Girls Horse Club Blog

The Icelandic Horse

Published by • Jan 24th, 2008 • Category: International Horse, Junior Blogger Archives


by Halee, age 12

The Icelandic horse is an amazing breed who has not gotten much attention among Thoroughbreds, Arabians, and Warmbloods. The horse I learned much of my riding experience on, Vifill, is an Icelandic horse, and a good example of one with a score of 8.14 out of 10. Take your time to read this blog and learn about this magnificent breed, the Icelandic horse.

Icelandic HorseIcelandic horses are usually about 12-13 hands high, but this is only the average. Stallions are around 13 hands high most of the time, while mares are usually 12-13 hands. But don’t let that height fool you! These wonderful little equines are completely capable of carrying a full grown man across the rough terrain of Icelandic mountains. They tend to have very thick manes and tails, and often their forelocks cover their eyes. Not only do they come in every color of the rainbow, with 15 accepted colors, they are also gaited! Most naturally display either a flying pace or a Tölt (pronounced toelt). Some display both gaits. The flying pace is also seen in a few other breeds, and the tölt seen in one other.

Icelandic horses are hearty. By breed standard they should be rectangular to some extent and proportions should be satisfactory, though sometimes the heads are inclined to be a bit heavy for the body (a breed trait). As for the head, it is to be clean cut, the jowls often are thick but defined. The head is well set onto the neck, which must be long and supple, even though the neck looks short much of the time due to some thickness in the muscles. Ears are small and thin in proportion to the head, and are usually alert and attentive. But like any horse, their position changes with fear. Eyes should be large, soulful and expressive. The neck is expected to be slightly arched on the top and straight at the bottom. Shoulders are long, and are not to have a steep drop. The back is usually short, however flexible. The croup is well muscled, wide and sloping. Limbs are strong with prominent joints. The forearm is usually very strong, the cannons tend to be short. In the winter, they grow thick and shaggy to weather the cold snows in their native homeland.

ToltThe gaits of the Icelandic horse are definitely something wonderful. As mentioned above, Icelandics have two special, natural gaits called the tölt and the pace. In addition to these paces, they have the basic four, and all gaits have something expected of them. The walk is to be energetic and flowing, with an alert attitude to the mount. Though this gait is to be energetic it should not veer on hyper. It is to be willing and relaxed as well as hyper at the same time. In the trot, the horse should carry himself well, with flowing, springy movements. But, it should not veer on draft horse-like knee action. The tölt is to be an easy to ride four-beat gait, and as the other gaits it should be flowing and energetic. The foreleg action should be extended, but should not be over-extended to exaggerate. The pace should be quick and give the impression of floating, forward movement pushed off from the hindquarters, but not so much that all impulsion should be coming from here. In the canter and gallop it is to be gallant, yet willing, and have an impression of power and strength, but also kindness.

As for attitude, an Icelandic horse should be well tempered and courageous. It should respect those he should, but not fear nor get too cocky. It should not have multiple vices, and be willing towards its rider.


Few breeds can speak of such pure blood as Icelandic horses. In their native homeland, Iceland, there has been no cross breeding since viking times. No horses are allowed to be imported into Iceland, thus Icelandic horses are the only breed they have. This also leads to them being called horses rather than ponies. Many, like me, sat ‘a big horse with little legs’. In Iceland, Icelandic horses are let loose in the fall and winter, roaming the mountains freely without a care. Until they are rounded up, that is.

I hope you learned much about this wonderful, interesting breed! They are truly an admirable breed, and are definitely worth riding, training and/or showing. Trust me on that!

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  1. Halee, this is great! I’ve heard of the Icelandic horses before, but I’ve never know so much about them until now! Thanks!

  2. Very nicely written report!

    We have a lot of information about Icelandic Horses on our website, which is educational.

    Did you see the video about the Icelandic Horse World Championship, “Icelandic Hall of Shame”?

    It is here:

    Very sad for the horses!

    We are trying to train them with natural horsemanship in the US. They love treeless saddles, barefoot, and going bitless:

  3. Great information! Thanks so much! :D

  4. great blog!!! very very well written! i adore icelands! there so cute and small!

  5. wow! I agree with Stargazer! :))

  6. Once again an amazing blog. After reading this you’ve made me appreciate Icelandic Horses in a way I never expected I would. They sound like a dream to ride and a dream to befriend with.

  7. Thank you everyone! I’m so trilled that you all can learn more about this amazing breed from my blog.

  8. I LOVE Icelandic horses! They are so beautiful, and sound like they are friendly! :)

  9. The pictures are so cute!!!!!!! I would like to someday have a Icelandic. I have 7 mini horses right now. I love ponies so much. The picture of the Icelandic doing the tolt was so pretty, he looked like my buckskin stallion Mr. Big who acts like he’s 10 hands taller than he is.
    He’s only 40 or so inches. :)