For Icelanders, the Icelandic horse is a true symbol of the country.
Displaying incredible sturdiness, strength as well as beauty and temperament, these animals truly know how to survive in Iceland’s most extreme conditions, no matter what the weather may throw at them.
The Icelandic horse is a truly unique species. A non-native animal to Iceland, their ancestors travelled from Scandinavia with the original Norse settlers well over a millennium ago.
Over the centuries, their Scandinavian relatives evolved through mixed-species breeding or died out, leaving the Icelandic horse relatively genetically unchanged.
The Icelandic horse is protected by law, and Icelanders are very proud of this truly hardy and resilient resident. Strict laws prohibit importing horses from abroad, and should an Icelandic horse leave the country it may never return.
One useful tip for those wishing to avoid annoying Icelanders is not to refer to their horses as “ponies’. For many Icelanders this a no-no, and you may find that you are quickly corrected with: "They are NOT ponies, they are horses!"
Icelandic horses come in a wide variety of colours and the Icelandic language includes more than 100 names for the various colours and patterns. They have two extra gaits in addition to the typical walk, trot, and canter/gallop commonly displayed by other breeds. These additional gaits allow for explosive speed when needed over short distances, but also provide a smooth and gentle ride.
They are relatively small in size and are perfect for riding.
Throughout the country there are many horse-rental companies and farms offering the wonderful experience of seeing the beauty of Iceland on top of one the country’s most beautiful creatures.
Farms and rental companies will have horses perfectly adapted for first-time riders or those with more experience.
Packages and excursions can vary from hour-long short trips on a farm or rental company area, to rides and outings covering wider areas.