... horse of the Vikings!
The Icelandic is the original horse of the Vikings, taken to Iceland over a thousand years ago and pure bred ever since.
The Icelandic horse is rarely more than 14.2hh, or less than 12hh, though heights are not fixed. He is rather stocky, with a deep chest, expressive head, supple, well-set neck and strong limbs. When ridden, he should give an impression of courage and power, with a proud expression. The mane and tail are thick and plentiful. In the summer the coat is fine and shiny, but in winter the horse grows a long, thick coat with three distinct layers.
Icelandics can be literally any colour - bay, brown, chestnut, grey, skewbald, palomino or dun, with hundreds of variations of the usual colours. One much sought-after colour is silver dapple, in which the body of the horse is chocolate brown and the mane and tail are silvery white.
As well as the usual gaits - walk, trot and canter - Icelandics also have the four-beat running walk known as "TÖLT". This can be performed at any speed and is incredibly comfortable for the rider. Some Icelandics possess a fifth gait, FLYING PACE, a two-beat lateral gait used for racing. Flying Pace makes great demands of both horse and rider, but is spectacular to watch and exhilarating to ride.
Tölt is a four-beat gait where the sequence of foot falls is the same as in walk. This means that at least one foot is on the ground at any time. That being the case, there is no period of suspension within the tölt. This lack of suspension in the gait means it has a smoothness which is comfortable for the rider as there is no time when the horse bounces the rider out of the saddle. This was prized by the Icelanders living in a land where the road network was at best haphazard and where the carriage was not such a useful mode of transport. The horse was the main means of transport and a comfortable gait was certainly worth breeding for.
In modern times breeders select for a true four beat in the gait and horses which have both a high knee action and a soft back are particularly prized. These horses combine beauty with a sense of power and a smooth ride. It is these qualities which catch the imagination and it is without exception guaranteed to produce a grin from a rider who experiences the tölt for the first time.
Tölt can be ridden very slowly or extremely fast and competitions are designed to show the variations within the gait