Origin and history of the Icelandic horse

Origin and history of the Icelandic horse

What are the features of this Viking horse?

The Icelandic horse is the emblem of the Icelandic people and their greatest pride. Our current stallions are descendants of the first Viking horses, brought with them by the first settlers between 860 and 935 AD.

Horse in front of the mountain
The horse stands on a snowy hill
Black Icelandic Horse

The history of the Icelandic horse begins with the colonisation of the island of Iceland by the Vikings in the 9th century, who brought horses of Germanic blood to the island. However, its origins remain unclear and some experts hesitate between a link with the English Exmoor ponies or the Equus Scandinavicus breed from Northern Europe. Nevertheless, the Icelandic horse became the only breed on the island. Breeders first focused on its endurance and strength to make it an asset for work and transport, before developing the quality of its gaits with the aim of selling the Icelandic horse for leisure riding.

Icelandic horses in riding

The Icelandic horse can be found in a variety of equestrian disciplines. They are very versatile and make excellent saddle horses. Very comfortable, they are particularly popular with trekking and endurance riders. Docile and easy-going, the Icelandic horse is not lacking in energy, the adage being “fire under the ice”. They are easy to handle and have a calm temperament, but are also very powerful and quick. Buying an Icelandic pony allows you to participate in competitions or leisure events that are reserved for them, and which focus on the quality of their gaits. It is recommended to sell an Icelandic horse to people who want a versatile, powerful, and cooperative horse for competition or leisure riding.

Several horses for a ride
Two horses for a walk

Morphology and gaits of the Icelandic horse

Selling an Icelandic horse makes it possible to offer two natural specialities of this horse: the tolt, a four-beat gait marked by a strong commitment of the hindquarters under the horse, while the forehand remains very raised and ample; the flying amble, a two-beat gait, singled out by the movement of the lateral bipeds, the two limbs on the same side advancing simultaneously. Buying an Icelandic horse is almost the only way to get to know these two rare gaits. In addition to the Icelandic horse, two other breeds can practice the tolt or the amble: the rack or rocky mountain horse (American saddle horse), or the Breton bidet, a small, very enduring horse bred in Brittany.

In terms of morphology, the Icelandic horse can be light with a fine neck, or more rustic, stocky with a stronger chest. The back is broad and muscular, while the mane and tail are bushy and long and the winter coat is thick. Before buying an Icelandic horse, it is important to know that this is a breed that matures rather late and is slow-growing. The Icelandic horse is usually broken in at around five years of age, whereas other breeds are broken in at around three years of age.

Icelandic Horses in Canada

This country on the scale of a continent is still loved by riders and for good reason: wild nature, omnipresent wildlife, and an unbeatable welcome make it a destination of choice.

Canada has a long and proud history of cowboy lifestyles. This giant of the Great North offers an incomparable terrain for horseback riding in Western Canada for riders in search of nature and thrills. The Rockies were the incredible theatre of the epics of the pioneers in search of arable land or gold nuggets, those who were the pioneers of these great wild spaces where the fauna is still as intense as ever: grizzly, beaver, bison, wolf, coyote, lynx, puma, caribou or elk. In these sometimes hostile lands, horseback riding in Canada is a passport to the life of a trapper. Icelandic horses are usually bought for the competition and never come back to the island again. Canada has its own federation that provides all necessary conditions for these species.

Canadian Icelandic Horse Federation

The Canadian Icelandic Horse Federation strives to encourage, develop and regulate the Icelandic horse in Canada.

The objectives of the CIHF are:

  • To promote and encourage the breeding of Icelandic Horses in Canada.
  • To contribute to the selection of breeding stock for the breed, by organising breeding competitions and managing the studbook.
  • To organise and participate in events and/or training courses concerning Icelandic horse riding and equestrian activities in general.
  • To select the Canadian team for participation in the World Championships.
  • To compile and distribute general documentation on matters relating to the Icelandic horse.

Icelandic Horse is really unforgettable creature. It is worth seeing horses walk, trot, gallop, and engage in a dazzling gait throughout the championship and learn more about the history and environment of the Icelandic horse.

We are happy to work with

The best Icelandic horse farms in Canada.