The Icelandic horse may be the common ancestor of all pony breeds found in northern Europe. Although pony sized they are usually referred to as horses (in the same way that polo ponies are actually horses!). They are strong enough to carry adult riders.
Icelandic horses have 2 additional gaits to other horses and ponies. The most well known is the 'tolt' which is a 4 beat gait which is comfortable but can also be fast. In addition, some Icelandic horses have a gait called the 'flying pace' which is a 2 beat gait with a moment of suspension, this is fast and smooth .
The Icelandic horses were first introduced into Iceland from Scandinavia by Norse settlers and with the addition of blood from Scottish, Irish and the Isle of Man pony breeds they have developed into the pony we know today.
The harsh climate and lack of available food meant that the breed developed into an extremely tough horse. A volcanic eruption in 1783/84 is thought to have killed about 70% of the Icelandic horses from ash poisoning and starvation.
Two types of the breed emerged, one lighter type for riding and a heavier type for light draught work and for use as pack ponies. They are still heavily relied on for moving around some areas of the island.
The ponies toughness, strength, endurance and size meant that they were in great demand until the beginning of the 20th century to work in the coal mines of Britain.
In 1904 the first breed societies were established in Iceland but it was not until 1986 that the Icelandic Horse Society of Great Britain was established.
Height: 12hh to 14.2hh
Colour: Usually grey or dun in colour. Also, all other colours.
Conformation: Large head with a wide forehead set on a short but thick neck. The girth is deep and they have a tough and stocky appearance. Legs are short and strong and the mane, tail and feathers are thick, course and plentiful! Icelandic horses have 3 layers to their winter coats which give extra insulation in the cold and harsh environment.
Temperament: Docile, kind, intelligent and keen,
Used as general riding ponies. However, they also race!
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