I was fascinated to learn that in Iceland there are only a few four legged animals. Three, Arctic fox, reindeer and mink, are undomesticated and the same number are domestic. These include sheep, cows and horses all of which graze freely on the expanses of wide open spaces.
When it comes to the horses, they appeared to outnumber the sheep and cows. If our guide’s numbers were correct, there are roughly 120,000 horses in Iceland. Hmmm, that’s one horse for every 3.5 people! They are used for some traditional farm work, leisure, showing and racing.
The breed is unique to Iceland and its history dates back to the 9th century when they were first brought there by Nordic settlers. Interestingly, other breeds cannot be imported into Iceland and once an Icelandic horse leaves the country, it cannot return.
Because they are smaller in size than horses we are familiar with, some people in our group called them ponies, a term quickly corrected as the Icelandics are always referred to as horses and are noted for being long-lived and hardy.
I’m not a horse person, but it was easy to be attracted to these beautiful animals so varied in their colors. It is said there are over 100 names for various colors and color patterns. Their coats are short now, but it won’t be long until they are long and shaggy for winter.
While the Icelandic horse has all the expected gaits–walk, trot, canter, gallop–it has a unique gait so smooth that a person can ride with a drink in his hand and never spill a drop. I think that’s the gait I’d choose because there’s no bumping up and down in the saddle!
By nature, the Icelandic horse is very gentle, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be spooked as happened here. Let me tell you, this was a scary moment as this is a pedestrian bridge that just moments before held many people. I was lagging behind taking photos and had just started across when this thundering herd came toward me. Talk about moving fast to get out of the way…..While no one was injured, five of the horses went over the rail, not a good ending for them. After the stampede was over and my heartbeat slowed, it dawned on me what a scary moment this was, exciting yes but potentially very dangerous. How lucky that there was not more of a disaster.
i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind