses, they are only ridden between the fourth and fifth year of age. Icelandic horses are usually quite old, 30 to 35 years and more are not uncommon. Often the horses can still be ridden far beyond their 25th year of life.

A versatile riding horse for recreational and sports purposes, which can be ridden by adults and children, is desired. An Icelandic horse should be tough, independent, sociable and easy to handle, while being frugal, having a good gait and a good and well-balanced character.

Icelandic horses are basically physically and mentally strong and healthy. However, there may be problems with the so-called summer eczema and spat.

As a summer eczema is an allergy to the saliva of a non native species in Iceland (Culicoides sp.) Referred to, which leads in the affected horses to severe itching, often in connection with lack of exercise, feeding errors or overfeeding. Horses imported from Iceland suffer more in percentage terms than those on the continent. The tendency to eczema is hereditary, in certain breeding lines the disease occurs much more often than in others. Horses that are kept in the lowlands suffer more frequently than those in the mountains or close to the sea. Meanwhile, so-called eczema covers and certain preparations, the unpleasant consequences of the disease can be kept very limited.


Spat is an inflammation of small bones in the ankle, which leads at best to the ossification of the same and occurs more frequently in pony breeds. During the inflammatory process, diseased horses become more or less lame. After completion of the ossification process, a certain rigidity of the hindquarters is usually observed. Icelandic scientists recognized the heritability of Spat and recommend that they orient themselves to this breed. Since 2006, all stallions (5 + 6-year-olds) taking their first material test in accordance with the FEIF Icelandic Horse Breeding Regulations (FIZO) must also have undergone a spat investigation in Germany.

In addition to the well-known basic gaits step, trot and gallop, most Icelanders now master the gaits Tölt and Pass. The gait spectrum of Icelandic horses varies in many variations from four to five, with the breed aim is an easy to ride Icelandic horse in all gears with expressive movements.

The gait is demanding and also requires the rider very good riding skills and skills that can only be achieved by targeted training on gaited horses. Only a well trained rider is able to ride an Icelandic horse according to his gait.

The footsteps of the Tölts corresponds to that of the step and is a clear four-stroke. Unlike in the step where two- and tripods alternate, a töltendes horse has alternately only one or two hooves on the ground. Due to the missing jump phase, the rider sits on a tölter almost vibration-free or oscillates, almost like in a chair, in horses with high movement, pleasant up and down. The horse goes up under the rider and “dances” from the shoulder. Tölt can – depending on the gait disposition and training level of the horse – be ridden almost from walking speed to cantering speed (racing oil).

The tölt gait is very comfortable for riders and has contributed significantly to the popularity and popularity of the Icelandic horse.

Racing pace
Some Icelandic horses dominate beyond the tölt pass passage, which is usually ridden only at race pace. The Icelandic horse runs in a stretched posture from one lateral to the other. The fault is the so-called “pig passport”, which lacks the flight phase typical for the racing pass between the footing of the lateral pairs of legs. Rennpass is considered the “king walk” of the Icelandic horse, especially good five-speed horses are also referred to as “Gæðingur”.


The horse import ban is valid since 1909. Especially geldings of other breeds, eg. As of Fjord horses, found previously as workhorses the way to Iceland. The today’s race Icelandic horse developed from the then existing mixed population of Nordic pony and Central European horse breeds. Historical texts suggest that individual thoroughbred horses inherited in Iceland, however.

Icelandic farmers breed mainly horses and sheep. Large portions of the herds graze in the highlands (a form of mobile pastoralism) in the summer without supervision, before being driven back on horseback in September. The horses were always from the meat production. Only about 40 percent of the bred horses are used in breeding or as riding horses. While in the grass-rich southern Iceland, Iceland has always been full of meat horse breeding, in other regions farmers have specialized in the breeding of riding horses, with hard selection. Especially in the north of Iceland more emphasis is placed on equestrian sports. The horses from this region are also much narrower and more elegant bred than the somewhat rough from the south.

Until about 1926 Icelandic horses were needed in Iceland as riding and load animals, because there was no road network. The Icelanders commemorated this achievement when they commemorated their load horse in Reykjavík. The Icelandic horse breeding then experienced a decline. At the end of the forties, however, the turnaround was made and the almost exclusive breeding goal “riding horse” became established. In the 50s and 60s the Icelandic horse experienced an export boom. Main market was Germany, where the Icelander as a recreational horse won special popularity, to which the Immenhof film series, based on works by the author Ursula Bruns, later editor of the journal “Pony Post / leisure in the saddle”, was instrumental. Later, the priority of breeding and riding in Germany developed into the gait horse that we know today. The goal of a versatile, compact built cross country horse “for the whole family”, however, took a back seat, which was also the reason for the rising price development. In 1967, the Federal Association IPZV e.V. was founded. Well-known German riders such as Walter Feldmann and Hans Georg Gundlach developed from the basics of dressage riding the gangway and therefore contributed the knowledge back to Iceland.