Horses of Iceland
The Icelandic horse is a unique breed of smallish horses that came to Iceland with the first settlers from Norway 1100 years ago. Archeological digs in Europe have revealed that it is descended from an ancient breed of horses that is now extinct outside of Iceland, where it has been preserved in isolation.
The Icelandic horse is known for being sure-footed and able to cross rough terrain. It displays two gaits in addition to the typical walk, trot, and canter/gallop commonly displayed by other breeds. The first additional gait is a four-beat lateral ambling gait called tölt. By lifting one to two hooves at a time, a tölting horse can keep the rider comfortable over considerable distances. Tölt is ridden from slow- to high tempo. The fifth gait of the Icelandic horse is called flying pace, or "skeið ". Not all horses can pace. Skeið is used in pacing races, and is fast and smooth, with some horses able to reach up to 50 km/h (30 mph). It is not a gait for long-distance travel, but rather short distances and high adrenaline! More about the gaits here
The Icelandic horse comes in many different colors, and the Icelandic language includes more than 100 names for the various colors and color patterns. It weighs between 330 and 450 kilograms (730 and 990 lb) and standing an average of 142 cm (56 inches) high at the withers. It has a spirited temperament and a large personality and is very strong.
In September there is a unique way to experience the Icelandic horse beside the typical riding tours. One of Iceland's oldest agricultural traditions takes place during this time, at the annual horse and sheep roundups. Each farming community across the country herds hundreds of sheep and in some places horses together in the surroundings of stunning mountains and isolated pastures.
The Icelandic horse is long-lived and hardy and has become very popular internationally. A sizable population exists in Europe and North America. In their native country, they have few diseases; and as a result, Icelandic law prevents horses from being imported into the country and exported animals are not allowed to return.