The Icelandic – Is It A Pony Or Is It A Horse?

The Icelandic – Is It A Pony Or Is It A Horse?

Article by Crystal A. Eikanger

Known by many names such as Islenzki Hesturinn, Icelandic Toelter Horse, Iceland T?lter, and its own country’s name, Islandpferde, the Icelandic Horse has lived in Iceland since the Nordic pioneers arrived in 865 A.D. and it has been purebred since the 10th century. Since the horse is sacred in Norse mythology, this horse is the only breed in Iceland because of an ancient Viking law disallowing any other horses into the country, and that law is still upheld today. Once an Icelandic Horse has been taken out of Iceland it can never return. Additionally, only unused horse equipment may be brought into the country. This is to prevent an outbreak of equine disease which could decimate the population on the tiny island. Diseases are almost unknown among Icelandic horses that may not be able to fend off something new. But it is this isolation which has led to the breed’s purity. Outside Iceland, the genetic purity of the horses is carefully maintained through national registries in each country to track the breed according to strict regulations of the Icelandic government.

Comparisons between the Icelandic horse at the time of the settlement of Iceland, and the ancient Norwegian and German horses show them to have similar bone structures, and it is possible that there was a separate species of horse, Equus scandianavicus, found in those areas. These Scandinavian horses were later crossed with other European breeds, but not in Iceland, and so the breed remained pure on the island. During the time that the Vikings took the horses to Iceland, the easy gaits were common throughout horse breeds in Europe, but the Icelandic Horse genotype is very different from other European horse populations, so theories of them having Shetland blood, Highland or Eriskay blood are not likely to be true.

The Icelandic is classified as a horse, not as a pony. This is because it is the only equine in Iceland and there is not a word for “pony” in the language, therefore it’s called a horse. But of the 27 characteristics that apply to all pony breeds, all of them apply to Icelandic Horses. So, if someone calls it an Icelandic Pony, they are biologically correct.

In the early 1900’s the Icelandic horse was used extensively for transportation and as a work horse to clear fields and herd livestock. The first breed societies for the Icelandic Horse were formed in 1904 with the first registry being formed in 1923. Then in the early 20th century, automobiles came to Iceland and because the horses were considered obsolete, much of the breed was slaughtered en masse until the 1940’s and 1950’s. Fortunately, rescue organizations worked to protect the Icelandic breed and exported many horses to new homes outside of the country while establishing legal protections for the equines within Iceland. Forty years ago, there were no Icelandic Horses in continental Europe, but now there are 100,000. Only about 3,000 are in the United States but it is a growing breed with more being imported all the time. Around 80,000 Icelandic horses remain in Iceland.

The Icelandic Horse has been rediscovered in its native country and is recognized as a unique family and sport horse in modern Iceland where they are now highly prized and used for recreational riding much more than for fieldwork. Despite its small size, averaging 12.2 to 14.2 hands tall, this Viking Horse is tough enough to carry a 300-pound man and can bear 1.6 times its own weight. The Icelandic Horse can be used in various activities from riding, jumping, dressage and driving. Traditional Icelandic tack (which resembles English tack) is recommended since this style fits the breed physically and allows the horse to move correctly although they are able to perform well under other types of equipment.

Although breeding for show and riding is the main objective, breeding for meat production is also occurring. Horse meat was once a very valuable product, but due to increased competition and decreased popularity much of the meat is now exported to Japan.

Icelandic Horses love to swim and this is a prime example of its gentleness and strength. It is a nice break on a hot summer day and the horse will gently carry its passenger as it swims swiftly and easily through the water with its powerful legs, through a calm lake, a river, or even an ocean. In winter, Icelandic Horses are shod with studs on their shoes. In areas where it is cold enough to ride a horse across frozen lakes, the Icelandic is able to perform all five gaits on sheer ice.

Ponying is the practice of riding one horse while leading others to exercise them or to allow the rider to switch horses when the ridden horse gets tired. The rider is usually in the center with horses being led on either side. Most breeds demand personal space and won’t cooperate well with this closeness, but Icelandic horses naturally bond and travel in communities so they allow this joyful exercise.

Because Iceland has no predators, but instead has quicksand, rock slides, volcanoes, etc, the ability to assess a situation intelligently rather than run away from it appears to have been central to the horse’s survival. Since they have no fear of living things, they seek strong attachments to people and are quite nurturing and affectionate.

Icelandics cannot be ridden until age 5; stop growing at age 7, and perform best when in their twenties. Broodmares often produce foals well into their late 20’s. Even though they mature later, they live longer than most breeds, with 35-40 years being common. The oldest living horse, Thulla, was an Icelandic who died at age 57 when she stopped eating after her elderly owner passed away. This dramatically attests to the phenomenal bonding capabilities of the Icelandic Horse.

Some of the desirable conformation points of an Icelandic horse are a long neck and a full, thick mane, forelock and tail. Their manes and tails are so full and the hair is so coarse that it rarely tangles. The Icelandic coat is sleek in the summer and fuzzy like a teddy bear in the winter, but the abundant flowing mane and tail are kept year round. Over 42 different color patterns and combinations, including white and pinto are acceptable for the Icelandic horse, with only the Appaloosa markings missing from the mix.

Icelandic horses are five-gaited and their greatest asset is the extra surefootedness added by the horse’s ability to move its feet in any order which allows them to maneuver safely through all kinds of terrain. In addition to the Walk, Trot and Canter, the Icelandic horse has two unique gaits and is one of the few horses known to be ridden and driven in all five basic gaits. The T?lt, or single-foot, is an amazingly smooth gait where all four feet move in the same independent pattern as in the walk but with higher action and more speed; like an accelerated high stepping running walk that is smooth and flowing that some equestrians compare to racking. T?lting is often performed carrying full beer mugs without spilling a drop and is a trademark of the breed.

The Flying Pace, known variously as Skeith, skeio or skold, is a lateral gait where the front and hind legs on the same side move forward and back at the same time with such speed that there is a brief period in which all four feet are off the ground as if flying. The Icelandic Horse is the only breed that performs this gait. Like the pace of the American Standardbred, the Icelandic has been clocked at 35 miles per hour, but unlike the Standardbred, the Icelandic’s gait is comfortable to sit, therefore Icelandic Horses are raced at Flying Pace under saddle, not pulling a sulky. Not every Icelandic Horse displays this gait, because it requires careful development in the horse and must not be rushed before the muscles necessary for this powerful gait are fully developed. Training by any artificial methods is strictly forbidden.

All breed standards, registrations and competition activities are strictly regulated by the F?deration Europ?ischer Islandpferde Freunde (FEIF or International Federation of Friends of the Icelandic Horse) that was formed in 1969 to regulate the uniformity of the Icelandic breed world-wide. Currently there are 18 member countries in the FEIF. The United States Icelandic Horse Congress (USIHC) maintains the Registry of purebred Icelandic Horses in the U.S. in accordance with FEIF rules. Other Icelandic Horse organizations within a country are allowed, but only as social or promotional entities.

About the Author

Crystal is a writer for, classifieds of Icelandic Horses for sale in Iceland, California, etc.

The Best Guide to Your Iceland Tour

The Best Guide to Your Iceland Tour

Article by David H. Urmann

Iceland is a wonderful island vacation destination in the mid-Atlantic. A typical Iceland tour offers many fascinating sites and a memorable Iceland vacation experience.

Iceland is now considered as one of the best places in the world to visit. In fact, it is deemed as one amongst the top 10 Best Value Destinations for 2010. Other top destinations are Thailand, Las Vegas and London among others. For the best time in this mid-Atlantic island, take advantage of an Iceland tour and package right in the hotel of your choice.

As a tourist destination, Icelandic airlines offer a flight time of no more than 5 hours from New York. Once you arrive, a wide array of relaxing indulgences and pampering can be achieved throughout your Iceland vacation. A nice place to consider in Iceland is Reykjavik. It is the vibrant capital city of Iceland located on the northernmost section of the island. Aside from the noted safe ambiance, it has an efficient and compact bus system.

