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Iceland's tough little horses


Icelandic in tolt
The smooth, flowing tolt.
Photo: By Jo Stanford while on an Ishestar tour
Today's Icelandic horse is descended almost exclusively from the horses brought to the country by early Viking settlers. Thousands of years of isolation means that the breed is one of the purest in the world, though nowadays thousands are bred overseas. Average height is 13hh but the breed can vary between 12-14hh. All colours are seen but dun, chestnut and palomino are favoured.

These horses were used for transportation purposes and are strong enough to carry adults and hardy enough to survive the harsh climate and rough terrain of Iceland. The horses have two extra gaits - the pace and the tolt.

Nowadays the pace - a smooth two-beat gait with the front and back legs on each side moving together - is not developed in all Icelandics. A good Tolt is what most trainers aim for. This is a flowing four-beat gait which gives the sense of floating over the ground and makes riding for hours a joy. Teamed with their gentle and calm disposition this makes the Icelandic an ideal trail horse, especially for novice riders.

 
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