Frequently Asked Questions about Icelandic Horses
Are Icelandics horses or Ponies?
No, Icelandics are not ponies but a small horse in a large pony height. At 700-950 pounds and 13-14.2 hands high, they are a purebred gaited breed with horse not pony movement.
What kind of breed is an Icelandic?
Once ridden by Vikings, Icelandics are one of the oldest pure breeds in the world. This is because horses are not imported into Iceland. In fact, once an Icelandic horse leaves Iceland, it is not allowed to return. They are gaited like a Tennessee Walker, Rocky Mountain Horse, or Saddlebred, but with bloodlines tracing back to a hardy, pony-sized Mongolian horse.
What is a Gaited Horse?
Most horses have three natural gaits: walk, trot, and canter/gallop. Gaited horses are breeds with additional gaits, such as the Icelandic horse's tolt and flying pace. Selective breeding gives these horses a unique conformation (bone and muscle structure) that allows them to move differently compared to other horses. Their specialized gaits are prized for their smoothness. Gait training, the horse's talent, and the rider's ability can bring out different degrees of smoothness in the ride.
How long do Icelandics live?
Icelandic horses are not fully grown until eight years old and are long-lived, breeding in their mid-20s and living well into their 30s. The breed has adapted to live in Iceland's wide-open wild spaces with no predators, and lameness is rare due to their stocky legs. The oldest known Icelandic lived in Denmark until age 56, dying only days after its owner's death.
How are Icelandics bred differently?
Icelandics are bred for even temperament, and this is a factor in competitions. No spoiled or bad-tempered horses are tolerated. Even stallions must be good mounts. A mare is often covered by a stallion of her choice, allowing the benefits of natural selection in the breeding process. Offspring have both 1st prize parents with evaluated mares not just a stallion.
How many Icelandics are living outside of Iceland?
There are more than 100,000 Icelandic horses living outside of Iceland — more than there are in Iceland itself. Having been so isolated from other breeds, they prefer to live among their own kind if possible but can adapt to live with other horses and in other climates.
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