Icelandic Horses are one of the oldest breeds of horse in the world. They were brought to Iceland long before any of the European Breeds that we are so familiar with had been established. The Icelandic Horse, along with only a couple of other rare breeds, represent the closest link we have to the first domesticated horses.
Horses were first brought to Iceland by the Vikings who settled the country in the years 874~930. Crossing the Atlantic in their small open boats was an adventure, even without having to bring livestock, so people stopped bringing horses to Iceland when a sufficient number had been imported. For 9 centuries, no other horses have been brought to Iceland, and now there is only one breed of horse in Iceland: the Icelandic horse, one of the purest in the world. Many diseases, from which horses on the European continent or in the United States suffer, are unknown in Iceland. During the centuries, the Icelandic horse was the only means of transport in Iceland. It carried people, building materials, goods and mail over mountains, through powerful rivers, over rugged lava fields and even over glaciers.
In the 20th century, cars, buses and airplanes took over, while horseback riding became a popular sport and hobby. People used to keep their horses outside, and only started to stable them in the 20th century. Thus, the horses were toughened by harsh weather conditions, volcanic eruptions and other natural disasters. The principle of "Survival of the fittest" made the Icelandic horses very fit indeed: they are famous for their amazing strength, sure-footedness, stamina and endurance.
So, you've decided: This IS the breed for you. Great! But, before you take the momentous plunge into Icelandic Horse ownership, there are a few things you should do. First of all, prior to considering purchasing any Icelandic, you should become an INFORMED BUYER. Informed buyers know what it is they are looking at, the fairmarket value of what they are considering purchasing, and what it is they want. How do you become an informed buyer of Icelandics when the Icelandic is somewhat of a rare breed here in North America and information is scarce, you ask? Well, hopefully, this little discourse will help:
Read more: Buying an Icelandic Horse
Horses were brought to Iceland by the first Viking settlers during the years 874 - 930. Their boats were small, and only a few horses, the very best, were brought along. At the early stage, import of farm animals was forbidden in the country. Because of this, the original Nordic horse remained as a preserved purebred in Iceland throughout the centuries.
They arrived with families and animals in tow, ready to farm, fish, fight with each other, and form a republic. For those early settlers the horse was indispensible. He plowed the fields, carried cargo and crops, forded glacial rivers and picked his surefooted way over treacherous mountain trails, sharing the often short and brutish life of his master as an equal partner and beloved friend. That partnership, between man and horse, forged over a thousand years ago, endures today with a love and loyalty that is hard to describe.
Icelandics may be 3,4,or 5 gaited , the majority having 4 gaits. The walk, trot and canter are common to every breed of horse. The Icelandics' fourth gait, the tolt, is part of what makes the Icelandic so special. The tolt is a natural 4 beat gait that is extremely smooth to ride, but very powerful. The footfall is the same as at the walk, but much faster. A good tolt is almost as fast as a gallop. The fifth gait is called the flying pace and is a two beat lateral gait where the horse moves the front and hind foot on the same side at the same time. Speeds of up to 45 km/hr have been recorded in the flying pace.
Bay dun = Bleikálótt, Bleikálóttur
Bay = Jarpur, Jörp, Jarpt, Jarp-
Blue dun = Mósótt, Mósóttur, Móálóttur, Móálótt, Mósa-
Blaze = Blesótt, Blesóttur, Blesa
Black = Svart, Svartur, Svar-, Svört, Brúnt, Brún, Brúnn
Buckskin = Moldótt, Moldóttur, Mold-
Cremello = Albínó, Hvítingi
Chestnut = Rauð, Rauður, Rautt
Dun stripe = Með ál
Dark = Dökk
Dark buckskin = Draugmoldóttur
Flaxen = Glófext, Glófextur
Grey = Grár, Grá, Grátt, Apalgrár, Apalgrá, Apalgrátt, Steingrá, Steingrár, Steingrátt
Glass-eyed = Hringeygur, Hringeyg, Hringeygt, Glaseygur, Glaseygt, Glaseyg, Vagl
Light black = Móbrún, Móbrúnt, Móbrúnn, Mó-
Liver = Sót-
Leg stripes = Kengálótt, Kengálóttur
Pinto = Skjótt, Skjóttur
Palomino = Leirljós, Ljósa-
Roan = Litförótt, Litföróttur
Smoky black = Glóbrúnt, Glóbrúnn, Glóbrúnt, Móbrúnt, Móbrún, Móbrúnn
Silver = Vindótt, Vindóttur, Vindfext, Vind-
Splash white = Slettuskjótt, Slettuskjóttur
Snip = Nösótt, Nösóttur
Socks = Sokkótt, Sokkóttur
Smutty = Kolóttur
Star = Stjörnóttur, Stjörnótt
Thin blaze = Breiðblesóttur, Breiðblesótt, Halastjörnóttur, Halastjörnótt
White = Hvítur, Hvít, Hvítt
With eel, stripe on it's back = Með ál
Yellow dun = Bleik, Bleikur, Fífilbleik, Fífilbleikur
These descriptions can be combined to show the whole combination of colors in a horse. For example, if a horse is described as rauðlit/förótt/glófext/skjóttur/hringeygur, it would be chestnut/roan/flaxen/tovero/with white sclera.