Icelandic Horse: The Only Horse Allowed In Iceland

| Updated: March 15, 2023
Icelandic Horses looking out over the valley

If you thought all horses were the same, think again! Introducing the Icelandic Horse – an adorable yet hardy breed with a unique story. This furry friend has a fascinating history, having been brought to Iceland by Norse settlers over 1,000 years ago. The harsh climate of Iceland meant that only the hardiest horses survived, and this has resulted in a breed that is incredibly resilient and full of character.

Today, the Icelandic Horse is famed for its sure-footedness, intelligence, and friendly, gentle nature – making it an ideal mount for those with an adventurous spirit. From its unique five-gaits to its loving personality, the Icelandic Horse is sure to win your heart. So if you’re looking for a loyal companion, look no further – the Icelandic Horse is here to stay!

Origin and History:

The Icelandic horse is a breed of horse that has been around since the 9th century when the Norse settlers first brought them to Iceland. They were used for transportation, farming, and herding, and the breed has remained largely unchanged over the centuries. To date, this breed is the only horse allowed in Iceland and as such is considered one of the purest breeds in existence. There are an estimated 80,000 horses living in Iceland and while they can be exported to other countries, once they leave they are not allowed back.

The Icelandic horse is a unique breed, known for its hardiness and stamina, as well as its unique characteristics, such as its double coat, which helps it survive the cold Icelandic winters.

It is also known for its five gaits, which are the walk, trot, canter, tölt, and pace. The tölt is a particularly unique gait that the Icelandic horse is known for and is a smooth and fast four-beat gait that is incredibly comfortable to ride. They are still used today for a variety of purposes, including racing, show jumping, dressage, and even recreation.

In recent years, it has also been gaining popularity around the world for its unique characteristics and its role in Icelandic culture.

Icelandic Horses near a waterfall

Physical Characteristics:

The Icelandic Horse is a small, sturdy breed with a long life expectancy of up to 30 years. They are known for their friendly and gentle nature, which makes them a great family companion. They are also incredibly versatile and can perform a variety of disciplines such as show jumping, dressage, and even activities like trail riding.

In terms of size, Icelandic Horses typically stand between 13 and 15 hands high, and they typically weigh between 700 and 900 pounds. They come in a variety of colors including chestnut, bay, black, and roan. Some Icelandic Horses have a unique type of coat called “tolt,” which is a four-beat gait that allows them to cover large distances quickly and smoothly.

The Icelandic Horse is a great breed for any horse enthusiast. With their friendly personality, versatility, and long life expectancy, they make a great companion for novice and experienced riders alike. So if you’re looking for a small and dependable horse, you’re in luck.

Unique Characteristics:

The Icelandic Horse is a unique breed of horse, known for its poise, grace, and versatility. With a flowing mane and an elegant gait, the Icelandic Horse is a sight to behold! One of their most unique characteristics is their size; they range from 13 to 14 hands tall and weigh between 800 and 1100 pounds. They have an amazing five-beat gait, known as the tolt, which is like a smooth, fast-paced trot.

They are also known for their sure-footedness and ability to traverse rugged terrain, making them a favorite mount for mountain trails. Icelandic Horses are also surprisingly social and easy to train, making them suitable for both recreational riding and competitive riding. They also have a strong sense of loyalty and attachment to their owners, so it’s no wonder they are so popular! All in all, the Icelandic Horse is a beautiful, versatile, and hardy breed that is sure to capture the hearts of many!

Icelandic Horses Playing

Interesting Facts:

The Icelandic Horse is a one-of-a-kind breed of horse that you won’t find anywhere else in the world! Here are a few interesting facts about this unique breed:

1) The Icelandic Horse is believed to have been brought to Iceland by the Vikings over 1,000 years ago. They were bred to withstand the harsh Icelandic climate and terrain.

2) They are a small and sturdy breed, standing at an average of 13-14 hands tall.

3) These horses are known for their five gaits, which include the walk, trot, canter, tölt, and flying pace. The tölt and flying pace are unique gaits that you won’t find in any other breed.

4) Icelandic Horses are incredibly strong and hardy, able to survive on meager amounts of food and water.

5) Icelandic Horses are known for their friendly, gentle disposition and intelligence, making them ideal

Sports and Competitions:

The Icelandic Horse is a breed of horse like no other! Not only is it adorably cute, but it is also a very capable athlete. They are well-known for its strength and agility in sports, such as dressage, show jumping, and cross-country. In addition to its athletic prowess, the Icelandic Horse is also known for its unique five gaits—the traditional walk, trot, canter, and tölt, as well as the flying pace.

The tölt is especially prized, as it is a uniquely smooth four-beat gait. The combination of these gaits and the Icelandic Horse’s sure-footedness make it a great choice for cross-country and other endurance events. Whether you’re looking for a mount to show off your skills in the arena or a trusty companion for a long ride, the Icelandic Horse is the perfect choice!

Icelandic Horses with winter coat in snow
Icelandic Horses sporting a winter coat in the snowy tundra.

