The Icelandic Horse

The Icelandic horses live to a ripe old age, commonly to 35-40. The oldest living horse, Thulla, died at the age of 57 because she quit eating after her elderly owner passed away. Broodmares often produce foals well into their late 20’s. The gestation period is 11 months. Mares may be bred at the age of 4. Births are usually easy. Icelandic horses come in 100 marvellous colour combinations (up to 400 shades). Pinto, buckskin, blue dun, palomino, silver dapple, chestnut with flaxen mane and tail. There are so many wonderful choices.

Some of the desirable conformation points are: Long neck, a full, thick mane, forelock and tail, height of about 13-14 hands, adult weight about 800 lbs, a stride longer than most breeds and fine, alert head.

The Icelandic horses have sleek, glossy coats during the warm months, but devellope a furry, thick winter coats for cold weather. Due to their strength, gaits, intelligence and loyal and friendly personality, both children and adults delight in ownership. These horses are known for their excellent temperament, lots of energy, amazing power, boundless kindness and gentleness.


Young horses are first ridden at the age of four. The initial training takes about two months. The four year old is then allowed to roam free for nearly a year before the training continues.

The flying pace requires careful teaching with the closest co-operation between the horse and the rider. The pace must be carefully developed in the horse and must not be rushed before the it has developed the muscles necessary fully for this powerful gait. Icelandic horses have been clocked at 35 mph, going so fast that all feet are briefly off the ground or „flying”. Pace racing is demonstrated in competitions at all horse shows in Iceland and can be found at Icelandic Horse Gatherings and Shows in the U.S.

Ponying is the practice of riding one horse and leading others to exercise them. The rider is usually in the centre with the exercise horses on either side. Many other breeds of horses would not cooperate with this, but the Icelandic temperament allows this joyful exercise.

Currently there are several hundred Icelandic horses in the U.S. More and more people are catching on to the excitement and delight of this breed. More horses are being bred in the U.S., as well as imported from Iceland, with farms selling them scattered around the country. Canada also has a growing population of Icelandic horses. The Icelandic Horse Association of North America, Inc., has been established to promote the breed.

Hafliði Halldórsson – The five Gaits

  1. Walk is an even four beat cadence, moving each foot independently.
  2. Trot is a two beat gait, with the front and back legs on opposite sides moving together.
  3. Canter, a three beat gait, also called gallop.
  4. Tölt or running walk is an amazingly smooth four beat travelling gait, where all four feet move in the same pattern as in the walk with more action and speed.
  5. The flying pace is a two beat gait, where front and hind legs on the same side move forward and back at the same time.

Icelandic Horse in Icelandic


NAT and Must see in Iceland have handpicked the best tours in Iceland so you don't have to.