If you want to have a grand time in your Iceland tour, try feeding the ducks and swans along City Hall’s Tjorin Pond; see great views of the city on top of Hallgrimskirkia Church; explore the colorful Vesturbaer as well as the Thingholt neighborhoods; and check out some of the artistic venues the city of Reykjavik can offer.

Of course, a Reykjavik, Iceland vacation isn’t complete without trying out one of the many outdoor geo-thermal pools of the city. Grown-ups will adore the whirlpools or “hot spots” while kids have water slides and inflatable toys to play with. If you want the real treat, go to Laugar Spa and treat yourself to a series of relaxing Spa treatments.

Aside from this world class city, another place to enjoy in your Iceland tour is Kopavogur Town. It has many cultural sites, sports venues and leisure facilities. This also goes for Hafnarfjordur and its lava field while Mosfellsbaer is known for its summer farmer’s market and horseback riding activities.

Iceland Accommodations

Iceland can offer various accommodation packages to suit all budgets and tastes. They even offer special discounts not only to senior citizens but also to kids and people with disabilities. Most of the hotels in Iceland represent that typical Scandinavian charm but still vary in location, size and personality. In this city and the countryside areas, there are family-owned accommodations and hotels of international chains. Aside from catering to your Iceland tour, most of these hotels can cater to large groups whether it’s for a conference, business convention or other special occasions.

However, make sure that you check with the hotel regarding their schedule of lodging because there are some hotels that are only open in the summer. You can also check with the hotel regarding other concerns like rooms that have views of the cliffs, rivers, mountains or sea.

Their double rooms are oftentimes featured as one room having 2 single beds so better specify during your booking if you want a room with a double bed. Although some hotels include a buffet breakfast in their package, most hotels don’t include this. Hence, most hotels offer parking facilities and can even assist you with your Iceland tour and excursion.

About the Author

Check out exciting Iceland tourideas. Make your Iceland vacation an experience that you will never forget. Check out how at

Romantic Reykjavik

Romantic Reykjavik

Article by Vikki Beale

Romance is… strolling along wooded pathways in a setting of such stunning natural beauty it takes your breath way. Romance is… sharing a fine dining experience overlooking a twinkling city and a sparkling moonlit bay. Romance is… a luxury day for two in an isolated other-worldly natural thermal spa. Romance is – Reykjavik. Iceland holidays will inspire and delight you and as it is less than a four hour flight from the UK, it is a great option for a romantic mini-break.

For a city that is so modern and forward thinking in its approach to life, Reykjavik has retained a deep connection with nature. Its exotic location and unique geological characteristics make it an intriguing destination, and a wonderfully original romantic escape. A holiday in Reykjavik is the perfect idea for a cosy weekend (or week!) for two, with a huge range of activities and attractions to keep you entertained.

Whale watching tour

The stunning harbour around Reykjavik is habitat to many varieties of whales including, Humpback and Killer Whales, and the delightful Minke. There are also dolphins and seals to be spotted at certain times of the year in Reykjavik. Iceland holidays with romance in mind, may include a trip on one of the many boat tours operating out of the harbour. It is an exciting experience to see these wonderful gentle creatures in the wild, and even more memorable to share it with someone special.

A Romantic Pearl

You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to romantic restaurants on your holiday in Reykjavik, but there are few that are more picturesque than the lofty revolving restaurant on top of the famous Perlan Building. This incredible alien looking structure is actually built around the five massive thermal water tanks which supply the city’s hot water. The building’s name translates as “The Pearl”, and it truly is a gem. Inside the giant dome atop the tanks, the restaurant offers fine dining and panoramic views over Reykjavik. Holidays to Iceland are invariably about the wonderfully fresh seafood cuisine, and the Pearl will show you the finest.

