The Icelandic Horse


The Icelandic Horse is a sturdy breed native to Iceland. When the first settlers sailed from Norway to Iceland, they could only fit two horses per ship, so they brought with them the strongest, most reliable horses. The settlers often made stopovers in the Shetland Islands, Ireland and Scotland, bringing with them to Iceland more breeds. As early as the 10th century, the Icelanders decided to stop importing the breed, isolating all current breeds. Over time, all the breeds on Iceland blended together creating the Icelandic horse we know today.

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Fig. 1. Icelandic Horse Tolting

The Gaits

Unlike the typical horse who only has 3 gaits, the walk, trot and canter, Icelandic horses have 5 gaits! In addition to the walk, trot and canter, they also have the “tolt” (Fig.1.) and “flying pace” (Fig.2.). The tolt is a four-beat gait that is smooth and very comfortable for riders. The speed of the tolt can go from that of a walk, to the speed of the canter.

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Fig.2. Icelandic Horse Preforming the Flying Pace

The flying pace is a two-beat gait with a flying moment every second step, getting its name flying pace. This gait is ridden in short distances and on flat, even ground. This gait is very unique to the breed because some Icelandic horses have the ability to preform the flying pace, and some do not.


The Icelandic Horse is a very willing, spirited horse that may preform in any activity such as dressage, jumping, trail riding etc. All Icelandics have a unique character of their own and must not be mistaken for all being the same, one may own the safest family horse, and another a fantastic pace-racing Icelandic.





Eld.Hester. (2014). The Icelandic Horse. Retrieved from