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.
Wooly sheep provide meat, dairy and wool for the beautiful hand knitted Icelandic garments.
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.
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11 thoughts on “Roaming Free”
So happy to know that you escaped the stampede. I know your heart had to be pounding from the incident.
I love horses and I used to have my own until my academic commitments took over. Icelandic horses are beautiful and that unique gait, which is called a tölt, is amazing! I’m glad you were safely out of the way when the horses stampeded. Were the ones who went over the rail okay?
I am not sure what happened to all, but the last I heard a couple had to be euthanized.
What a shame. 😦 At least no people were hurt in the stampede.
Love your photos, but, just wondering…..did you start the stampede???
Beautiful pics…and so interesting about the animals that are in Iceland…and I think I would not mind riding the Icelandic horse…nothing like a great cup of coffee and a horse ride!!! Gorgeous horses!
Interesting story about the horses, they look handsome and strong…
Glad you were okay.
That is so interesting about the horses. I’m going to have to bookmark this and show my son. He’s just finishing up some horse training today and I’m sure he’ll find these horses interesting…
Dramatic post. I was just ready to forward the post to my daughter, who has a couple of ponies, when the stampede happened. Glad you’re OK, and hope the horses ( not ponies) recovered from their tumble.
All of your pictures are just wonderful….except for the Horse one….Scary…glad you can move quickly!!!!
Thank goodness you were not hurt in the horse stampede! They are very beautiful and elegant and the sheep are so fluffy and white. I see that they wrap their hay bales in plastic to protect them from the moisture. Did you have any local cheeses!