Blue Lagoon

Treat yourself and your loved one to this invigorating yet relaxing spa experience while on your romantic holiday to Reykjavik. You are picked up from your hotel and whisked to the isolated lava fields outside the city. You can stroll hand in hand through these amazing fields that surround the lagoon and then slip luxuriously into the warm thermal mineral waters of this world renowned spa. As the steam rises slowly from the aqua waters, you will feel your cares and stress ebb away. Relax under a waterfall, or have a private massage and treatment – the lagoon’s unique geo-thermal seawater has wonderful skin restoring properties – and you will leave floating on air.

A Romantic walk in the Ellidaardalur Valley

Close to the city the enchanting Ellidaardalur Valley is the perfect setting for a romantic walk. There are a number of picturesque hiking trails and the wooded areas around them are extremely peaceful and seem a million miles away from the lively city of Reykjavik. Holidays to Iceland show you the unique geography of the country and close to civilization, as in the Ellidaardalur Valley, you can see how the landscape has moulded the inhabitants’ lives rather than the opposite.

About the Author

Vikki Beale is a holiday expert for iceland2go, a specialist operator providing a selection of itineraries for the best Reykjavik Iceland holidays . We arrange luxury holidays and tailor-made holidays to Iceland and Greenland, with sights including glaciers, geysers, fjords, and the Northern Lights.

Tours in Iceland

Tours in Iceland

Article by Ingi Jón Sverrisson

Ice, clean air, adventure, cool bars etc make Iceland a topmost destination. The land of unknown surprises, Iceland provides you with so much to see and do such as swimming in the geothermal waters of the Blue Lagoon, Whitewater rafting, glacier and mountain snowmobiling and more. Taking advantage of a planned Iceland tour is a wonderful way to be sure you won’t miss anything. Touris offer various kinds of guided bus tours in Iceland and self guided car rental tours as well as all kinds of adventure tours, snowmobile tours, dog sledding tours and more.

Self drive tours in Iceland with pre booked accommodation are among the most popular options for touring this beautiful country. Touris offers a great selection of highland and lowland Self drive tour packages around Iceland, either by a regular car or by four wheel drive vehicle for most the adventurous wilderness travel experience in Iceland.

Iceland Super Jeep tours and snowmobile tours are available too, and are extremely popular with adventurous people who wish to travel to off the beaten track places, not accessible by ordinary cars. Icelandic glaciers and the uninhabited highlands of Iceland are today the most extensive wilderness area in Europe. Touris offers a great variety of highland tours and glacier tours to explore this Iceland wilderness.The tours in Iceland are magical and far different from what you have ever imagined. Filled with colorful wildflowers, Iceland surely has something for every member of your family. Touris offer you a great chance during Iceland tours to discover this beautiful island yourself with your family members and friends.The most used language of Iceland is “the Icelandic”. Icelandic landscape is entirely unique that you won’t find anywhere else. Touris offer you a great opportunity during Tours in Iceland to enjoy all kinds of weather in one day, sun, snowing, rain & even all together. An Iceland tour may let you experience all four seasons in one day. Isn’t it amazing?

Northern lights tours in Iceland are also an amazing tour experience. During the winter months and weather permitting Touris offer evening tours to search for this amazing and stunning sight, the Icelandic Northern Lights or Aurora borealis. People from all around the world visit the country during the winter to go on a Northern Lights tour in Iceland. This unique Icelandic natural phenomenon is a must see for every Iceland visitor during the winter, so make sure that you don´t miss the Northern Lights tour in Iceland.

From black sand beaches to white ice caps, glaciers to volcanoes, cliffs to dual folding waterfalls, dog sledging to whale watching, white water rafting to mountain hiking, the possibilities are not endless at all, but truly fascinating. Have fun! Take a trip to Iceland to know more!!!

About the Author

Ingi Jón Sverrisson is the Manager of TOURIS. He is an seasoned tour guide with years of experience in touring Icelands highlands and lowlands. Ingi Jón Sverrisson has long experience in planning and organizing all kinds of tours and activities for individuals and groups in Iceland.