Not much is known about the famous Icelandic horse, except that it has been in the area for centuries. Many believe that the vikings, traveling across the sea to discover new lands in the tenth century, took horses with them. Due to their isolation from the influence of other horse breeds, the Icelandic horses have not changed much since the tenth century.
Over the centuries, only the strongest horses have survived in the harsh climate of Iceland, causing only the best traits to be passed down to the future generations. This natural selection created a strong, robust breed with desirable traits, such as stamina and strength.
Settlers of Iceland used the sturdy horse for work, such as herding sheep, and transportation. In the late 1700s, a local volcano erupted, killing hundreds of horses. After that disaster, locals spent time recovering the breed, and in 1904, they created the first breed society for the Icelandic horse. Nine years later, the Icelandic breed registry opened.
Throughout the 20th century, hundreds of Icelandics were shipped across Europe, particularly to Britian and Scandinanvia. In 1986, Great Britian created a breed society. Other countries did the same, and before long the International Federation of Icelandic Horse Associations was created to help multiple countries work together to preserve the breed.
Today, the Icelandic is popular throughout western Europe, particularly Scandinavia and Great Britian, and North American. Approxiamately 80,000 Icelandics live in Iceland, and 100,000 live abroad.
|Icelandic doing the tölt. credit|
Breed Description and Uses
Although the Icelandic horse is small, standing only 12 to 14 hands high, it is strong, able to carry an adult. It has developed a special gait, the tölt, in addition the standard equine gaits. The tölt is a a smooth, highstepping, four-beat gait, which can be performed at any speed. Some Icelandics do the pace, a gait in which legs on the same side move in unision.
Today, the robust Icelandics are used for endurance, jumping, and dressage by both kids and adults. People living in Icelnad often use them the traditional way---for herding sheep and transporting them across town.