On our recent trip to Iceland, while driving in the countryside with our new Reykjavik friends, I yelled “Stop! I want to take a picture of the ponies.” That’s the moment I found out they aren’t ponies after all. Yes, they are often pony sized and you will want to hug them and pet them. You will fill up your phone with pictures of these cuties. But, being small, does not a pony make. The Icelandic is a horse.
When Vikings settled in Iceland over 1000 years ago they brought their horses with them. The Icelandic horses today are direct descendants of these horses. Importation of new horses has been banned since 930 AD leading to truly unique breed. Scientists now believe that these horses are actually descendants of a horse breed that is now extinct outside of Iceland.
So, it is understandable that Iceland is now very protective of its horses. You can export an Icelandic, but once the horse has left Iceland it can never return. This ensures Icelandic stock remains disease free and protects the breed.
So, what makes the Icelandic unique? A few things actually. You have probably heard the terms run, trot, and gallop before. You may have even heard the term canter. But the Icelandic can also tölt. Tölt is a unique gait somewhere between a trot and a canter. In this gait there is always one foot on the ground allowing them to cover large distances without tiring. I’ve included a great video clip below.
Many companies offer a chance to ride the Icelandic. We chose ÍSHESTAR because they had good ratings, offered free hotel pick up and they offered several beginner rider tours.
I was a little bit worried about riding a horse, but these animals are so calm and friendly I was instantly at ease. They showed us how to communicate with our horses in the safety presentation, but honestly, these horses seemed to know what to do without any direction at all.
The path we rode on took us across a lava field and provided stunning views of the mountains in the distance. I enjoyed the ride so much that I was left wishing we had signed up for a longer one. I also learned a new saying. “What happens in the barn stays in the barn, except the dirt, hay and hair. That stuff goes home with you!”
Want to know more? Check out the video below.
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