Diet and Nutrition:

Eating right is important for all of us, and that applies to our four-legged friends, too! The Icelandic horse is no exception, as it needs a balanced diet to stay healthy and happy.

When it comes to their nutritional needs, the Icelandic horse needs high-quality hay and/or grass, as well as sources of protein, minerals, and vitamins. If you can, try to feed your horse hay that is grown locally, as this will help ensure it is getting the best possible nutrition. In addition, you should also supplement your horse’s diet with vitamins and minerals that are specifically formulated for Icelandic horses.

As with any horse, make sure you are providing fresh, clean water, too! With the right diet, your Icelandic horse will be ready to take on whatever you throw at it.

Common Health Issues:

The Icelandic Horse is a beautiful and versatile breed that is beloved by many. With their long, thick manes, impressive strength and gentle demeanor, they make a great addition to any family. However, as with any animal, they can come with some health problems. It is important to be aware of the common health issues that can occur with these horses, so that they can be prevented or treated quickly. 

One issue that can arise is joint pain, which can be caused by a variety of factors, such as poor nutrition, lack of exercise, or even genetics. It is important to keep an eye on any horse for signs of joint pain, such as limping or reluctance to move. If you notice any signs of joint pain, it is important to get treatment from a veterinarian as soon as possible.

Another common health problem for Icelandic Horses is skin conditions, such as mange, rain rot, and lice. These can be caused by a variety of factors.


Grooming an Icelandic Horse is an important part of any equine enthusiast’s maintenance routine. Not only will it keep your horse looking their best, but it can also help promote healthy skin and coat, reduce the risk of parasites, and even aid in the diagnosis of any health issues. Plus, it’s a great way to bond with your horse!

Icelandic Horse with mane blowing in the wind.
The Icelandic horse is a breed of horse developed in Iceland.

The first step to grooming an Icelandic Horse is to brush the entire body, paying special attention to the mane and tail. Use a strong, stiff brush for the body and a soft brush for the head. Then, use a rubber curry comb or a stiff brush to remove dirt and debris from the coat. When you’re finished, use a soft brush to smooth out the hair and make your horse shine.

Next, use a hoof pick to clean the horse’s hooves and make sure there is no dirt or debris in them. Finally, use a dandy brush or body brush to finish.

Famous Examples:

The Icelandic Horse is a breed of horse that has been a part of Icelandic culture for centuries. It is famous for its unique gait, which includes a form of pacing known as the “tölt.” This breed is also known for its strong, sure-footedness, intelligence, and friendliness. In recent years, the Icelandic Horse has been featured in many films and shows, including the popular HBO series “Game of Thrones.” The character of Viserion was even portrayed by an Icelandic Horse in the show.

In addition to its appearance in media, they have also been a part of Icelandic history for centuries. Records show that the breed has been a part of the country’s culture since the 9th century, when it was first brought over from Scandinavia. These horses have been used for centuries for transportation, work, and even racing. The Icelandic Horse is an important part of Icelandic culture and history, and its fame will

Where to Adopt or Buy:

If you’re looking to add an Icelandic Horse to your family, you’re in the right spot! Icelandic Horses are known for their gentle and friendly nature, so they make great family pets. Plus, they’re incredibly hardy and low-maintenance, making them a great choice for anyone looking for an easy-care horse. With their unique gaits, intelligence, and loyalty, you can’t go wrong with an Icelandic Horse.

If you’re looking to adopt an Icelandic Horse, there are plenty of great organizations dedicated to finding homes for these amazing equines. The Icelandic Horse Rescue Foundation is a great place to start, and they have a network of foster homes dedicated to finding loving homes for Icelandic Horses. Alternatively, you can check out your local rescues or equine sanctuaries, which are often a great source for adopting a horse.

Icelandic Horses in front of a waterfall


The Icelandic Horse is an extraordinary breed of horse that is characterized by its unique features and abilities. Its hardy nature makes it an ideal mount for those looking to explore the wilds of Iceland and its unique gait makes it a pleasure to ride.

It is a truly unique breed that has been around for centuries and has evolved to be perfectly suited to the harsh and rugged Icelandic landscape. The Icelandic Horse is a wonderful animal to own and ride, and its unique qualities make it a pleasure to be around.

Whether you are looking for a mount to take you on your next adventure, or just a trusty companion, the Icelandic Horse is the perfect choice.


Ah, the Icelandic Horse! An animal of legend, and an integral part of Iceland’s culture and history. But what exactly is the Icelandic Horse, and why is it so special? Here are some FAQs about this majestic creature!

What makes the Icelandic Horse unique?

The Icelandic Horse is unique in its own right! These horses are a breed specifically adapted to the extreme Icelandic climate and are known for their strong, sure-footed gaits, allowing them to traverse uneven terrain. They are also one of the few breeds of horse that can be ridden in five gaits, from a slow walk to an incredibly fast “flying pace”.

What do Icelandic Horses look like?

Icelandic Horses tend to be on the smaller side, usually standing between 13-14 hands tall. They come in a variety of colors, from chestnut and black to dapple grey and even dun.

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