Height: 1.30 - 1.45m (13 - 14 1/2 hands)
Exterior: Short, chunky legs; brawny, strong neck; straight, broad and very strong back --> there are lots of different types!!
Nature: good-natured, reliable, afloat and easy to handle
Color: every color possible except for spotted ones (Appaloosa like)
Gaits: Up to 5! But there are also some 4 - and 3 - gaited ones!
Icelandic Horses are different from any other horses I've known before. Their pretty small compared to others but they're still able to carry adults on their back. They're not trained until they're at least 4 years old so their bones are very strong and solid. They find their way over uneven ground very easily and without any stumbling (The Icelandics (humans for once
) like to race down very cliffy and muddy hills).
Because up until 1950 they were the only form of transport trough the impassable central part of the Icelandic island wich is coverd by both vulcanos and glaciers. And that's another special part about them. They grow up as wild horses free to go wherever they want. Most of them live on their on from August to June and they're only brought in to see how many now foals there are and how many are dead. Because the Icelandic winters are tough and only the strongest ones survive. But that's why the Icelandic Horses are tough, robust and very frugal.
The first ones were brought to Iceland by the Vikings. Since 900 it's forbidden to bring in (or even re-import) any horses. So they're grown pure-blooded since then.
When I was still at the "normal" stable where I started riding there were many people with their big horses that were smiling down on me: "Oh, that scrubby little pony that's not able to do anything correct!"
Well, perhaps it's true that they're not as good at dressage or jumping as others. But most people just don't know that the Icelandic style is just a different style as is English and Western! We have different saddles, different snaffles (well at least somehow) and the horses are trained in a different way.
We still do some dressage and jumping but most of the time the training is based on the natural gaits that every horse (even the "big ones") used to have. But only the Icelandics (and some others) kept them (because of the isolation). We just try to show of their natural gaits as good as possible. There are even competitions on ice (it's fun to watch because the horses get very excited and their movement are very spectacular). My teacher just won the European mastership on ice because her horse was that great.
Besides the traditional 3 gaits (walk, trot, canter) the Icelandics have 2 more gaits:
1. (Flying) Pace - Skeiđ - Speed Pass
Skeiđ is a gait where the horse moves both legs of one side at the same time. It's considered a gait for racing, and ridden at the proper speed it's called flugskeiđ ("flying pace"). A slow pace, like that used in riding certain Peruvian horse races, is considered useless in Icelandic horses, and is called lull (piggypace). Some horses menage to run 100m (~11 yards) in 8 seconds.
2. Tolt - Tölt
The horse moves its legs in the same sequence as while walking, with alternating one foot / two foot support, which is done at speed. It is a different gait than the running walk of the Tennessee Walking Horse. It's very comfortable to ride (you can hold a glass of water in your hand and nothing's going to spill!) but it's not easy to ride (well there are some horses that are very easy and do it without any help). There are so many things you have to think of. If you want to do it properly it's very exhausting!
The Icelandics have many different colors. More than 60 are officially listed, I think. They have "normal" colors like grey, black, white and chesnut. Most of the Icelandics are black, dark bay or chesnut with flaxes. But there are also grullo, light buckskin and silver bay/dapple.
I want to show you tree of their special ones:
**1. Silver Bay/Dapple - Windfarben**
It's my favorite color. The horses coats can be everything from brown to grey(-beige) to black. The tails are light: beige, grey or nearly white.
a beautiful dark silver dapple
**2. Light Buckskin - Hell-Erdfarben**
The horses coat are beige or nearly white, their legs, mouth and tails are dark brown (sometimes they have light highlights) or even black.
a light buckskin with higlights (mane)
**3. Grullo - Mausfalbe**
The horses coat is brown or grey, they have a dorsal stripe. Very often they their inner ears are nearly white, they have leg barring (like zebras --> wild horses!) and mane and tail guard hairs.
Light grullo with mane and tail guard hairs
The Icelandic names re very special and very melodic. Every name has a special meaning that either describes the horses character, exterior or movements. I just love these names because it's not some random name they chose because they thought it sounded nice but because it fits.
Here are some examples:
"Álfagjöf" - female - elf's gift
"Álka" - female - bird; the one that pokes her head forward
"Alsvinnur" - male - strong and wise
"Brúnka" - the brown one (very original, I know...)
"Gandálfur" - elf with a wand
Sörli 653 frá Saudakroki - one of the most important and most popular stallions ever!